WHEELING, W.Va., April 11, 2017 - Wheeling Jesuit University's Coalition for Youth Safety(CYS), sponsored by State Farm, was in the national spotlight during a prestigious criminal justice conference.
Dr. Larry Driscoll, associate professor of criminal justice at WJU, along with eight students, attended the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences in Kansas City, Mo. last month where they presented information on the CYS program to thousands of university officials.
Launched four years ago, CYS teaches middle school students the risks and dangers that exist online. Through funding from State Farm, WJU criminal justice majors teach fourth, fifth and sixth graders in schools throughout Brooke, Hancock and Ohio counties about internet safety and online bullying dangers.
During the conference, Rikki Allen, Chris Estrada, Paige Gaydos, Kori Hickman, Jake Lilly, Collin Smith, Zack Stramanak and Markie Wright, gave an overview of the program, while presenting data gathered in its first three years of the CYS program, Driscoll said.
The students sifted through some 1,000 surveys from the middle school students and “found that the students are more aware of the dangers that exist online and can distinguish which situations are inappropriate and the need to report those to adults,” he added.
Driscoll noted that research shows that Facebook is being used less, while Snapchat and Instagram are the social networks that are being used more by online predators. “Today's middle school students are more aware than ever before of the appropriate and inappropriate uses of social media,” Driscoll explained.
“This was a great experience for our students. Presenting at the conference allowed us to put information about our CYS program before a national audience and highlight how the support from State Farm has allowed Wheeling Jesuit students to make a positive impact in our community,” he said.
State Farm has been a supporter of CYS since it began in 2013. The company recently told Driscoll it will provide funding to continue the Coalition for Youth Safety in the coming year.
“Next fall, 14 WJU students will branch out and present the program at more than a dozen middle schools up and down the Ohio Valley. New this coming year will be a program to educate parents about Internet use and how to protect their children,” Driscoll added.
Since the Coalition for Youth Safety began in 2013, WJU criminal justice students have presented the program to more than 1,500 middle school students throughout the Ohio Valley. Initially geared towards seventh and eighth graders, Driscoll said the program is being presented to younger students.
“With children getting access to mobile devices and social media earlier than before, it's important to teach them at an earlier age the dangers that exist,” he explained. “I am grateful to our students who are in the classrooms educating the younger students about being safe online. And, we couldn't do any of this without the funding from State Farm. They understand the importance of the Coalition for Youth Safety program.”