Just the facts: FBI impressed with Riverside

PLYMOUTH — “Be careful out there” was the catch phrase of the character on the old television drama “Hill Street Blues” as he sent his fellow police officers out to their jobs after the shift briefing.
It was also the message of FBI Special Agent Tim Theriault as he commended sixth grade students at Riverside Intermediate School on their knowledge of how to be safe surfing the internet.
“I tell students that they are safer sleeping in their homes with their doors unlocked then they are chatting with just anyone online,” Theriault told the students. “The Internet can allow strangers access to any part of your life and you don’t know who is getting that information. You have to be very smart about your choices.”
Theriault — an agent in the South Bend office of the FBI — was at Riverside to present the sixth grade class with an award for their online diligence. Computer Applications teacher Amy Gerard used the Bureau’s online course on web safety to give her students some knowledge to use to keep themselves safe online.
Her students did well enough to earn the top score in the nation for the month of April. More than 2,000 students at 68 different schools in 18 different states took the course and none did better than Riverside.
“This is the class where students in Plymouth schools first learn to keyboard and we help them learn different tools that they can use online to help them,” said Gerard. “We’ve had them do other online courses, like the ‘Drive of Your Life’ program that shows them special area’s of giftedness and how they might choose a career. This is the first year that we used this FBI course for safety.
“Thanks to doing so well on this course the FBI has also offered us the opportunity to be part of a new program they are offering on ‘cyber bullying.’”
The Bureau has developed the program to meet a need.
“I know in the past few years we’ve been ramping up our online safety education,” said Theriault. “We’ve seen a real increase in crimes related to online activity.”
Theriault told the students that knowledge was one thing, now they needed to use that knowledge to help keep themselves safe by making good decisions. He also encouraged them to share what they know with their parents.
“I learn things about computers from my son all the time,” he told the students. “You guys know a lot more about computers than we adults do and we need to know too. Call your parents over to the computer with you from time to time and show them some of the things you’ve learned.”
He also shared with the curious a little bit of what it’s like to be a Special Agent for the FBI.
“It’s a lot like you guys — a lot of homework,” he said. “It’s not like the TV shows. There’s a lot of research and homework and they don’t make TV shows about people sitting around doing homework.
“There have been times when I have had a lot of bad guys pointing big, bad guns and me and my fellow agents who were pointing our guns at them, but thank goodness I’ve never had to shoot anybody. I never played football either but I think I made a pretty good tackle a couple of weeks ago.
“If some of you want to pursue a career in law enforcement you can start right now. Protect yourself, be smart and help your friends. Help each other out all the time to stay away from some of the bad decisions you can make.”