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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 31, 2009
Government Gamers: McKenna, Dorn plugged into video games that help kids zap online threats

Statewide officials partner with Entertainment Software Association to provide Internet safety training

OLYMPIA — Washington State Attorney General Rob McKenna and Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn, in partnership with the Entertainment Software Association Foundation and Web Wise Kids, today announced the launch of a statewide program that uses video games to help students, teachers, and parents better understand safe use of the Internet and other technology.

“The devices that kids love, from smartphones to computers, are also being used to subject them to cyberbullying, scams and online stalkers,” McKenna said. “This program deploys a technology that’s very familiar to kids – video games – to teach   important lessons about staying safe in cyberspace.”

Today’s event announced the training of over 70 educators on how to use the Web Wise Kids program, which will be used in local school districts across Washington this fall. McKenna and Dorn were joined by Judi Westburg Warren, president of Web Wise Kids, and Michael D. Gallagher, President and CEO of the Entertainment Software Association (ESA), which funded the effort and represents the U.S. computer and video game industry.

“The Internet has become a vital tool in students’ education,” Dorn said. “But like all tools, kids need a rule book, one that helps them understand potential dangers. The Web Wise Kids program will give them valuable lessons on using the Internet safely.”

The safety program includes a series of three customized video games – Missing, Mirror Image, and Air Dogs – all of which teach students how to be safe and responsible online. Missing is a detective style game that challenges students to find a boy who spent hours in chat rooms and then disappeared. Mirror Image addresses issues like modeling scams, online romances, cyber stalking, chat rooms and Trojan horses. Air Dogs addresses the issues of cyber crimes, piracy, illegal downloading, intellectual property rights and other challenges facing students today.

The games teach kids to recognize and deal with online predators, modeling scams, cyberbullying, and other digital dangers. The games also provide warnings about the consequences of illegal downloading.

“The ESA Foundation is proud to provide the resources to launch this cutting-edge initiative,” Gallagher said. “With the industry presence of Microsoft, Nintendo and other leading video game companies, Washington is a natural fit for launching this program. Working together, we believe the Web Wise Kids program will help educators teach Washington’s youth how to stay safe online. We applaud Attorney General McKenna’s and Superintendent Dorn’s leadership on this issue and appreciate the opportunity to help protect Washington’s children.”

 “We are excited to be part of this important initiative that will help to educate and empower students with the knowledge and programs to safely navigate the Internet,” Westberg said.  “Our goal is to create a safer, friendlier online experience for millions of young people, and Attorney General McKenna and Superintendent Dorn are taking us all one step further to accomplishing that shared goal for Washington.”

AG McKenna formed the Youth Internet Safety Task Force in August 2007 and charged it with increasing Internet safety awareness in Washington state. In addition, the task force reviews laws related to child pornography and unlawful communications with minors. Among other Internet safety-related accomplishments, McKenna worked with other state AGs to reach agreements with social networking giants MySpace and Facebook to better protect kids online, and to create an industry-wide task force to develop better tools to verify the age and identity of their users. The AGO also maintains a comprehensive online guide to Internet Safety called WebWiseWashington.com.

The Superintendent of Public Instruction has been an active member of the Youth Internet Safety Task Force and provides a variety of Internet safety resources to educators statewide.

The ESA, which represents U.S. computer and video game publishers, and its foundation began working with Web Wise Kids in 2001, and since then, has worked to bring internet safety initiatives to several states including Utah, Massachusetts, Florida, Virginia and Arizona.

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Contacts:
Janelle Guthrie, Director of Communications, (360) 586-0725
Nathan Olson, OSPI Media Relations Manager, (360) 725-6015
Dan Hewitt, Entertainment Software Association, (202) 223-2400
Carol Urton, Director of Project Management, Web Wise Kids, (714) 435-2885 x 204

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