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Teaching kids about privacy and social media gains traction

Middle school students in New York City are learning the basics of privacy and social media -- and the program could soon go national.

"We thought it would be great to give middle schoolers an opportunity to think about what privacy means to them and be able to address it before any problems occur," said Cameron Russell, professor of law at Fordham University.

Fordham's National Privacy Education Program is an hour-long course for middle-school kids that covers topics like privacy, passwords, behavioral ads, social media, Wi-Fi, facial recognition, mobile devices and managing a digital reputation.

Volunteers from Fordham law school taught a pilot program to 7th graders in New York City last spring. This year, a handful of universities across the country are joining, including: University of California, Berkeley, University of California, Irvine, Georgetown University, Harvard University, University of Idaho, Northern Kentucky University, Princeton University, Roger Williams University, Seattle University, Suffolk University, Tulane University, Washington University in St. Louis and Yale University.

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Educators are hopeful that the program will teach the students to think about privacy when on the Internet.

"Many teens believe that because they are communicating through their own personal accounts, phones and computers that it is private. While interacting with the law students, they soon realized that nothing that is public can be private at the same time," Nichole Gagnon, classroom teacher for the pilot class at PS191, said in a press release.

Fordam says this type of education is needed because of the multitude of teenagers that go online. According to a 2013 Pew Research Internet Project report, 93 percent of teens between the ages of 12 and 17 have computer access at home and 78 percent have a cell phone -- 47 percent of which own smartphones.

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