At Mayfair Community Center in Northeast Philadelphia, seniors are on a new adventure — taking computer classes to learn the ins-and-outs of cyber safety.
Their efforts come as Comcast is adding more users to its Internet Essentials program, geared to connect low-income households to the internet.
"With all the people we’re connecting to the internet, we’re now turning to the next phase which is how do we make sure they’re protected," Comcast senior executive vice president David L. Cohen told NBC10.
The news station and the Pennsylvania Attorney General's office is also joining in the educational online safeguarding effort, which will combine public service announcements, free in-person training programs, and free educational resources including videos, brochures, and booklets that will also be available online.
"With this partnership, we’re doubling our efforts to educate seniors on Internet safety and do more to protect Pennsylvanians from the scams, fraud, identify theft, and financial exploitation that is costing America’s seniors $3 billion every year," state Attorney General Josh Shapiro said.
Pennsylvania has the fifth most seniors of any state, with 2.2 million residents over the age of 65. That number is expected to increase over the next several years. According to a Pew Research Center study, 64 percent of seniors now regularly use the internet.
“As a media and technology company, Comcast is uniquely positioned to contribute to this effort,” Cohen said. “We also know that one of the major reasons why low-income households, and especially seniors, don’t purchase internet service at home is because they’re afraid of it. They’re afraid of online scams and of being taken advantage of. Fortunately, as part of our Internet Essentials program, we have an outstanding network of nonprofit partners in whom we can invest to teach more seniors, adults, and students that the internet can be perfectly safe once you know how to use it and what to watch out for.”
Since 2011, Internet Essentials, Comcast’s signature community investment program and the nation’s largest and most successful broadband adoption initiative for low-income families, has connected more than four million low-income Americans, living in more than one million households, to the Internet. The number includes 272,000 residents across the state of Pennsylvania, which makes it the fourth most successful state in terms of participation in the program with nearly 125,000 from the city of Philadelphia alone.
“I want to commend Comcast and the Office of the Attorney General for their partnership to help protect Philadelphia’s residents when they are online,” Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney said. “The internet is an amazing resource, but our citizens need to be aware of and educated about what they can do to be safe online. This effort will go a long way to reinvigorate that dialogue.”
Shapiro pledged to expand senior education efforts by increasing his Office of Public Engagement’s outreach on Internet safety and producing new educational content including videos, brochures, and public service announcements. Through partnerships with Comcast, nonprofits, and other advocates, the Office of Public Engagement will double the number of seniors it educates about Internet safety from an estimated 25,000 in 2016 to at least 50,000 in 2018.
Ric Harris, president and general manager of NBC10 and Telemundo62, also announced that his TV stations would produce a series of free educational videos, using its anchors and on-air talent, to address a variety of internet safety and security topics for seniors, parents, and students. The videos will be made in both English and in Spanish.
“NBC 10 and Telemundo62 are thrilled to bring our talent and production resources to this partnership,” said Harris. “Accessible and engaging content from a trusted news station can go a long way to raise awareness and keep seniors and families safe online. Our goal will be to tackle a variety of internet safety topics like online scams to watch out for, how to create strong passwords, how to protect your privacy online, how to deal with cyberbullying, and more. We’ll break these topics down into simple and informative video content, which is exactly what our news teams do best.”
As part of a presentation on cyber safety with a group of school children at NBC10's studios Thursday, Cohen had a surprise for the kids — new laptops for each of them to take home.