Internet Safety

Did You Know?

  • 28% of grade 4s, 43% of grade 5s; and 86% of grade 11 students - use instant messaging (MSN) on an average school day.
  • 70% of 4 year olds in the US have used a computer.
  • 94% of Canadian children (grades 4-11) say they go on-line from home. 85% of kids say they also access internet outside the home
  • Only 13% students say they are supervised by a parent when they go on-line.
  • 70% of Canadian teens have been bullied online. 44% said they’ve bullied someone else. Only 10% of bullying victims tell their parents.
  • The #1 form of cyber bullying is making private information public. Cyber bullying can be a criminal offence in Canada.
  • 1 out of every 5 kids in the USA gets sexually solicited online. The average luring victim is a13 year old female.
  • Tips received by Cybertip.ca have resulted in 28 arrests and nearly 3,000 websites being shut down.
  • 98% of parents place a high priority on children learning how to protect themselves on the Internet from sexual exploitation and abduction.
  • 1/3 of Canadian parents have not discussed Internet Safety with their children and most do not know where to access Internet Safety information.

We are witnessing the biggest leap in adolescent freedom since the invention of the car. Teens can escape their parents’ control. And that makes adults a little bit scared.

- C.J. Pascoe

What Children Need

The Internet has changed how the world communicates. Kids today have never known a world without cell phones, and 24/7 internet access. Online communication is an important part of their social world. By the 5th and 6th grade, kids are going online to chat, gossip, and organize their social calendars. They post pictures, do homework, and play games. They have email addresses and IM screen names (SNs), and personal profiles on sites such as Face Book and MySpace. Away from their desktop computer, they keep in touch – snapping photos, texting, surfing, up and down loading - on their cell phones. Growing up online gives young people a chance to develop social relationships, and to experiment with their identity, and provides them with a sense of independence and privacy.

Why Screen Time Matters

Growing up online means that kids are going through the normal stages from child to adult in a very public space. At this stage, young people are busy forming their identities and exploring their sexuality. Hormones are raging, and their self-esteem and emotions are fragile. The wiring that supports judgement and rational thinking is only starting to develop in the adolescent brain. Undoubtedly, the internet offers children unique opportunities for self-expression, social contact, and as sense of freedom. It is also true that internet use threatens privacy and exposes children to the risks of cyber bullying, sexual exploitation and abduction. Parents must balance a child’s normal need for independence and privacy and their need to protect. What makes the job more challenging is the disconnect’ between parents and their children. For many parents the World Wide Web is like a foreign country - a strange land where they do not speak the language.

Privacy

Children believe that they can have a private life in a public space.

privacy

What you post online is not private. Once online, words and pictures become public information. You cannot “take back” your words and photos once they are posted. Even if a site is deleted, text and images may remain cached on someone’s computer. Webcam videos and photos are easily captured, and other people can continue to circulate those images online.

Why it Matters

  • Learning is all about making mistakes. However, when kids ‘mess up’ online, they do so in a very public way. Words and images posted on the internet can cause great psychological harm - embarrassment, fear, and even suicidal thoughts. People believe they are interacting with trusted friends but later find their photos forwarded to others or posted on web sites.
  • Sharing of personal information make children vulnerable to cyber bullying exploitation, abduction.
  • Parents, teachers, coaches, employers, and admissions officers may go online and find out things about you – from your profile, or from someone else’s. Teens can be fired from their jobs, denied employment, and entry into college or university; because of dangerous, humiliating, or harmful information posted online.
  • Your name may wind up in some database, used to sell you something now or later. Downloading programs can introduce viruses and spyware that invades your privacy by tracking what you’re doing online.

Cyber Bullying

Cyber bullying is using the internet to bully. Kids use their phones or go online to create and forward harassing or embarrassing words and images. It takes passing notes and spreading lies instantly to a wider audience. Cruel words, humiliating photos and video, can rapidly spread via e-mail, texting, and posts on sites like FaceBook. It can happen anytime, anywhere, but mostly when adults aren’t around. Kids, who normally wouldn’t say anything mean to a person’s face, will bully online.

scared kid

Why it Matters

  • When friends are everything, nothing destroys a child’s self-confidence more than public humiliation. Damaging information or pictures are there for millions to see and are extremely difficult to retrieve.
  • Victims of cyber bullying can suffer from anxiety and depression, and some become suicidal. Emotional scarring can last a lifetime.

Exploitation & Abduction

The internet is a public space. Children may see unsuitable and unpleasant material online. They may also come in to contact with sexual predators. Pedophiles use the internet to deceive, manipulate, sexually humiliate, and harm their victims. Sexual exploitation includes creating and distributing sexual images; luring children away from home; and engaging in sexual activities on line. Online sexual exploitation is a serious problem in Canada. 1 in 5 children is sexually solicited online.

Top five risks to Canadian Children on the Internet (CYBERTIP.ca)

exploitation

  1. Sex Offenders targeting on-line games that have chat rooms
  2. Sex offenders hijacking IM accounts and coercing children to send nude or partially clothed images of them.
  3. Sex offenders using 3D animated characters (Avatars) to engage youth in online conversations
  4. Sex offenders targeting social networking sites where children create online diaries and connect with new people.
  5. Youth sending nude images to peers without understanding the images could be forwarded or permanently posted online.

What Can Be Done

What can we do to help our children stay safe online? Quite simply, children and their parents need to understand internet safety. ‘Far easier said, than done.’

Mother teaching daughter internet safety

Knowing where your kids are, what they are doing, and whom they are with, presents today’s parents with a different set of challenges than those of previous generations. ‘Digital Kids’ have grown up online, this is their turf. It is hard to keep up with all the new digital gadgets and websites. Supervision is especially difficult when online access via cell phone, iPod, or laptop is wireless and mobile. Parents may also feel that monitoring internet activities may give children the message they cannot be trusted. After all, our ‘tweens’ and teens are experimenting with their identity. They are enjoying the privacy and independence of cyber space. All at a stage when is it is completely natural for them to do so.

Addressing internet safety will vary depending on the child’s age, stage, and personality, your parenting style, and beliefs. What is clear is that parents and children need to know how to stay safe online and that they need to talk about internet safety together.

Internet Survival Tips for Parents

father supervising content

  1. Stay Informed and Involved. The Internet is here to stay. Our job as parents is to teach our kids how to use the internet in a safe, responsible, and respectful manner. We need to become comfortable with the technology and aware of the enormous potential and dangers of the internet. Check out the sites they visit, and make it your business to know whom they are with and what they are doing online.
  2. Establish ‘Terms of Use’. Keep your computer in a central location in the house. Establish when kids can go online and for how long, and what sites they can visit. Familiarize yourself with the parental controls available on your computer and/or through your service provider. Ask your younger kids (intermediate students or younger) for their passwords so you can check for inappropriate or dangerous communications. Make it clear how you expect them to behave online. No cyber bullying. No sending hostile or insulting messages. No posting of embarrassing pictures. Let your kids know ahead of time that you will verify their responsible use of the Internet.
  3. Engage your Kids and Embrace their World. Ask your children questions. Go online together. Teach them to be critical consumers of internet content, pointing out that online information is not always true. Let them teach you how to download, IM, or create your own Facebook page. Just like parenting in the real world, it is important to keep lines of communication open with your child. Make it clear that if they encounter a disturbing or dangerous situation online, they can come to you for help.
  4. Teach Safety. Educate yourself about cyber bullying, identity theft, and online sexual exploitation, and discuss these dangers with your children. Make sure your kids know how to avoid dangers. No sharing of personal information. No meeting strangers. Make certain that your children know that if they (or someone else they know) are being threatened, harassed, or exploited; if they encounter child pornography online; or, if they or someone they know is in immediate danger or at risk; they know how to report these threats to responsible adults. For more information in reporting suspicious internet activities or threats, see Links below.

Internet Survival Tips for Kids and Teens

  1. There is no such thing as “private” on the Internet. Think before you post. People can find and keep anything they want online. What you post is both public and permanent. Mistakes may be forever in cyber space.
  2. Never post personal information. No real names, birth dates, phone numbers, addresses, or anything that can identify you in photographs, profiles or blogs.
  3. Never meet strangers. If a stranger contacts you online and tries to set up a meeting, end all contact. Do not tell anyone your schedule; do not say where you will be hanging out; and do not advertise parties. People are often not who they say they are. 1 in 5 kids will be sexually solicited online.
  4. teen girls computer safety
  5. Know everyone on your ‘friend’ list. If you have not met the people face-to-face, they may not be who they pretend to be.
  6. Be very careful posting photos or video online. Do not post sexy photos, pictures, or video showing behaviour that may be embarrassing to you now, or in the future. Make sure there is nothing in the photo that can help online predators identify where you live or the school you attend. Do not send pictures of other people. Forwarding an embarrassing photograph or video clip of someone else is a type of bullying.
  7. Do not download anything without your parents' permission. Many sites have spyware that will damage your computer. Other sites have inappropriate content. Your parents can check your computer’s URL history, so you cannot hide where you have been.
  8. Do not share your password with anyone but your parents. Not even with friends.
  9. Report Suspicious Activities or Dangers. If you, or someone you know, is being threatened, harassed, or exploited online, tell a trustworthy adult who can help them, or call the Kids Help Line (1-800-668-6868). If, you see, or know of child pornography online report it to Cybertip.ca If you, or someone you know, are in immediate danger or at risk call 911 or the local police.

Links

Reporting

  • If you, or someone you know, are in immediate danger or at risk call 911, or the local police.
  • If you, or someone you know, is being threatened, harassed, or exploited online, tell a trustworthy adult who can help them, or call the Kids Help Line (1-800-668-6868).
  • If, you see, or know of child pornography online report it to Cybertip.ca

Resources on Internet Safety