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Five tips to keep your children safe online

The following has some tips for your child’s online safety.

Protect Kids Online is an informative, one-stop website that provides free cyber-safety, education and strategies to parents of kids, teens and preteens. This website offers information about the ever-changing online interests of young people and the potential risks they face. This website effectively categorizes information by content and age.

If you suspect your child could be a victim of luring, sextortion or grooming, you should immediately report your concern to the RCMP and to Cybertip – Canada’s national tip line for reporting child sexual abuse and exploitation on the Internet.

Although located in the United States, The Child Rescue Coalition is an excellent resource that highlights the challenges of keeping children safe on the internet and other digital technologies. This organization provides current and timely information on their Instagram blog posts.

The following are five tips to help keep children and teens safe online:

1)Communicate with your children regularly:

Open, frequent and ongoing communication with your child is essential and should be a top priority regardless of how busy you are. Open communication ensures your children will trust you enough to tell you what’s going in their world.

2) Screen caregivers thoroughly:

Make sure you know who is taking care of your children.

3)Talk about body parts accurately:

This may be uncomfortable, but it is one of the most important tips. When children know the proper names of their body parts, they can properly express to you what has happened to them and you will be clear on what they are talking about. This should be done as soon as children are old enough to understand (i.e. by pre-school age).

4)Encourage boundaries:

Teach your children that their bodies belong to them and it’s okay for them to have boundaries and have their voices heard. If, for example, they do not want to hug or kiss someone, they do not have to.

5)Teach the difference between safe and unsafe secrets and touches:

This is so important that we named our program No Secrets. Ensure children know the difference between a safe secret (like keeping a birthday celebration a secret) and an unsafe secret (like the bus driver asking you to stay behind to go to the candy store and to not telling your parents)and a safe touch (like a touch that make you feel happy, loved and proud. This could be a high five) and an unsafe touch (i.e. a touch that makes you feel uncomfortable, upset and/or disgusting. This could be someone touching a part of your body you ae not comfortable with). Reinforce these regularly with different examples, so your children are able to determine what is safe or unsafe.

If you follow these tips and have regular conversations with your children about body safety and how their body belongs only to them, the risk of sexual abuse is greatly reduced.

Develop your child’s media literacy skills – Internet + Media Mini-edu Session

Today’s lesson, and the final for the Internet + Media series, focuses on media literacy.

Media literacy means being able to see, review and think about the media a person is watching or reading – to understand what the message of the media is. Media is everywhere: TV shows, advertisements, movies, music, video games, magazines and newspapers. Having strong media literacy skills as a child helps to develop the ability to think about what the main message a piece of media is and how the message relates to the child’s world and values.

Consider the following tips to help your child develop media literacy skills:

1)Watch with them

Have a family movie night or tune in with your kids for their Saturday morning cartoons. By watching together, you can see exactly what messages your child is seeing. You can ask questions about what they think they are seeing and how they believe it fits with your family’s values.

2)Let them be the DJ

Let your child pick the radio station or what songs play in the car ride to school. Not only will it give you more of an idea of what kind of music they like, but you can ask questions about what they are listening to. Ask them what the lyrics mean and what the singer is expressing in their song. What does your child like about the song?

3)Encourage them to create their own media

When children are given a chance to create media, they can think more about what goes into the message they are trying to send out. You can guide them to make a magazine, film a short video or create a family TikTok video.

4)Have a conversation about representation

An important skill in media literacy is recognizing who is and who is not represented in a piece of media and how people are portrayed. By asking these questions to your child and having a conversation about representation, it allows for honest conversations about values, diversity and inclusion.

Developing media literacy skills can help strengthen a child’s sense of identity and belonging and have a greater respect for others.

For more information about media literacy, visit mediasmarts.ca for more parent tips about media literacy.

 

 

Prevent cyberbullying through respect – Internet + Media Mini-edu Session

Cyberbullying is a disrespectful act that does not consider another person’s feelings of safety and belonging. Cyberbullying can involve spreading rumors online, posting embarrassing photos and videos without consent, calling people names and creating separate accounts to bully someone. Cyberbullying can happen between people of the same gender, age or popularity. It can happen to anyone at any time.

Prevent Cyberbullying:

When trying to prevent cyberbullying from happening in your home or in your classroom, it is important to consider the following:

1)Teach respect
When respect is the norm for interacting with others online, cyberbullying is less likely to happen or to be tolerated. When children are taught to think before they post, share or comment on something online, harmful words or actions are less likely to happen. Students whose parents set up boundaries and instill values of being respectful online were more than thirty three percent less likely to be rude or mean to others online (1).

2)Teach what is and is not a joke
Bullying, along with cyberbullying, sometimes involves trying to play off harsh words or actions as “it’s a joke.” Joking and teasing can strengthen the relationship between two people (i.e., classmates and friends) and can create positive relationships and humour (2), however, teasing can quickly become bullying. If the other friend or peer is not getting the joke, or says they want the joking to stop, it is important for others to listen and respect their wishes and boundaries.

Help your youth respond to cyberbullying

If your youth comes to you to say they are experiencing cyberbullying or online harassment, it is important to consider the following:

1)Respond Appropriately
Try not to over or underreact to a youth being cyberbullied. Overreacting can harm a youth socially and does not teach them appropriate ways to deal with cyberbullying. Underreacting can lead to the child not feeling supported and could lead to more bullying. Even though cyberbullying happens online, it has real effects on an individual’s emotional, social, academic and physical well-being.

2)Teach to not Fight Back and instead Gather Evidence, Report, Delete or Block. 

When your child is dealing with cyberbullying from strangers or peers, it is important as the adult or parent to follow the steps listed:

  • Encourage your child to not fight back against any harassment or bullying. Not fighting back will make the bullying more likely to stop.
  • When gathering evidence, it is important to record any identifying information (names, usernames, location, contact information, time, date, bullying behaviour, etc.).
  • Next, report the harassment or bullying to the social media or website’s help centre, to the school, or to the police as needed.
  • Finally, delete or block the person as needed (especially if they are a stranger online). Your child or the website’s help centre can show you the steps to do this.

Everyone deserves respect both online and offline. As children explore online for creative, social, and learning reasons, it is important to be aware that cyberbullying can happen, but it can be prevented and dealt with.

For any further questions about cyberbullying, or internet safety, please reach out to the CASASC Edu Team at education@casasc.ca or check out more tips at MediaSmarts.ca.

 

 

 

[1] https://mediasmarts.ca/sites/default/files/guides/ywca-guide-for-trusted-adults.pdf

[2] Lee, A. M. (2020, October 22). The Difference Between Teasing and Bullying. Retrieved January 19, 2021, from https://www.understood.org/en/friends-feelings/common-challenges/bullying/difference-between-teasing-and-bullying

Sextortion and safety – Internet + Media Mini-edu Session

The Education Team has a question from a parent regarding Internet use and an issue known as sextortion. Some of the topics in this question may be triggering or hard to read. Emotional safety is very important to the CASASC education team. We do feel the following question is important to answer. If you need any further support, you can reach out to our help line anytime at 1-866-956-1099.

Parent Question: Hi there, I have a question. My daughter is a teenager and is spending more time online. We as a family have talked about how to act and treat others online. I am not concerned about that. What I am concerned about is her getting in trouble with people asking for her images online. I remember the Amanda Todd case from years ago and I am worried that she may be tricked into a similar situation. How can I talk to my daughter about this, and make sure she is safe online?

CASASC Response:

The issue you are describing is sextortion. Sextortion is where someone (a peer or stranger) asks for a person’s nude images and then uses those images as blackmail in order to receive more images or money to stop the images from being leaked or sent out to loved ones. It is a rare, yet serious form of online violence that can happen to anyone regardless of gender. The Amanda Todd case you mentioned is a Canadian example of this issue and it unfortunately ended in her suicide.

Sextortion can happen with something as innocent as flirting or chatting online with a peer or stranger. Sometimes images are asked for outright or a person may be prompted to flash or expose themselves on a web camera. Then, the other person may take a screenshot from their computer or device, thus saving the image as blackmail material. This is known as “camming” and is what happened in Amanda’s case.

In Canada, under the Criminal Code, harassment, uttering threats and distributing images of someone who is under 18 is illegal and those found responsible can be charged. Sextortion involves blackmail and processing and/or distributing images of child pornography, both of which are illegal acts.

It is good to hear that you want to keep your daughter safe from being sextorted. Like cyberbullying or stalking, sextortion can have numerous mental, emotional and social consequences for the youth involved.

Online harassment can have detrimental effects that can last for a lifetime. Some effects include an increased risk of suicidal thoughts, self harm, loss of feeling safe, social anxiety, being isolated from friends and peers, etc. (1)

There are ways that you as the parent can help support and teach your daughter to avoid being put into a position where she could be sextorted. We have included the links to several websites as further resources.

You can teach your daughter to recognize the following warning signs when chatting with someone online as outlined by Cybertip.ca, a great resource for online safety.

Warning Signs:

1)Everything happens quickly

The other person either asks for images or videos outright, wants to speak on a web camera (through web functions like Zoom, Skype or Messenger) or starts asking for personal information that may be used against a youth later.

2)Chatting becomes sexual

This can be through jokes, innuendos, or regular chatting and flirting.

3)Attention Bombing

This essentially means making contact numerous times a day. This can be controlling behaviour masked as someone who is caring and attentive.

4)Using threats

This can be a way to make someone feel unsafe, embarrassed, or guilty, all in a way to make them comply with requests for images or to chat via web camera.

5)Provides inconsistent information

What they say vs. what they post, or share may be different. For example, a person online may say they are 15 years old, but the images they send appear to be of someone older. A person who uses sextortion against others may pretend they are younger, or pretend they are a different gender to receive images. For example, a man may pretend to be a younger girl to chat with boys online.

Red Flags:

If your child notices any of these red flags, it is important that they know they can come to you, or another trusted adult to talk about and report the issue. You as the parent must make sure you remain calm, open and listen to your daughter, so to not discourage her from coming to you with a future problem. Have her show you what is going on and try and document as much as you can. This includes any email addresses, online handles, usernames, location, contact information etc. Then, block this person and report to the police. Alberta RCMP have an Integrated Child Exploitation Unit (ICE) who investigate matters of online sexual exploitation in minors, including sextortion concerns.

If your daughter comes to you, and worries that she may have been a victim of sextortion, it is important to remember the following things:

1)Stay calm and do not panic

For both you and her. Your next steps are to document as much as you can and report it. This can be done through your local RCMP, or through CyberTip.ca, which does handle reporting of online harassment and sextortion.

2)Immediately stop all communication

This involves deactivation—not deleting—any accounts, and not logging in or checking to see if the person contacted you again. You can ask your daughter to show you how to deactivate an account, or the web platform’s help center may have more information.

3)Do not comply with any threats

This is important for any youth to know. They do not have to do anything they are uncomfortable with or feel may be harmful to them. If it makes them uncomfortable, they should log off and speak with a trusted adult.

Remember, it is never the youth’s fault, it is always the person’s fault for using threats and blackmail.

 

Additional Resources:

1) https://mediasmarts.ca/sites/default/files/guides/ywca-guide-for-trusted-adults.pdf

2) www.dontgetsextorted.ca

 

Develop confidence with your youth online – Internet + Media Mini-edu Session

The CASASC education team would like to share some mini-edu lessons about Internet safety and media literacy over the coming weeks for parents and their children.

Respect is very important to our organization and learning how to be respectful in the digital world will help youth become more empowered and informed citizens. They will be better able to problem solve and safely explore what is going on online. Below is a question a parent asked us during our last Social Media Takeover.

Parent Question: How do I set rules or expectations for my youth’s Internet usage? How can I monitor what they are doing online to make sure it is appropriate?

CASASC Response:

Wow, what great questions.

Parents naturally want to be aware of what their children are interested in and what they are viewing online. Research suggests that youth do want their parents to help set expectations and guide them to know what right or wrong behaviour is. Students whose parents set up boundaries and instill values of being respectful online were more than thirty three percent less likely to be rude or mean to others online (1)

The Canadian website MediaSmarts has many resources to help parents and youth develop more confidence regarding internet usage. MediaSmarts suggests the following tips to help develop rules and expectations around Internet use:

  1. Be judgement free and have open communication

When your child knows they can talk to you about anything without judgement, they are more likely to come to you when they have a problem online. Sixty six percent of youth who came to their parent with an online issue felt better afterwards (1)

  1. Explain the reasoning behind a rule or expectation

When youth know why you are setting an expectation or rule, they feel better about following them. For example, you may say no devices in the bedroom at night, or no being online after 10 pm, because research shows youth need sleep in order to physically grow and be mentally, emotionally and academically well (2)

  1. Make Respect, or the Golden Rule, the highest expectation

When respect — treating others how you wish to be treated — is the highest expectation while being online, youth are more likely to think about what they post or say online and share what they expect of others online. This creates a safer online environment for them.

When it comes to knowing what your children are doing online, the best way to find out is to ask them. Have them show and explain the social media and websites they are using. Set aside a time to look online together. This will not only let you see what your child is doing online, but it will also help you feel more connected to your child and increase quality family time together.

 

  1. https://mediasmarts.ca/sites/default/files/guides/ywca-guide-for-trusted-adults.pdf
  2. https://www.caringforkids.cps.ca/handouts/behavior-and-development/screen-time-and-digital-media