Nearly 4 in 10 #schoolkids #cyberbullied, B.C. government #warns

Province marks Safer Internet Day by advising British Columbian families about safer surfing the Internet

As British Columbian children spend more time with their eyes on a screen, the province is offering advice on keeping them safer from cyberbullying.

Next month marks one year since a Dutch 38-year-old, Aydin Coban, was sentenced to 10 years in prison for Internet fraud and blackmail in dozens of online harassment cases — and is expected to be extradited to Canada this year to face charges over his role in the suicide of Port Coquitlam 15-year-old Amanda Todd in 2012, whom he blackmailed with explicit photos.

The stats touted by the province to mark Safer Internet Day on Tuesday are disturbing: 37 per cent of Canadian schoolchildren starting in Grade 4 say they’ve experienced online abuse, and an even greater number — more than double — say they’ve encountered racist and sexist content on the Internet.

“We all have a role to play in supporting student safety online,” said education minister Rob Fleming in a statement. “It’s crucial for B.C.’s students to be equipped with the knowledge and tools to focus on online safety.”

To that end, the province is sharing advice on safer surfing to mark an international day of awareness it said in marked in 130 countries including Canada, including guidelines for what it calls “safe and responsible” web use.

“Cyberbullying is constantly evolving alongside changes to technology and social media,” the province’s citizens’ services ministry stated. “Cyberbullying has meant kids can now be bullied 24 hours a day, seven days a week, regardless of where they are.”

The website of B.C.’s Chief Information Officer hosts kid-friendly quizzes on the topic, including a recent one on smart devices — the ‘Love Your Device’ Security Quiz — which includes more secure passwords, not trusting online-based companies to save passwords, and being sceptical about the identities of people encountered online.

The quiz also asks a question on “let’s talk about sexting,” which warns: “people of all ages are engaging in a false sense of privacy online and sending intimate photos of themselves. What are the risks involved?” The multiple-choice answers offered include criminal charges, being lured by a predator, cyberbullying and shaming, and any of the above. (The correct answer? “Any of the above.”)

Citizen services minister Jinny Sims said it’s important for families to teach kids the basics of online safety.

“The internet is a powerful tool that can lift, inspire and enable our young people to achieve great things, but this tool must be used with great respect,” she said in the statement.