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TELUS WISE offers Airdrie residents cyber safety tips

By: Allison Chorney

  |  Posted: Thursday, Jun 12, 2014 11:03 am

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According to TELUS WISE (Wise Internet and Smartphone Education), 99 per cent of Canadians now have access to the Internet either at home, school or work and that level of usage may lead many to question how to keep themselves and their kids safe online.

TELUS WISE in partnership with Good Shepherd School and Community Links visited the school on June 4 to meet with parents and discuss concerns and strategies to keep everyone safe online.

“We need to think about living in a digital world and living in the physical world. There are norms and ethics to live by in both worlds,” said Shelly Smith, director of TELUS WISE, at the June 4 event.

She told parents online safety is important for everyone from kids to grandparents and includes issues of cyber crime such as identity theft, hackers and cyberbullying.

Smith said the average age for a first-time Internet use for kids in 2013 was just three years old.

“(With tablets) they don’t even need to know how to spell, they just have to touch the screen,” she said.

She said it is important to speak with kids and teens about appropriate online behaviour.

“The Internet was never intended to be a babysitter,” Smith said.

“We’ve got to be there with (kids) and participate with them online.”

She said popular sites such as YouTube are only three clicks away from pornography so it’s up to parents to monitor, set rules and set an example to protect kids from inappropriate sites, cyberbullying and online predators.

“(Kids) need to know stranger-danger,” she said. “It’s the digital playground and kids need to know the playground rules.”

She said for younger kids it’s important to talk with them about the difference between fantasy and reality, and added this discussion can’t happen soon enough.

“They trust characters in media, they parody them and want to be them,” she said, adding this can give kids a false sense of relationship and can lead to sharing personal information.

Smith added even kid-friendly education sites play on this false sense of relationship with their hosts and characters.

“These sites are great, they have great content and education for kids but they’re branded characters that are there to sell to kids,” she said.

For teens and pre-teens, Smith said the 24/7 access means these kids are constantly bombarded by what other kids are saying online. She suggests setting house rules around Internet and smartphone use.

“Come up for air. Have a basket in the house so at family dinner all devices go in the basket including (parent’s devices) so you get eye-to-eye contact,” she said.

She added parents should never put a smartphone or computer in a child or youth’s room because you cannot monitor who and what they are talking about or accessing, and you don’t know how much time they are spending online.

Smith added, that teaching kids to slowly count to 10 before sending that text or posting that comment to let them really think about what they are saying and the consequences of it.

“There are a lot of people hiding behind that computer screen, saying and doing whatever they like because they feel they can’t be found,” she said.

“(It’s about) getting kids to understand nobody should treat you cruelly online or use vulgarity. That is not acceptable.”

Smith said kids aren’t the only ones to be concerned about. Seniors are accessing the digital world more regularly and are very active on social networking sites like Facebook.

“It’s not just the kids that are cyberbullied,” she said.

“There’s an increasing number of seniors that are being cyberbullied, usually by a family member and usually about money.”

Smith said if you are bullied it’s important to keep the messages and comments instead of erasing them because you may need them to prove the bullying existed in order to put a stop to it.

She further suggested families create a contract that sets out the rules to online use including time limits, appropriate sites, updating privacy settings regularly and appropriate online behaviour, then have the kids and the parents sign it.

“We’ve taught our kids to be good citizens (in) the (physical) world, it’s no different in the digital world,” she said.

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