Online reputations, cyberbullying and Facebook privacy settings were just some of the topics discussed at St. Nicholas of Bari Catholic School Wednesday as a part of Toronto Catholic District School Board’s Data Privacy Day.
Information security professionals from Scotiabank’s Safe and Secure Online Program (ISC)2 provided students in grades six to eight with a seminar about the different dangers of the Internet, cyberbullying and how to protect themselves online.
“There is a trend, every year we do this, kids are online more and more. It’s their world,” said Rob Knoblauch, the director of technical security services at Scotiabank.
When students were asked how many of them have Facebook accounts, an overwhelming show of hands, about 95 per cent, shot up in the air. Children as young as 10 years old are sharing pictures, posting videos and chatting online with one another and possibly even strangers.
“These kids are very tech savvy, especially the older kids,” said Adam Evans, senior manager of security operations centre at Scotiabank.
But students often have a false sense of security about the Internet.
“They wouldn’t go talk to a stranger outside of their school on the street, but they’d talk to a stranger online,” Evans said. “We’ve had kids who are desensitized to the anonymity of being online.”
St. Nicholas is one of five Catholic schools in Toronto to take part in the seminar. For Principal Pat Tari, the timeliness of this presentation was spot on.
“In the last couple of years, this year in particular, we’ve seen a lot more instances of kids being bullied through various social media, whether it’s through Twitter or Facebook,” Tari said.
“It’s becoming more prevalent.”
Tari, Knoblauch and Evans all stressed to students the accountability they have when it comes to cyberbullying. They stressed if you’re being bullied, the best option is to get an adult involved and to not suffer in silence.
Evans recalls a time during another presentation where one student broke down and started crying because the child was being cyberbullied. It was clear the video they played of one child being bullied struck an emotional chord, Evans said.
“It’s unnerving,” Evans said.
Students were also urged to save any offending text messages, emails or private messages sent to them as evidence to show adults. And they were told it’s often best not to respond because the victim is only fueling the fire.
Also discussed with students was the act of sharing photos and tagging friends without their permission. Both Evans and Knoblauch informed students that once a photo is online, it’s on the Internet forever for anyone to see, use and manipulate in a matter of minutes.
It’s best to gauge the appropriateness of the photo by reminding yourself to never post anything you wouldn’t want to show up on the front page of a newspaper.
Another major point of discussion was accountability.
Students learned the punishment doesn’t just land solely on them, but their parents as well.
Tari said many students are under the impression that because the bad behavior isn’t done under the school’s roof, they can’t be punished within the school.
“That’s the big problem,” Tari said. “They need to realize the school has authority to deal with it.”
Parents also play a large role in how their kids conduct themselves and treat others online. And it’s up to them to take the necessary steps in becoming more aware and involved.
St. Nicholas of Bari and the Toronto police have held information sessions with parents to educate parents on the growing problem of cyberbullying.
“That’s a vital role for schools to play, to reach out to parents,” Tari said.
“As a principal, you only have a certain reach, you can talk to students until you’re blue in the face. If you don’t have that parent outreach then you’re missing a big chunk of the learning component.”