By Kate Irwin
A Canal Flats nurse is doing her part to help keep local children and teens safe online as she wages a campaign against cyber-bullying in the valley. Berny Moore, a mother of two, has been visiting local schools and talking with School District 6 (SD6) to try and spread a message of online awareness to kids and their parents.
If even one child can be guarded against harassment and persecution via online instant messaging, social media and cell phone text messaging, it’s worth exploring all the options to protect them, Mrs. Moore explained.
“It’s a serious problem that threatens kids who have no idea how to handle it,” she said. “They have no realm of experience to draw a solution from … and they’re often too distraught to bring it up to somebody.”
Cyber-bullying is a growing phenomenon as the Internet permeates deeper into our homes, jobs and schools, with one in 12 Canadian parents reporting that their child has been bullied online, declared a recent study by Ipsos Reid. Other sources, such as www.stopabully.ca, state the figure to be closer to 40 per cent, noting that online harassment has spread to educators, who can find themselves facing hurtful comments from pupils and parents on Internet sites such as Facebook.
Between one-quarter and one-third of parents told Ipsos Reid that they could not be sure if their child had been a victim of cyber-bullying. Part of the problem is that while parental controls may be set up at home and computer usage is supervised at all schools, there are other ways to access the web, Mrs. Moore stated.
“As soon as kids leave home they can go to the library, a friend’s house or use a smart phone and create a password and log in without parents even knowing,” she explained. “Using the Internet makes it so easy to bully. Bullies aren’t seeing the child’s face; it’s much easier to say hurtful things if they don’t see the emotional response.”
While at school, pupils in SD6 are not allowed access to the Internet without parental permission and access is limited to supervised sessions, explained Paul Carriere, Superintendent of Schools. There are also controls put in place by the Provincial Learning Network which provides the school district with managed Internet services, plus a district firewall with web filters to block inappropriate content including social media sites, he added.
“Internet safety is embedded into the Health and Career Education Curriculum,” Mr. Carriere said. “Internet safety is essentially a theme that accompanies all web access at school. Teachers often use the term ‘digital citizenship’ when working with students on this.”
In tandem with the work being done at local schools, Mrs. Moore is also encouraging parents to investigate ways to keep their children and teens protected online outside school hours, such as Internet safety and parental control software SocialShield — which she is advocating.
SocialShield and other parental control software are used cooperatively with a child or teen and gives parents an overview of their online activity. While some software only covers the most popular site — Facebook — SocialShield is Mrs. Moore’s preferred choice as it combines a child’s Facebook, Myspace and Twitter activity.
While the school district cannot advocate the software (a paid service costing up to $10 per child monthly), “people need to know that for just a few dollars a month you can keep your child safe on the Internet,” Mrs. Moore added. As well as delivering information packets to all the local schools, she is hoping to start more dialogue on cyber-bullying among parents and their kids.
“This is how out kids converse now and stay in touch, which is marvellous, but there’s no safety net,” she said. “With this sort of software, an alert is sent from the very first time a child is bullied, so they don’t go through months of getting worn down by bullies.”
For more information about SocialShield, contact Mrs. Moore at 250-417-9655 or visit www.socialshield.com.