Online safety

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Last updated: March 18, 2020

information about online safety


The internet and texting make it easy for people to do harm to others. Get to know how to use technology responsibly and how to stay safe from online bullying, identity theft or other scams.

Cyberbullying is using online tools like websites, social media or texting to hurt, humiliate or threaten others. It can include:

  • Posting or sharing false information or images about someone that will cause harm to them or their reputation – including sharing photos, text messages or emails without their permission
  • Repeatedly sending someone nasty, mean, insulting or threatening messages
  • Pretending to be someone else online by using their personal information without permission
  • Excluding or banning someone from online games, chat rooms, social media pages, etc.
  • Creating websites, posts or polls to rate people by their looks – for example, asking people to "like" a picture if they think a person is a loser
  • Sending viruses or malicious code to damage someone else's device

Sextortion is when online predators convince a young person to take sexual photos or record sexual acts. They threaten to post the photos or videos online unless the person pays money or provides more inappropriate material.

In most cases, young people get involved in this kind of situation because they think they're talking with another young person.


take action

Take action

If you see or hear about something that is illegal or against school rules, tell an adult.

Use your cell phone, tablet or computer responsibly. Make sure what you do online reflects who you are in real life – if you wouldn’t say it, don’t post it. What you share through social media may be permanently available to anyone who looks for it, even if you delete it. Don’t use social media, cell phones or other devices during class without a teacher’s permission.

Treat people the way you want to be treated. Respect other people’s privacy. Never take a picture or recording of someone else without their permission – don't post anything without their permission either. It's easy to misunderstand messages or posts, so think before you write.

Don't cyberbully others. Don't participate in online gossip, forward mean messages or "like" cruel posts or photos. Harassing, insulting, bullying or impersonating someone online is against the law.

Stay away from scams and illegal content. Do not click on links or open attachments without knowing they are valid. Any photo, image or video that shows someone under 18 years old engaged in sexual activity, including any nudity, is child pornography and is illegal.

Keep things private. Don't post personal information like your birthday, phone number, address or social insurance number. Only communicate with people you know in real life. Adjust your privacy settings, so you know who will see what you share. Use strong passwords and don't share them.

If someone online tries to hurt you

  • Don't respond, don't retaliate – a reaction is exactly what they want
  • Don't try to deal with the problem yourself – report the person and their negative messages to someone who can help
  • Keep track of information about the problem and take a screenshot of anything you think would help report it
  • Block the person on your device and don't visit the same sites as them
  • Talk to your child about how they use the internet and social media – be supportive and encourage them to let you know if they have any problems
  • Many kids find sexual content on the web by accident – be prepared to talk to them about anything they may see
  • Find out what tools your internet service provider offers to help manage your child's online activities
  • Get to know what your child does online and teach them to be safe – they need to know how to deal with inappropriate material and how to protect themselves from predators
  • Agree to rules or guidelines for using electronic devices
  • Remind your child that what they do on online could have negative consequences later – for example, potential employers or post-secondary schools may search their online profile
  • Stay current with the latest ways kids are communicating
  • Know what your kids are doing when they hang out with friends
  • Keep the computer in a common area like the kitchen
  • Prevent sharing photos or videos over the internet without your permission – cover up the webcam when it's not being used so that a hacker cannot record you
  • Warn your child not to give personal information to a stranger online
  • Discuss the risk of using technology to experiment sexually – be understanding and non-judgmental
  • Contact your local law enforcement if you believe your child is being blackmailed or extorted online
  • Talk to other parents about their children's online privileges and what works for them
  • Set a strong password on your child's device and activate other security features before they use it – also, turn off the geotagging feature so that photos or posts don’t reveal their location
  • Remind your child to think before they text or post messages
  • Tell your child to ignore messages from people they don’t recognize and not to visit someone in person that they meet online or via text
  • Explain to your child why they need to get permission before taking pictures or videos of someone with their phone and vice versa

Make sure your kids are social networking the safe way

  • Check out the social network your child wants to join – make sure it's trustworthy and age-appropriate
  • Review the terms of use/service and the privacy policy – don't use the site if it shares information with third parties
  • Help your child set-up a profile, make sure they leave out personal information like their birthday, full name, social insurance number, address, phone number, etc.
  • Help your child create a strong password and use the highest, most restrictive security settings – check the privacy settings regularly in case there are changes from software updates
  • Be sure your child knows to be respectful – they shouldn't say or post anything that would be hurtful or harmful
  • Regularly monitor your child's page to check for anything inappropriate

Help with cyberbullying

  • Encourage your child not to respond or participate in cyberbullying
  • If your child is a victim of cyberbullying, keep the messages, photos, etc.
  • If your child is being threatened, harassed or being sent illegal content, contact the police and give them the details – include usernames of the people involved and any other identifying information you can collect
  • Try to block the person's phone number, email or username
  • Let your child’s school know what is happening

A Social Media Guide for Parents

Learn about popular social media platforms and games that your children might be using.

  • Tell your students how you use social media as a teaching tool and how you expect them to use social media
  • Ask your students to sign and return your school’s media consent forms
  • Unless it's related to school work, avoid interacting with students over social media – keep your personal and professional profiles separate and don’t add your students as friends on social media websites


Raising Digitally Responsible Youth - Information for Parents and Caregivers

We encourage parents and caregivers to have discussions as a family about developing and maintaining healthy technology consumption habits. Raising Digitally Responsible Youth: A Parent’s Guide (PDF) provides additional general tips on understanding and safely using online technology. Online technology, including apps and devices, evolve quickly, but the information and tips provided in this resource can build understanding of how many popular apps work and features to be aware of.

Learn how to prepare your child to develop healthy and responsible uses of technology.

  1. Media Smarts -  Managing Screen Time and Video Gaming - Special Issues for Teens
  2. Protect Kids Online - Monitoring Online Activities

Get tips on how to engage with your child to model and build healthy relationships with technology.

  1. Media Smarts – Are You Web Aware - A Parent Checklist
  2. Protect Kids Online- Phone Safety Tips and Monitoring Online Activities

Help your child learn about the consequences and implications of their developing technology consumption habits.

  1. Social Media Guidelines - erase Student Advisory Council (PDF)
  2. Media Smarts – Are You Web Aware - A Parent Checklist
  3. Protect Kids Online- Phone Safety Tips and Monitoring Online Activities

Get involved in your child’s digital life to learn together and prepare for responsible decision making. 

  1. Texting and Social Media Slang: Abbreviation Dictionary (PDF)
  2. Media Smarts – Are You Web Aware - A Parent Checklist
  3. Protect Kids Online- Phone Safety Tips and Monitoring Online Activities

Learn how to monitor online habits, and how to discuss safe online relationships and healthy online decisions with your child.

  1. Media Smarts – To Share or Not to Share, A Guide for Trusted Adults, Using Parental Controls  
  2. Protect Kids Online – Healthy Online Relationships, Online Luring

How to model and develop good digital citizenship practises with your child, and how to prevent and address poor choices of online activity.

  1. Need Help Now – Involving a Safe Adult
  2. Media Smarts Digital Citizenship Guide for Parents, Tip Sheet on Unconsented Shared Photos
  3. Protect Kids Online – What Do Parents Need to know about Self/Peer Exploitation

Advice on how to have proactive conversations with your child about healthy online relationships and how to recognize the signs of unsafe online relationships.

  1. Need Help Now – Parent Talking Tips, Healthy Relationships, Establishing Boundaries, How to Remove Pictures
  2. Protect Kids Online – Cyberbullying
  3. Media Smarts – Talking to Your Kids about Sexting


online safety resources