Talk to your kids about Internet use, say police and school officials

Do you know what your kids are up to when they're online? Many parents don't, and they're concerned about the safety of their children.

'Kids become so immersed in it that it becomes part of their identity,' says school official

Amanda Todd, 15, a Port Coquitlam, B.C. teenager, took her life in 2012, after she was cyberbullied. She posted this video to YouTube before her death. (YouTube)

Do you know what your kids are up to when they're online? Do you know what they're looking at, and who they're talking to when they're on their tablets and cell phones?

Many parents don't know the answers to these questions and they're concerned about the safety of their children. Often, they don't know how to talk to their kids about their online habits.

​A Surrey school board official, who helps kids — and parents — navigate technology, said the key is for parents to have "lots and lots of conversations," and to ensure that tablets, phones and computers don't become the focal point of a teen's life.

Nancy Smith said educating parents is just as important as teaching children. She makes presentations to both.

"Make sure you're still doing things that don't involve technology throughout your day," Smith said. "Take a break from it. Kids become so immersed in it that it becomes part of their identity."

Start conversations, says official

Smith made the comments Tuesday as part of Safer Internet Day, which experts hope can help start those conversations between kids and parents.

Nancy Smith, a Surrey school district official, urged kids to take breaks from technology.

Internet safety made headlines in Canada in 2012 when Amanda Todd, a 15-year-old Port Coquitlam, B.C. teen took her life after she was bullied online. She posted a heartbreaking video to YouTube of her treatment by cyberbullies.

Months later, in Halifax, N.S., Rehtaeh Parsons took her life after a graphic picture of her was circulated at her school.

Today, online bullying is commonplace. Smith said the Surrey school district receives complaints "all the time" about inappropriate online behaviour. And Surrey RCMP Cpl. Scott Schuman said police receive complaints weekly, mainly dealing with threats.

Smith said the Internet can create a wall between kids and parents, which is why it's crucial to have conversations about the use and effect of technology.

"Parents shouldn't be scared of technology," Smith said. "The rules are all the same. It's just making sure they're behaving the same all the time, making sure the technology is accessible to adults, and making sure you have lots and lots of conversation about their use of technology."

with files by Jesse Johnston

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