The parents of two Canadian teens who took their own lives visited Winnipeg on Monday to accept awards for their work in preventing online exploitation.
Amanda Todd’s mother, Carol Todd, and Rehtaeh Parsons's father, Glen Canning, were recognized by Beyond Borders, an organization that combats online sexual exploitation of children.
Todd’s daughter killed herself after making an online video that explained her struggle with ongoing bullying, much of which took place online. The video received international attention after her death.
Now, Todd works to raise awareness about online bullying.
“If that’s what my daughter wanted, then it’s my role as a parent to keep — she’s still my daughter in life or death, and I have to keep sharing her stories,” said Todd.
She said young people are still very vulnerable to being exploited online.
“All it takes is just one photo and that can be done in a millisecond,” said Todd. “Whether that child is sending their own picture or someone is taking it online or they’re talking to our stranger.”
She added it’s important to remind young people it can happen to anyone — a point that was echoed by Canning.
"Don't ever think this won't happen to you. Don't ever think that," Canning said.
"And always remember, it's not what your child is doing. There are a lot of people out there. They are professional predators; this is what they do. They're extremely good at it and they've found a tool to use against your child that is just simply everywhere."
Canning said police should receive training so they can go after people who use digital and social media to target children.
Both Todd and Canning were recognized by Beyond Borders as part of their media awards ceremony.
Schools to have mandatory 'lockdown drills'
Also on Monday, the Manitoba government announced that students will soon be running through mandatory "lockdown drills" at least once a term.
Government officials said as part of the new regulation, schools will conduct at least one lockdown drill — in which students will seek refuge in secure rooms or go to evacuation staging areas — each term in addition to 10 annual fire drills.
A number of schools already carry out lockdown drills, but the number of drills held each year varies from district to district, said a government spokesperson.
Monday's announcement makes the number of required drills consistent across all schools, the spokesperson said.
Officials visited College Churchill in Winnipeg on Monday to announce the plan as part of Bullying Awareness Week in Manitoba, as well as distribute bilingual posters for Kids Help Phone, a free counselling service.
Harley Bray, a Grade 11 student at College Churchill, said bullying is a big problem for Manitoba students.
“I think it’s because lots of kids, it’s easier for them to say something bad about somebody than something good about them,” said Bray. “It’s just an easy escape route for them, just to make them feel bigger as a person. They feel more powerful.”
Bray added Kids Help Phone offers an easy way for young people to reach out for help whenever they might need it.