Kids aware of stranger danger online

When a strange man in his 30s messaged Natasha Iskayne on Facebook asking for her phone number, she knew how to react.

“I just ignored him, but then when he persists and harasses me, I just decided to block him,” said Iskayne, 16.

The Grade 10 Omer-Deslauriers high school student was one of three youth on a panel at the launch of a new study, Young Canadians in a Wired World.

The report was released Tuesday by MediaSmarts, formerly known as Media Awareness Network.

Researchers began collecting data in 2000, interviewing kids aged 11 to 17 from mixed socio-economic backgrounds.

In all, 66 youth and 21 parents were surveyed in Calgary, Ottawa and Toronto.

Overall, kids said they don’t want parents tracking each click they make online.

In many cases, issues tend to get blown out of proportion and everyday behaviour is pathologized.

While they’re aware of stranger danger, “I find that if you can handle it yourself, then there’s no need to complain to your parents,” said Iskayne.

“But if it’s something that can get out of hand and put you in danger, then you should consult your parents, or a teacher.”

Iskayne said her parents don’t have her Facebook password and she doesn’t plan on giving it to them.

“It’s not a question about hiding something,” she said.

“It’s more like, they should trust me no matter what. Like, there’s nothing going on, but that’s why they should trust me.”

When parents have doubts, “they should ask them about it, and from then on, maybe talk to them,” she said.

Lead investigator Dr. Valerie Steeves, a University of Ottawa criminology professor, said parents’ comfort levels with the Internet have shrunk over the last 12 years.

“(Children) need an opportunity to make their own mistakes,” said Steeves.

The study also finds anti-cyberbullying programs aren’t effective, according to youth.

Glebe Collegiate student Alex Bernst, 15, said he tunes out the identical workshops year after year.

Some students are concerned their day-to-day banter is defined by school officials as bullying.

Using social media to intimidate someone is something Iskayne is familiar with.

She suggests confronting a bully in person.

“You can’t really explain your feelings just by typing them to someone, and seeing them face to face shows that you care, and the effort you took to really confront them about it, that’s appreciated,” she said.

A national school survey will take place next year.


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