Set rules before giving teens technology: Bullying expert

Parents need to set terms with their children before granting access to cell phones and social media sites, says a bullying expert.

“I think we just need to be a bit more conscientious about what we’re doing and what we’re allowing our children to do,” said University of Ottawa professor Dr. Tracy Vaillancourt, Canada Research Chair in children’s mental health and violence prevention.

Vaillancourt’s daughter, 12, has a Facebook account, “but I need to have her password. She’s not allowed to change it, and I can look at it at any point in time,” she said.

While critics would say that’s akin to reading their child’s diary, “it’s absolutely not, because there’s no expectation for my daughter to have privacy … when she knows this is the condition of her having this account,” said Vaillancourt.

Being hands-on can help determine if your child is being bullied — or harassing others.

The Instagram page 613gahbas was canned Wednesday after cops caught on.

‘Gahba’ means slut, whore, b—h, or prostitute in Arabic; the page linked photos of Ottawa girls with vicious captions.

“I think it’s incredibly damaging,” said Vaillancourt.

Using Twitter, some of the teens shook off the insults.

“There are a few different ways you can deal with somebody attacking you, right?,” said Vaillancorut.

“You can not give it any credibility, which could be the case. You could laugh it off as a facade … You actually care but you’re going to give the impression that you don’t care, so that you’re not empowering the individual.”

Most kids who are bullied hide their distress, making it more challenging for parents and teachers, said Vaillancourt.

If your child — even a top academic or athlete — has access to a cell phone, tablet or computer with a network connection and camera, Ottawa police want you to attend a free information session schooling parents and educators about sexting, cyber-bullying, and Internet safety.

“Our children know a lot more than we do, but this presentation will open your eyes to what youth are exposed to with regards to social media,”

said Sgt. Maureen Hunt of the youth section.

“Parents we have spoken to in past presentations are most surprised by the criminal charges that can result for both their children and themselves.”

Teens and Technology takes place April 16 from 7 to 9 p.m. at Earl of March High School in Kanata.

As Hunt points out, “you can never retrieve a photo once it is out there on the Internet.”


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