Safety in Cyberspace

This archived article is from January 2002. Although every effort has been made to make sure the information presented is accurate, please note that it may contain information that is out-of-date.

Canada is the most "connected" country in the world. In March 1999, we became the first country to connect all schools and public libraries to the Internet. In 2005, 68 percent of all Canadians over 18 were using the Net, for personal non-business reasons, and an astonishing 94 percent of young people in grades 4 to 11 accessed the Internet from home.

Children and teens are drawn to this exciting medium, and parents appreciate its educational potential. However, parents tend not to be as net savvy as their children and surveys show they often don't know exactly what their kids are doing on-line

Half of Canadian parents say inappropriate content is their biggest concern. Such content falls into several categories. Illegal content includes online child pornography and hate propaganda. The law restricts gambling and alcohol to adults, but minors can access such sites because there is no way to verify age. Indeed, some are linked from sites popular with young people. Parents also want to keep their children away from offensive content, such as sexually explicit sites and graphic violence. This type of content is actively promoted — and children who meet people online are sometimes surprised when they get inappropriate content from a new "friend."

Chat rooms and Instant Messaging (IM) are very popular with young people. One-third of children 9 and 10 years old use chat rooms, and that rises to almost three-quarters of all teens. More than half of teens (ages 13 to 17) visit private and adult chat rooms. This exposes them to unsolicited contacts — which may explain why about the same proportion of teens report they have received pornographic spam. One in five 11-12 year-olds reported receiving e-mail messages that have bothered or frightened them. Of those, only 20 per cent told an adult.

Of particular concern to police and parents are online predators. Forty-three per cent of teens ages 15 to 17 have been asked by someone they have met on the Net to meet in person. Of those, one in five accepted; and of that group, one out five went alone.

The Canada Safety Council urges parents to set rules for family use of the Internet, and to make sure they know what their kids are doing online. Elmer the Safety Elephant's Web site www.elmer.ca includes Internet Safety. The Media Awareness Network (Mnet) is an excellent source for finding children's sites, tracking where children go while online and protecting children from on-line predators (www.media-awareness.ca). For practical information and hands-on activities to give children "cyber-smarts" visit MNet's Web Awareness site (www.webawareness.org).

Cyber-Safety Rules for Kids

  • When using the Internet, I will always use a pretend name or nickname that doesn't reveal anything about me.
  • I will not open e-mail, files, links, pictures or games from people that I don't know or trust.
  • I will not arrange to meet a friend I have made on the Internet unless one of my parents has been informed and will be present .