Internet Savvy Training - Text Version - Alberta Human Services - Government of Alberta

Internet Savvy Training - Text Version

Human Services and the Alberta government have developed a new resource on Internet safety for children, teens, parents and caregivers. The Internet Savvy training provides information on the ways that children and youth are engaged with the Internet, as well as practical information, tips and tools to keep children and youth safe online.

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Module 1 — Why You Need Training


The Internet Savvy training helps parents and caregivers learn more about what their children and teens are doing online, some of the dangers they may face there, and what they can do to help protect them.

Communication, education and awareness are the best defences for children, youth and parents to help use the Internet safely.

Internet Savvy Training

This training can be taken independently or delivered to a group. Download the presentation and request a facilitator's guide for group presentations at the links above. After viewing all 4 modules online, you will receive a downloadable certificate verifying your successful completion of the Internet Savvy Training.

Chapter 1

What Kids Do Online

The risks in the online world really do change based on the age of your children. The following is a brief overview of how your children may be interacting with the Internet based on their ages. Remember, this is just a guide. If your child is more technologically advanced or has special challenges, take that into account when developing Internet usage rules.

  • Children this age will accept information at face value and not question authority.
  • They are still trying to understand right from wrong.
  • Cause and effect reasoning is still a challenge.
Online Usage
  • Kids as young as two begin playing video games.
  • They are watching videos on YouTube and playing online games.
  • Kids as young as five and six are entering social networking sites such as Webkinz.
  • Children this age do not have the critical thinking skills to use the Internet alone.
  • This age group requires supervision and hands-on guidance as they explore the web.
  • Parents should consider restricting access only to sites you have visited and feel are appropriate.
  • Use kid-friendly search engines or ones with parental controls only.
  • Sit with your kids when they are online.
  • Create a personalized environment for kids by bookmarking a list of acceptable sites.
  • Kids this age are starting to develop their moral, self and gender identities. They are looking for more independence and a sense of responsibility.
  • They are looking outside the home for socialization and information.
  • This age group is more confident about going online. They perceive the Internet as a fun place to be.
  • Peer pressure begins influencing kids at this age. As a result, they are very interested in copying what their friends are doing.
Online Usage
  • Their favourite online activities are playing and downloading games, music and videos from YouTube.
  • They are also surfing the Internet for fun and visiting virtual environments like Neopets, Club Penguin or Togetherville.
  • Kids this age are at the very early stages of discovery and experimentation and often unknowingly or naively happen upon inappropriate content.
  • They still lack sufficient critical thinking to navigate online alone.
  • They are just one click away from inappropriate material and will not know how to respond to it.
  • Parents should consider restricting access only to sites you have visited and feel are appropriate.
  • Use kid-friendly search engines or ones with parental controls only.
  • Create house rules and post next to the computer.
  • Place computers in open spaces.
  • Monitor their usage.
  • Establish a shared family email account.
  • Restrict texting or instant messaging.
  • Use email filter programs.
  • Once dependent on you for information, teens now turn to the Internet and their peers for information.
  • Their social lives are their number one concern; so online problems are generally related to relationships.
  • The same risks your teens face offline are enhanced in the online world. From bullying, to exploring their sexual identities, the Internet gives teens a private world independent of parents.
  • Interest in sex and romantic relationships may push teens towards risky behaviour such as making romantic friends online — and accepting invitations to meet online friends in person — or sending sexually explicit text messages or photos of themselves.
  • Popularity is measured by number of contacts; therefore, "friending" has no limits. This makes teens' personal information on sites like Facebook accessible to anyone.
Online Usage
  • Teens download music, watch movies online, and use instant messaging and social networking sites like Facebook to communicate with each other.
  • They are passionate about video games.
  • They are connected with mobile devices 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
  • Teens are most likely to break the rules and visit sites with scenes of violence, gambling or pornography.
  • Teens with access to a credit card may visit gambling sites or make purchases online, often without checking if the site is reliable or researching the site's privacy policy.
  • The key to managing your teen's online world comes down to communication and setting reasonable expectations.
  • If you try to over-monitor or set limits that are not achievable, you are only challenging your teens to see what they can get away with.
  • Create house rules and post next to the computer.
  • Have all of their email accounts and passwords.
  • Teach about protecting their personal information.
  • Review your teen's most visited sites for offensive content.
  • Join their favourite social networks.

Chapter 2

Numbers Don't Lie

Here are some eye-opening quick facts about how children are using the Internet.

1 in 4 teens post their personal thoughts on the Internet on blogs. 16

1 in 10 high school students report having gambled for money online. 5

84% of parents believe their children will confide in them if they are being cyberbullied, but only 8% of kids actually do. 3

According to YouTube, 20 hours of videos are uploaded to the site every minute, and a billion videos are viewed every day. 13

3 in 4 teenage boys report viewing sexually explicit material on the Internet. 7

Instant Messaging
Most young people use instant messaging on a regular basis. 11

90% of Canadian kids' top 50 sites contain registration procedures where kids are asked to submit personal information. 1

Online Shopping
Canadians kids between the ages of 9-14 have $1.8 billion in disposable income and influence ten times that amount in family spending. 4

Social Networks
1 in 3 youth have reported accepting a friend request from someone they didn't know. 2

Online Games
More than half of young Canadians say they visit gaming sites and play online games several times a week. 11

53% of teens clear their browser's history after going online. Only 18% of parents are aware that they do it. 12

1 in 2 youth have an email account that their parents don't know about. 1

Module 2 — How Kids Use The Net

Chapter 1

Cell phones: Mobile access, texting and instant messaging

Mobile Access

Today, cell phones are much more than phones. They're portable pocket-sized computers that function as social networking tools, videos, still cameras, audio recorders and more. Add games, apps, movies, videos and music to the mix, and it's no surprise mobile access has become an essential part of kids' social lives. But mobile access has its challenges. Simply opening a malicious website or mobile app download can leave a cell phone vulnerable to hackers and identity thieves, which could put your child's personal information at risk.


These days, preteens and teens seem to spend more time texting than they do talking on the phone. Texting is private and fun, and it lets them communicate with friends even when they're busy doing other things. Sending group texts makes it easy to make plans with several friends at once or share the latest news. In recent years sexting has become a growing concern. "Sexting" is the exchange of sexually explicit messages and images via text. And today's cell phones, most of which come equipped with cameras, make it easy. The reality is that once they've been sent, suggestive messages and images can easily be reproduced and shared online and there's no way to take them back.

Instant messaging (IM)

Most young people — around 74% — use instant messaging (IM) on a regular basis. 11 IM connects kids with their contacts through an online program (whereas texts are sent via a telephone number). When young people log into an instant messaging program, they can see which of their contacts are online and vice versa. This allows them to communicate in real time, even more effectively than by texting. Young people's IM contact list doesn't just connect them with friends; it reflects their social status. This perception leads preteens and teens to accept contact requests from people they don't know, which can leave them vulnerable to cyberbullying and online sexual harassment.

Chapter 2

Social networking

Members of a social networking site can interact with their friends and acquire new friendships and social contacts. More than half of young people in their teens (53%) participate in social activities online, usually through a social networking site. 2 Facebook is the most popular site for this age group.

Teens tend to use social networking sites differently from adults. They often see these sites as places to hang out, much as young people in previous generations spent time with friends at the mall or in a park. Many teens share intimate details, including personal information, photos and videos. Sometimes they use the sites to escape from their everyday challenges (such as social or physical isolation, identity issues, problems at school or at home) and disappear into a hidden online world.

Kids need to understand privacy settings and how to manage them on their social networking profiles, and how important it is to protect personal information. Without proper settings, contact information, relationships and private conversations can be left open to anyone on the Internet.

They need to understand as well the potential consequences of posting inappropriate or disrespectful content and comments, which can be easily reproduced, reposted or modified. A comment they've posted without thinking could become the subject of gossip or even slander. It could give them a bad reputation and/or make them a victim of cyberbullying.

Chapter 3

Homework and research

The Internet has become the go-to source for students when doing research for their homework assignments. In the past, they were limited to the resources they had available in their homes and schools, or in the local public library. Now, typing just one or two words into a search engine can bring up thousands of websites or “ hits ” – articles, videos, blogs, news and more.

Many schools are teaching students how to use the Internet to conduct research, but parents may need to provide some guidance as well. Two major difficulties related to Internet research are 1) determining the reliability of a site and 2) respecting copyright.

Is the information reliable?

Young people need to understand that, as in other sources, not all of the information found on the Internet is accurate. In truth, the Internet offers just as much misinformation as it does information. Many sites are heavily biased in favour of specific (and often extreme) political, religious or other types of viewpoints. Other sites contain so-called 'facts' that are generated by ordinary citizens who are not experts in the field and may or may not know much about the topic.

For example, although Wikipedia can be an excellent resource, users need to assess the qualifications of the person who has prepared the posting on a specific topic, as anyone can contribute material. Some Wikipedia material is very good; some is not. Kids need to learn how to choose sites that are reliable and respected.

Do I have the right to copy it?

It's so easy to cut and paste whole paragraphs or even whole pages or articles that appear on the Internet. Students have always had to learn that it is inappropriate – and illegal – to copy information verbatim from a book or encyclopedia and present it as their own without crediting the source and adding some of their own ideas or interpretations (plagiarism). But now the copying is done for them with a few clicks of a mouse. Copyright issues continue to plague our society, even at the highest levels of journalism. As a result, your child may be confused about what is right and wrong when quoting sources. You and your children's teachers need to discuss the use and proper citations required for Internet research.

In Canada, the Copyright Act protects all intellectual property and forbids unauthorized copying. For more information on Canada's copyright laws, visit

Chapter 4

Online gaming, including virtual worlds and gambling

Kids are spending enormous amounts of time texting, visiting social networking sites and surfing the Internet. Many are playing online games for hours on end, and some of these games involve gambling.

More than half of young Canadians say they visit gaming sites and play online games several times a week. 11 Many issues with online gaming are related to two things: 1) a significant amount of content that is violent and/or promotes sexual stereotypes, and 2) exposure to the behaviour of other unknown players, as many online gaming sites allow players to connect and socialize with other players around the world. The fact that kids spend such a significant amount of time playing games only magnifies these potential issues.

Virtual worlds

Multi-player role-playing games (often referred to as "virtual worlds") allow players to interact with players from around the world and share adventures in real time through their avatars (an image that represents a player online). Popular virtual world destinations for younger kids include Webkinz, Club Penguin and Stardoll. Many teens enjoy Habbo Hotel, Second Life and Other popular sites include RuneScape and World of Warcraft (WoW).

Teens are especially interested in virtual worlds because they provide a social experience and a chance to anonymously experiment with all kinds of situations and identities in a relatively protected environment. Online, they can interact with friends (who they know) and players from around the world (who they don't know). Together, players strategize, antagonize, chat and get to know one another. As their personalities develop, teens can experiment with becoming someone of a different age and/or gender and test various behaviours that would be considered risky offline; for example, aggressiveness or double-crossing. Online personal conversations with other players can become uncomfortable or even scary. But parents can help make sure this doesn't get out of hand.


Many young people bet on sporting events on websites that offer prizes for the best players. The Internet also provides free gambling sites, and many social networking sites such as Facebook include free gambling applications.

Young people are increasingly participating in online gambling, which is anonymous and convenient. In fact, 1 in 10 high school students reported having gambled for money online. 14 Preteens are getting involved too, on sites such as the immensely popular Neopets, where users create virtual pets and take care of them. Many of the games on the site, such as The Neopian Lottery and Fruit Machine, have gambling themes inspired by casino games.

Free online gambling sites make the act of gambling seem fun, convenient and socially acceptable. The fact is that these sites teach young people how to gamble, making it more likely that they'll play on sites using real money when they're old enough to have a credit card.

Chapter 5

Video viewing and file/video sharing

The Internet is full of different sounds and images. You can find tutorials on doing practically anything from making a soufflé to playing the guitar, riveting speeches by inspirational thinkers, news events recorded by bystanders, TV shows, commercials, amateur home videos and all kinds of live music as well as recorded music provided through MP3 (digital) files.

File-sharing or peer-to-peer (P2P) programs make it possible to search for and then easily download music, movies, video games or software, much of it free. So it's not surprising that downloading music and movies is one of the top online activities for Canadian youth, along with playing video games.

Online video sharing is a worldwide phenomenon. According to YouTube, 20 hours of videos are uploaded to the site every minute, and a billion videos are viewed every day. 13 Canadian kids are part of this trend, spending several hours a week on video-sharing websites. This new technology taps into kids' creativity, self-expression and community-building impulses as well, since they can create their own videos to post online.

Concerns and issues

Like every other wonderful resource provided via the Internet, video and file sharing can expose your child to challenges and risks:

  • Some of the content kids find online may not be appropriate for young people (or for anyone!). For example, some comments posted about videos on sites like YouTube are offensive and even hateful. As well, on some free file-sharing programs, parental Internet filters do not block access to pornography.
  • Access to a file-sharing network involves downloading a specific type of software. It might be free, but there is still a price to pay. Some of the most popular downloads come bundled with dangerous and damaging malware, which may automatically create links to advertising pages and sometimes even to pornographic sites.
  • Most music, movies, video games and software are copyright protected. In other words, they are intellectual properties that belong to their creators, making them illegal to download without paying for them, by any means including file sharing. Parents need to determine whether their kids are downloading files that are copyrighted and talk to them about what may be illegal.

Chapter 6


A blog is a web page where someone posts entries, usually on a specific topic, and invites readers to respond by posting comments. Blogs can be personal – like online diaries – or more formal and professional. A blog becomes a highly social environment when readers respond to the main topic or to other readers' postings.

Twitter is a microblogging site that uses very short posts (fewer than 140 characters, including spaces) to answer the question “What are you doing?” Teens have been slow to embrace this particular social networking site; only 17% of teens ages 14-17 are Twitter users. Tumblr – a microblogging and social networking website – and Pinterest – a virtual pin/tack board for social photo sharing – are the top blogging sites for teens today. 15 To read more about common social networks, review the Social Networking Chapter in Module 2.

1 in 4 teens blog. 16 In some cases they use their blogs to challenge stereotypes, give advice to peers, send community awareness messages and encourage activism. Kids who blog develop their writing ability, gain creative multimedia skills and learn how to develop and manage an online community (posts, conversations and linking).

This medium is popular with teens because they can avoid being judged by their appearance or age. Their success in the cyber world depends only on how interesting their content is.

The dialogue on a blog needs to be managed. Conversations can become offensive, rude and hateful, and users must guard against saying things that could lead to the other online problems discussed throughout this training (for example, loss of reputation or cyberbullying).

Chapter 7


Webcams are video cameras that send images to the Internet. Some webcams need to be hooked up to your computer; others are built in – your computer, laptop or phone might have a webcam that you don't even know about! These images can be still photos, a series of images sent in succession or streaming video. Skype , which is free to download in a short amount of time, is the most popular way for kids to use their webcam technology. You create a Skype profile and make it available to indicate that you are ready to receive messages and calls.

Many families who have relatives living far away, either permanently or temporarily, find that webcams and Skype are tremendous resources. New immigrants can speak to relatives left behind, every day if they wish. Young people who have gone away to college can connect with mom and dad when homesickness strikes, and parents who travel for work can wish their kids a good night. It's great for maintaining friendships too. People move around the globe regularly now, and it is much easier to keep up a relationship with this new technology.

Concerns and issues

Your kids have already become accustomed to sharing their lives with the world on blogs and social networking sites. And now, through the use of webcams, they can potentially give other people they don't know a window right into your home and their bedrooms.

If access is not managed, individuals who wish to harm children can easily contact potential victims. Predators scan webcam sites to find children and teenagers. They then work towards gaining their victim's trust and developing a relationship. A predator usually starts by making innocent-seeming requests and then asks the child to go one step further each time they communicate. Predators may attempt to convince their victims to expose themselves or do other things on camera in exchange for money and gifts, often using blackmail or other means to coerce them. Predators often gather personal information about their victims, which they use to coerce and convince them. This is why many young victims of online predators feel responsible for their behaviour, when in fact they've been exploited.

An online chat website called Chatroulette allows users over 16 years of age to use a webcam to see and chat with any other user across the world. Even users who do not post their webcam addresses on a social networking sites or other sites could find their lives being shared with the world:

  • Search engines can find your webcam's address and post it among their listings.
  • Hackers can easily activate webcams remotely, as many webcam users do not bother to change the default access password provided by the manufacturer.
  • Trojan horse programs allow hackers to activate a webcam without the user's knowledge.

So change your password and keep it private, keep your webcam lens covered when not in use and take other precautions such as keeping the webcam or a laptop with imbedded webcam in a shared family area, not in a bedroom. Most smartphones have built-in cameras that do not require activation or supervision to use. You must decide if your child is ready for the responsibility of the added features – and risks – of a smartphone.

Chapter 8

Online shopping Advertisers and businesses seek out young people as customers because of their spending power and their future potential as consumers. The YTV Kid and Tween Report (2000) states that Canadian kids between the ages of 9 and 14 have $1.8 billion in disposable income, and influence 10 times that amount in family spending. 4

For kids today, online shopping is just as normal an activity as shopping in a grocery store is for older generations. They regularly download movies, games and music, with or without their parents' knowledge. Some commercial websites fail to verify that the purchaser is 18 (anyone can make up a birth date) or that the credit card they're using is their own. Instead of a credit card, your child could also be using gift cards to make online purchases.

Reputable sites like iTunes and Amazon have safe commercial privacy policies that keep your personal information confidential and allow you to edit or delete it if you wish. However, this is not true for all websites, so it's vital to read the fine print. The theft and use of personal information for criminal purposes is a fast-growing crime in Canada.

Module 3 — Understand The Challenges

Chapter 1

Responsible use

A “permanent record” was once a collection of papers in a file folder. When people decided something in the file was inappropriate or potentially embarrassing, they removed and shredded it.

Now, almost everything we post on the Internet becomes a lasting record. Anything can be easily copied, pasted, tagged, linked, altered and distributed in the blink of an eye to a vast, invisible audience. Once a message, post, comment or image has been sent, there is no taking it back.

Young people have developed an online culture that's very open, immediate, personal and uncensored. This is fun and exciting today, but what about the potential for future use of these spontaneous messages and posts?

The user name superstarunicorn2004 might have been cute in the fourth grade, but is it just as adorable at that first job interview? What are the consequences if inappropriate pictures taken at a junior high sleepover and posted online come back to haunt you years later? What happens to the slanderous and hateful “jokes” that some young people circulate online? Their permanence makes them so much more powerful than a verbal exchange or a note passed in class.

What you can do

You can increase your understanding of the Internet and the ways kids are online today, and keep up with the changes in technology that are geared to younger generations. This way, you can help your kids learn to use the Internet responsibly and ethically, and to understand why it is so important to do so. If you haven't already done so, discuss these important points with them:

  • Canadians are fortunate to have freedom of expression. But that right comes with responsibility.
  • Hateful or discriminatory messages, gossip and threats are not only unacceptable; they can also have serious repercussions for the person who sent them, as well as the people they're directed at.
  • There is a fine line between humour or sarcasm and cruel jokes. Posting a racist, sexist or demeaning comment online can perpetuate social issues and hurt the feelings of both people you know and don't know.

Chapter 2

Excessive use

“If they are awake they are online.” - Eric Schmidt, CEO, Google

Every parent can testify to the huge attraction that Internet communications and interactive games have for young people. One reason is the normal developmental stage that preteens and teens are in. It's natural for them to be intensely involved with their peers, and the Internet has become their primary way of connecting with each other. Another factor is the design of many online role-playing games, where the primary focus is on keeping players engaged.

Until recently, kids might have spent many hours on a home computer. But they had to share it with family members, and they had limited access while at school and away from home. Mobile access has changed all that.

Children who have a smartphone or tablet can text anywhere and at any time, including during a family dinner or in their room late at night. (Remember reading with a flashlight under the covers?) They can Skype with friends after their computer time is supposed to be over. Many of them are always connected and obsessed with their mobile devices even when friends are physically present, texting, video chatting or taking and posting photographs of each other from across the room.

To some extent, staying constantly in touch is simply part of the current culture. Adults are doing it too. Mobile access is one of the toys of our age.

Do you know the answers to these questions? Are there too many “Yes” responses?

  • What types of Internet activities does your child engage in? Are they repetitive, with little variety or creativity?
  • Does gaming or texting or Facebook take up most of your child's leisure time, thus preventing them from pursuing other activities and having lots of “face time” with family and friends? (Health and fitness experts are increasingly concerned about the lack of physical activity among young people, and the alarming trend towards childhood obesity).
  • Does your child have difficulty stopping, even when they know they're spending too much time on the Internet? Does your child protest (sometimes violently) or become agitated or experience mood swings when unable to use the computer or mobile device?
  • Does your child neglect to wash, take care of personal hygiene or clean up his or her living space because they are spending so much time on the Internet?

What you can do

You can monitor your kids' Internet usage to ensure that it is at a healthy level and not excessive – or perhaps even compulsive. If you see some problems, have a serious conversation with your child: explain your concerns and what you are seeing. Most importantly, sit down with your child or have a family meeting and agree on some basic guidelines (just as you would do when setting a curfew or deciding on chores or allowance).

Chapter 3

Protecting privacy 

Kids need to know how to protect their privacy on the Internet. These skills will allow them to:

  • Manage their reputation.
  • Keep themselves safe online.
  • Prevent marketers and advertisers from collecting information to be used for commercial purposes.

Many young people have fairly casual attitudes about posting their contact information on social networking, commercial and other websites – probably because they don't realize the types of problems this information sharing can cause.

Invasion of privacy occurs in two distinct ways:

  • Putting information online that is accessible to anyone. For example, if your kids put a detailed profile on a social networking site without controlling the privacy settings, all users of the network have access to their information and photos.
  • Marketing of personal information. Many commercial websites collect personal information from customers and use it to target their future marketing messages. Facebook promotes to advertisers by telling them it can help them to carefully target consumers and to integrate content, recommendations from friends and the distribution of ads.

On many kid friendly sites you can view the main areas but to actively participate in chat rooms, contests, games and other activities, you have to register. To register, of course, you have to give out personal information. Of the top 50 Canadian kid sites, 90% contain registration procedures requiring personal information and 94% collect additional information through other avenues such as surveys and contests. 1

What you can do

Open up the lines of communication between you and your children. Allow them to be online “experts” and ask them to teach you everything they know; you may be surprised how eager they are to share their knowledge with you. For example, ask your kids to guide you through their Facebook profiles and show you how they communicate with their friends online. Teach them how important it is that they only accept friend requests from people they know in real life and use settings that allow only close friends to have access to their profiles and posts.

Chapter 4

Marketing traps

Broadcasting and print media have guidelines and regulations governing advertising to children. These rules recognize that children under 6 simply don't understand the concept of advertising, and have not yet developed the ability to recognize sales messages.

There are no such rules on the Internet, and so a large number of kids websites are very commercial. Exposure to this online world begins at an early age – as young as 2 in some cases. Young children are exposed to so many ads and branded images online, they quickly become accustomed to a world made up of mascots and logos.


“Advergames” are games developed by companies to promote their products and brands, and collect personal information from players. Generally, young people don't identify them as online commercials; most think they are just games. Virtual worlds and gambling also provide tremendous opportunities to advertise and sell products. In these environments, marketers embed their brands by offering virtual merchandise or sponsoring virtual events. To find out more about online gambling, go to Module 2.

Virtual worlds

Online surveys in virtual worlds are a particularly rich source of information for marketers. Players who complete these surveys are rewarded with points they can use to buy virtual possessions and customize their avatars. So sharing information online appears to be a fun, harmless and normal activity. When players have fun on Miniclip or Neopets, they can “challenge a friend” or “share the game” via email without realizing they are giving away their friends' personal information in the process.


As kids become accustomed to routinely giving out personal information on sites to enter contests and complete surveys, they may not exercise caution in more risky environments. Some e-commerce sites are scams featuring “too-good-to-be-true” offers. They capture personal information and take payments for a few weeks and then disappear without delivering the promised product, from e-biz seminars to brand name products. To learn more about online shopping, visit Module 2.

What you can do

Let your children know that you are concerned about their online activities and why. Prevent potential problems by talking to them about the risks and challenges before they happen.

  • Teach your kids to think carefully about posting personal information and connecting with others online. Help them to understand that personal information has value and should not be shared without taking proper caution.
  • Be aware of the sites your kids are registering on, and find out whether those sites follow the (voluntary) industry guidelines for online privacy.

Chapter 5


What it is

Cyberbullying differs from traditional, face-to-face bullying in that it can be relentless and public – and at the same time anonymous. It can occur anywhere and at any time, particularly because of the widespread use of mobile devices like cell phones among teens. Victims of cyberbullying may or may not know the person who is bullying them. There could be countless other people seeing and/or participating in it, with or without the victim knowing.

  • Young people are cyberbullied through instant messaging, email, websites for games and social networking sites.
  • Built-in cameras in cell phones are adding to the problem. In one case, students used a camera enabled cell phone to take a photo of an overweight classmate in the shower after gym, and the photo was distributed throughout the school email list within minutes.
  • Sexting may expose teenagers to unkind behaviour or cyberbullying. Personal messages and photographs, even those sent to real friends or boyfriends/girlfriends, can end up being made public and even circulated repeatedly.
  • Multi-player online games and virtual worlds, including virtual worlds and gambling can be venues for harassment and cyberbullying when kids are playing or using the chat options to talk to other players.
  • The simple act of tagging images (naming the people in the photo) on social networking sites can lead to cyberbullying as any comment can be left in the heat of the moment and sometimes completely anonymously. Negative comments can invite others to join in for fear of being on the ‘wrong side' of bullying – much like in the physical playground.
The statistics

A 2008 University of Toronto study found that half the students surveyed said they had been cyberbullied.

1 in 4 youth participate in cyberbullying are teenagers who have also bullied others offline, but the remaining three-quarters do not bully others in person. 11 Cyberbullying can seem attractive to youth because it allows them to say things online or in a text that they wouldn't normally say face-to-face, because they feel so removed from the person on the receiving end. Also, youth who cyberbully may not see the consequences of their actions on others and therefore may not feel any empathy or remorse.

Cyberbullying can begin as an accident or simply out of boredom and the desire to create some excitement. So never assume that your child could not be involved in cyberbullying or be hurt by it.

Chapter 6

Violence and pornography

The Internet is one of the first places today's young people go to do research and learn about the world around them. This can be an excellent source of good and accurate information on topics they are naturally curious about – for example, sexuality, sexual health and healthy relationships. The Internet gives them anonymity and privacy, which is important - they are often shy about discussing these matters with their parents or other adults. To learn more about how kids use the Internet for homework and research, visit Module 2.

The problem is that so much unsuitable material is also easily available on the Internet. Without parental controls on search engines along with instructions about making good choices, there is a high probability that typing in “sex” or related words will lead your kids to adult entertainment sites, as opposed to educational sites, many of which contain violent and/or pornographic content.


We live in a culture where we're constantly exposed to violence in movies and television, video games and music; the Internet adds an entirely new dimension to this issue, and kids are tuning in. A 2009 survey by Microsoft Canada showed that 25% of young Canadian males (ages 9-17) visit sites that have pictures or videos showing violent acts, fighting or racist content. 2 Movies and video games rated M (for mature audiences) are popular with young people, especially boys.

The following types of sites are readily available on the web:

  • Sites with cruel and/or racist humour.
  • Gruesome images on gore sites like
  • Games with a disturbingly high level of violence, where players are often asked to be the bad guys, acting out criminal fantasies and earning points for attacking and killing innocent people.
  • Virtual violence, including violent song lyrics (some have been censored in the retail or radio versions), images and video clips.
  • Real-life scenes of violence on sites like YouTube.

Millions of online porn sites feature hardcore sexual images. Once very difficult to obtain, such images are now often easily accessible.

Many of these sites require payment via credit cards for full access, but there are lots of free sites and “sneak peeks.” Also, the lines between pornography and popular entertainment have become increasingly blurred in our modern culture, where media icons, film stars, movies and even books sensationalize sex. So young people are not only able to find pornography, they are constantly finding it even when they wish to avoid it.

While some kids are curious and looking for sexual material (remember trying to find your older brother's magazines?) others will accidentally stumble upon it and may not be able to stop the onslaught of material through pop-up ads and links. The impact of exposure to sexually explicit material online is not fully understood; however, researchers have raised concerns about how it may shape values, increase acceptance of high-risk behaviour and interfere with healthy sexual development. 7

Chapter 7

Sexual harm and exploitation

It's natural for young people to explore their sexuality online, just as they do offline. But the connected, anonymous environment of the Internet poses special risks.

The statistics

Sexting (exchanging sexual, nude and semi-nude images electronically) is a new phenomenon in a culture where our computers and mobile devices allow us to send and receive images and messages instantaneously. Sexting often occurs in three contexts:

  • Among younger adolescents who are not yet physically sexually active –as part of “truth or dare” game playing or to mimic sexy media images.
  • To show interest in someone.
  • As proof of trust and intimacy among sexually active youth.

In 2002, the Canadian Criminal Code was amended to make it illegal to contact children online for sexual exploitation. Since then, the number of reported cases has increased significantly. It's difficult to interpret this statistic. Are there more incidents, or more of them reported, or is it because more young people are online?

In 2006 and 2007, Canadian authorities reported 464 incidents of child luring on the Internet. Of these, 122 cases were criminally prosecuted, resulting in 89 guilty verdicts. The accused were most often males between the ages of 18 - 34. 11

Online sexual exploitation can happen in many different ways. The media tends to sensationalize sexual predators, presenting us with images of unscrupulous adults preying on and sexually exploiting kids. However, this is not always the case. In order to understand how to effectively prevent the problem, parents must first understand its true nature.

Certainly, some online predators try to “trick” kids by lying about their age and motives. They may pretend to be the same age as the child and acquire personal information through deception. Others are more honest about their age and/or motives. They work towards gaining their victim's trust and developing a relationship. They may shower their target with attention, sympathy, affection and kindness, persuading the child that they love and understand them. This makes the act of exploitation easier for the predator; a trusting victim is more willing to give out personal information, expose him or herself, or even be convinced to meet the perpetrator face-to-face, believing they are in a loving relationship.

Some youth are more at risk of sexual exploitation then others. Girls between the ages of 13 and 15 are most vulnerable. 9 In these developmental years, teenage girls are more likely to post sexy photos of themselves online, seeking validation from the opposite sex. They may discuss sex online with their friends, or publicly post personal and intimate information on social networking or other websites. Sexual predators zoom in on these youth, coercing them through bribery, or by giving them the emotional validation they seek.

Is your child being sexually exploited or targeted by an online predator? These are some of the warning signs to watch for:

  • Your child spends a great deal of time alone and online, and withdraws from family and friends.
  • Your child quickly turns off the computer monitor/changes the screen when an adult enters the room or becomes very secretive about their online activities, including erasing their search history.
  • You find pornography or sexual photos on the family computer.
  • Your child receives phone calls from people you don't know or makes calls (sometimes long distance) to numbers you don't recognize and/or receives mail, gifts or packages from someone you don't know.
  • Your child acquires a new cell phone, iPod or other device and you don't know how or where they got it.

Encourage your kids to think carefully about what they post or send and with whom they are communicating.

Module 4 – Practical Tools And Guidelines

Chapter 1

Communicating with your kids

As with most parenting activities, the key to Internet savvy is building and having a positive relationship with your children. If you and your kids maintain an ongoing and honest dialogue based on trust – not fear – many potential problems can be avoided.

This training program is designed to help you develop Internet savvy. Another excellent resource is your kids – it's quite possible that they understand more than you do about many parts of the Internet. By asking them to show you everything they know, you'll learn a lot. And they will too! Most likely, they're not fully aware of the dangers that lurk in the online world.

Just sitting with your child at the computer or smartphone or iPod also helps to promote good communication. You can both ask questions and enjoy shared experiences. It gives you a chance to clarify your expectations and to show them that you're concerned about their well-being rather than just being controlling. Clear guidelines that include how you will react ensure that, if or when your kids run into a problem, they will feel more comfortable about coming to you for help.

How hard is it?

Kids and teens love sharing their expertise, especially when they think they know more about something than their parents. Younger kids, in particular, will be excited to teach you something new, and will want to know more about things like online privacy and how to authenticate online content. While teens may resist your involvement in their online activities, remember, it's their job to test limits and your job to set them.

Where should you start? Try asking your kids to help you set up your own Facebook account. Generate your profile together, and then become friends with them online. This is a great way for you to explore your kids' world and create relationships built on trust, together.

Establishing the rules

Research shows that parents' expectations help shape safe, successful and fulfilling experiences online. Having your kids be a part of making the rules will help keep the lines of communication open and ensure you're not being over-protective. For example, placing too many controls on the websites they're allowed to visit may give them cause to shut you out. Once you've established some ground rules together, give your children your trust.

When trouble strikes

If you and your kids have been talking about the Internet and sharing experiences, they will be more likely to tell you if they run into something that makes them feel anxious, uncomfortable or threatened. Examples include pornographic websites, spam (unwanted emails), cyberbullying and Sexting.

If your kids do come to you with a problem, thank them for letting you know, stay calm and don't overreact. Most kids today are very concerned that their parents will unplug the computer or take away their mobile access – which, in their minds, is their whole world. Let them know you will work with them to help fix the problem and keep them safe.

Chapter 2

Parenting checklists by age

2-6 Years
Access and supervision
  • Always sit with kids under six years old when they're online.
  • Create a personalized online environment by bookmarking a list of acceptable sites. Choose good quality non-commercial websites (to avoid marketing messages and advertisements).
  • Use kid-friendly search engines or ones with parental controls.
  • Use Internet-filtering tools to go with parental supervision (not to replace it).
  • Disable Javascript or use blocking software to prevent offensive pop-ups.
  • Instant messaging, email, chat rooms and message boards are not appropriate for this age group.
Privacy and responsible use
  • Start teaching your kids about privacy. Have your kids use an online nickname if a site encourages them to submit their names to "personalize" the web content. Tell them never to give out information online about themselves, their family or their friends.
  • Start talking to your child about marketing and the power of advertising.
  • Ask all family members to act as role models for children's use of the Internet.
7-12 Years
Access and supervision
  • Keep Internet-connected computers in an open area where you can easily monitor them.
  • Create a personalized online environment by bookmarking a list of acceptable sites.
  • Sit with your kids when they are online or make sure they only visit sites that you know about and have approved (bookmarked sites).
  • Use kid-friendly search engines or search engines with parental controls.
  • Use Internet-filtering tools to go with parental supervision (not to replace it).
  • Establish a shared family email account rather than individual email accounts.
  • Create a list of Internet house rules with input from your kids: - Allow only monitored chat rooms and message boards on reputable kids' sites. - Talk with your kids about their online friends and activities just as you would about their offline friends and activities. Insist that your kids tell you first if they want to meet an online friend. - If they play multiplayer online games, ensure that the chat mode is monitored.
  • Instant messaging is not appropriate for this age group.
Privacy and responsible use
  • Teach your kids to always come to you before giving out information through email, chat rooms, message boards, registration forms, personal profiles and online contests.
  • Because kids can so easily come across online pornography, direct them to good sites on health and sexuality as needed.
13-17 Years
Access and supervision
  • Do not allow webcams on bedroom computers, only in areas of the home where their use can be monitored. When the camera is not in use, unplug it or keep the camera lens covered.
  • Create a list of Internet house rules with input from your teens:
    • Make a list of the kinds of websites that are off limits. Be aware of the sites that your teens frequent, and check them for offensive content.
    • Talk with your teens about their online friends and activities just as you would about their offline friends and activities. Insist that they tell you first if they want to meet an online friend.
    • Make sure your teens check with you before making financial transactions online (ordering, buying or selling items).
Privacy and responsible use
  • Teach your teens to never give out personal information when instant messaging, filling out registration forms and personal profiles, and entering online contests.
  • Have a discussion with your younger teens about how to build a profile before they get on social networking sites. Be aware of how much information your teens are revealing, and to whom. Make sure your teens receive permission from the people featured (including friends) in any photos they plan to post and tag on their social networking page.
  • Go through your teens' profiles and privacy settings with them, so you understand what they're posting and the information they're giving out. Have them help you create your own profile, and be “friends” with them or connect with them on the site.
  • Teach your kids ethical and responsible online behaviour:
    • File sharing and taking text, images or artwork from the Internet may infringe on copyright laws.
    • Just like in their face-to-face correspondences, it's important to be kind to others. The anonymity of the Internet is no excuse to spread gossip, or to bully or threaten others.
  • Discuss gambling and its potential risks, and remind your teens that it is illegal for minors to gamble online.
  • Talk to your teens about online pornography and direct them to good sites about health and sexuality.

Chapter 3

Family online agreements

Establishing house rules on Internet usage with your kids is an important step. Below is an example of house rules that have been set up for a brother and sister ages 8 and 10.

Your house rules need to be written in kid-friendly language and should be accompanied by a Family Online Agreement which is signed by you and your kids and posted anywhere there is a computer in your home.

Here is an example of a printable online agreement:

Here is an example of house rules:
Sample House Rules

Chapter 4

Additional resources for you and your family

Government of Alberta
Media Awareness Network
Canadian Centre for Child Protection
RCMP Youth Engagement Unit
Internet Safety Videos from Google
Authenticating Information Online
Internet Literacy Games
A Parent's Guide to Facebook
Cyber Security Consumer Tip Sheet

Chapter 5


You have completed Internet Savvy Training.

Please use the links below to download an online family agreement and explore our other resources. You can also share that you have completed this training with your social networks!

Remember, open communication with your children and staying on top of the ever-changing online world are keys to staying Internet savvy. Feel free to come back and brush up on your knowledge from time to time. Thank you for completing this training!

Download the Family Online Agreements
and set aside time to talk to your child

Download your Certificate of Completion
and display your awareness of the Internet

Special thanks

This training program was developed with the support and contributions of the Government of Alberta

Additional content was provided by:

  • MediaSmarts
  • Be Web Aware
  • RCMP Youth Resource Centre
  • Canadian Centre for Child Protection
  • Cyber Security Consumer Tip Sheet


  1. MNET, Young Canadians in a Wired World, 2005
  2. Microsoft Canada Co. and Youthography, Internet Safety Survey, 2009
  3. Mishna, F., Cyber Bullying among Middle & High School Students, Privacy Commission Conference, Youth Privacy Online: Take Control, Make It Your Choice, September 4, 2008
  4. YTV Kid and Tween Report, 2002
  5. Youth Gambling International, 2006 (Be Web Aware, MNET Website)
  6. Willard, Nancy, What is Right and What is Wrong? How can we help young people use information and communication technologies in an ethical manner?, presented at National Conference on Cyberethics, University of Oregon, Eugene, Oregon, October 2000.
  7. One In Three Boys Heavy Porn Users, Study Shows, Science Daily, February 25, 2007.
  8. Microsoft Canada Co. and Youthography, Internet Safety Survey, 2009
  9. Wolak, Janis, David Finkelhor, and Kimberly Mitchell. Online Predators and Their Victims: Myths, Realities and Implications for Prevention, American Psychologist, February/March 2009.
  10. Generation M2The Kaiser Family Foundation, January 2010
Created: 2013-01-17
PID: 15370