Web safety and image more important than ever, expert says

The theme for this year’s Online Safety Week is cyber-bullying.

California-based author Janine Warner will speak at the Telus Convention Centre about safe ways to interact on the web and managing an online reputation.

Online Safety Week kicks off March 19. Organized by the Calgary Educational Partnership Foundation, the week will be dedicated to bringing awareness to all Calgarians, especially students, about being safe on the Internet.

With the continuing rise of technology and social media, it’s becoming more and more important to be aware of your online image and etiquette, says Warner, an Internet strategist.

“We need to be educating kids about how to use the Internet. I think it’s really a mistake not to be teaching students smart and proactive ways to use social media to build reputations, to build connections and to build professional careers,” Warner says.

Kathleen Kellner, program and events co-ordinator at the Calgary Educational Partnership Foundation, says Online Safety Week aims to create awareness and discussion between students and parents about the importance of Internet safety.

Throughout the week, the foundation will be doing presentations for students and talking to them about cyber-bullying topics such as harassment and stalking.

Warner’s presentation on March 19 will cover Internet safety tips as well as stories of mistaken identity, online fame and cyber-shame.
Photo courtesy of Janine Warner

Kellner says students are “the ones utilizing the Internet a lot and maybe do not necessarily have the skills or knowledge to keep themselves safe online.”

She says that children may be at risk of accessing inappropriate information; communicating, trusting and meeting strangers; and believing what they see online.

Adding that young people need to be extra careful about what they post online because posts are not anonymous, but are permanent.

“What you do when you’re 14 to 17 might, unfortunately, come back to you when you’re 20 to 22 and applying for a job. I think a lot of kids aren’t necessarily getting that,” says Kellner.

Warner adds, “The Internet never forgets.”

Const. Kathy Macdonald, cyber awareness co-ordinator for the Calgary Police Service, says that acts of cyber-bullying are punishable by law.

Constable Kathy Macdonald says that if you are a victim of cyber-bullying, you can report to the website authorities, the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, your Internet service provider or to the Calgary Police Service.
Illustration by: Pauline Zulueta 

For example, stealing a mobile device then creating a false profile on a social networking site using the photos from the stolen device could be grounds for fraud, impersonation or theft charges, Macdonald says.

“Cyber-bullying is defined as the willful and repeated use of electronic medium to cause problems, to harass people, to damage relationships and ruin reputations. It takes many forms.”

Computer hacking, identity theft and phishing – the act of sending fraudulent emails in an attempt to obtain personal and credit card information – are also considered cyber crimes, the constable says.

Warner says, “My general advice is to never put anything in an email, profile post, blog post or anywhere else on the Internet that you wouldn’t want to see on the front of the morning’s newspaper.”

Adding that one of the most damaging ways to ruin your reputation is “to criticize someone else’s.”

Macdonald encourages everyone to think how the message will be received before sending it off.

“Reach out to people in positive ways. Be extra careful of critical words on the Internet. They tend to have far greater impact,” says Warner.

Warner will be speaking at the Telus Convention Centre on March 19 starting at 9:30 a.m. Registration is required.

For more information, visit onlinesafetyweek.ca.

pzulueta@cjournal.ca