These days, cell phones are everything—people pay with them, order food with them, learn with them, talk to relatives across the globe with them and even have fun with game apps and social networking. Chances are, you are even reading this from a cell phone!
While cell phones and the Internet have many advantages, be sure to consider a few safety precautions as well, especially around unkindness. People bully each other without realizing it, and the cyber world is not excluded from the world of bullying. Bullying is an imbalance of power that can be physical, verbal and social, but bullying can also happen online. Cyberbullying is when someone uses technology like digital devices or the Internet to embarrass, harrass, threaten or make fun of someone—and it can happen to anyone. In fact, 1 in 5 young Canadians aged 15-29 are cyberbullied.
Bullying has no place in Scouting; it goes against the Scouting Movement’s beliefs, values and code of conduct. Thanks to the support of volunteers and Scouters who are educated about bullying and bullying prevention, Scouting provides a safe and bully-free zone where youth can be themselves.
While social media is a nice and useful thing for sharing adventures with friends, promoting something, or just catching up with someone you haven’t seen in a long time, keep in mind that anyone can look up your information if your settings aren’t private. The Facebook privacy scandal showed that Facebook released more than 87 million users’ data to a political consulting firm.
When making your profile for a social media account, ask a trusted adult like your guardian to help you set it up. Be sure to avoid mentioning personal information on your profile, like: your school, place of work, phone number and home address. Keeping privacy settings on will ensure that only friends and family can see your profile and posts.
In addition to social media, part of being cyber safe means not sharing your phone number with people you do not know well, have not met, or simply do not trust. A similar rule applies to exchanging pictures online or through your cell phone; you should only send them to your friends and family. Remember—photos shared are photos kept; even SnapChat posts can be saved by viewers with a screenshot. Video chatting with people you do not know in real life is also risky.
If you someone sends you a disturbing image or asks for one, tell a trusted adult or report it to cybertip.ca, a tipline supporting youth protection from online sexual exploitation. You can also contact needhelpnow.com, which contains multiple tips for issues like cyberbullying, the removal of an inappropriate picture—either a picture of you that was shared without your consent, or images of others—and more. You can also take a screenshot of cyberbullying or inappropriate incidents and report it to the host website.
If you are being bullied, tell a trusted adult immediately. You can also call or text Kids Help Phone (1-800-668-6868). To learn more about cyberbullying, check out what the Canadian government has to say about it, and take a look at Scouts Canada’s Phone Safety and Social Media Safety Tips. You can also find more great safety tips here.