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Students need to know they have the right to report cyberbullying, says online safety expert

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Middle school students with Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools recently attended sessions presented by online safety expert Paul Davis. (Photo from Facebook)

Students are becoming more social media savvy when it comes to protecting their privacy, especially when it comes to TicTok, says an online safety expert.

“It’s great to me that they’re understanding privacy risks, making wise choices, but not all of them are getting rid of it,” said Paul Davis about the short-form, video-sharing app that has been known to collect a lot of data from users.

But Davis, who spoke this week to about 2,700 Grade 6 to 9 students with Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools, said when it comes to cyberbullying students still need more education on how to protect themselves, as well as the possible consequences of bullying — from school suspension and expulsion to criminal charges.

Unfortunately, a lot of adults also make poor choices, he said.

“Some of these adults on Twitter are a disgrace. How are we expected to make a difference in these children’s lives if they see adults acting that way? (Children) are the future and you have to be better than what some of these adults are putting out there today.”

Davis believed younger generations will be wiser, but students as young as Grade 6 and 7 have no business being on social media and subjected to everything that comes their way. And if cyberbullying does happen, youth need to use their voice and ask for help from adults in their lives.


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“The one thing we really need to instill with our kids is that they have the right to report and not to be afraid. But unless kids know they can speak out, and that it’s their right to speak out and there’s help available for them, a lot of them will try to deal with it themselves.”

He said while he supports anti-bullying initiatives, bullying will never be eradicated, but it can be reduced by gathering evidence and reporting bullying.

“If you’re going to come to school and sign pledges that you’re not going to bully, that’s great — make sure use your voice. If you’re going to wearing a pink shirt, that’s great — make sure to use your voice.”

And his message to parents is to be involved in their children’s lives, and let them know they can come to you for anything.

“If they are fearful of you, fear you will judge them based on what they did, or shame them, they will go to their peers and their peers cannot resolve their problems. They’re not mature enough.

“You may not understand what’s happening in your child’s life. You’re not expected to. But you’re expected to understand what they are doing online and able to address it through conversation through an open, transparent relationship,” Davis said.


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Principal Gary Gylander, with St. Francis of Assisi Middle School, said the risks that come with smartphones, technology and social media, continue to increase and are seen in the school setting everyday.

“Through my experience as a principal working with young adults, I see the importance of empowering students and parents when it comes to social media, helping them learn how to be safe and set limits with their use,” said Gylander in a statement.

The online safety event was co-sponsored by the Smiles Thru Lindsey Foundation and the Red Deer Catholic Education Foundation. For more information visit

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