Guest blog by Patricia Kosseim, Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario
Young people today love going online. Whether it’s for educational purposes, social networking or gaming — there is always something new and exciting to see and do. With every click, they explore new horizons but also, inadvertently, navigate through a sea of potential digital threats.
The online world is fraught with fake content that looks real, creating confusion between what’s true and what’s false. Cybercriminals and cyberbullies use the internet in ways that can seriously harm others, and advertisers attempt by all means to attract attention and nudge buying behaviour.
Canada’s annual Media Literacy Week highlights how critical it is that we all know how to use and engage with digital media. It’s a great time to educate kids about how to stay safe online so they are better equipped to face some of these challenges.
As parents, educators, and regulators, we share a responsibility to ensure that young people’s privacy rights are protected and that we empower them to assert their rights with knowledge and confidence.
This topic was top of mind for me and my federal, provincial, and territorial colleagues at our recent annual meeting, where we issued a joint resolution calling on our respective governments to improve privacy legislation to protect youth and calling on organizations to adopt practices that safeguard the best interests of young people.
At my office, we’ve made Children and Youth in a Digital World one of our strategic priorities. We recognize that educators and administrators have an essential role in preparing and empowering young people to be safe and responsible digital citizens. So, we’ve been hard at work to launch a number of new initiatives aimed at helping schools protect and support student’s privacy rights.
Just in time for back to school, we launched four new Privacy Pursuit! lesson plans, in collaboration with MediaSmarts, to help educators teach students in grades two through eight about how to protect their privacy online and respect the privacy rights of others.
Each lesson plan is designed to be used with the IPC’s Privacy Pursuit! Games and Activities for Kids activity booklet, filled with fun activities for learning about privacy that parents can do with their kids at home.
Most recently, we launched a new draft Digital Privacy Charter for Ontario Schools. It consists of twelve high-level commitments that codify best practices, many of which are grounded in statutory requirements under the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.
These commitments are intended to support students by:
promoting strong privacy protections in digital education tools and services used by schools
encouraging ongoing learning about privacy in the digital environment
empowering students to understand and exercise their privacy and access rights
The personal information of children and youth is particularly sensitive. Given the potential for harm that can follow a young person into adulthood, this data is worthy of a higher degree of care and protection in a manner that supports accountability and transparency, building trust in Ontario’s schools.
So, let's work together! Parents and guardians, have a chat with your kids' teachers and principals about online safety and the charter. Educators, use the charter to help guide your online school activities and talk about it with your coworkers and students to help raise awareness of the importance of digital literacy. School officials, talk to your boards about adopting the charter and making the commitment to promote privacy protection, encourage digital literacy and empower our young people!
As part of this initial launch phase, we’re calling on school officials, parents, and students to provide feedback on the draft charter by completing our survey or emailing us at DigitalPrivacyCharter@ipc.on.ca.
Kids hold the promise to a better future. Let’s help them pave the way.