Digital citizenship and digital responsibility are part of the Sir Wilfrid Laurier School Board’s guidelines and are implemented in every school across the board. Laval Families Magazine tackles the topic in a four-part series, first dealing with student safety and security.

Every student from kindergarten until grade eleven is briefed on awareness as well as the legal implications of what it is to be a responsible digital citizen. Parents and guardians are also informed and briefed every year on the digital citizenship guidelines.

It is imperative to note that today’s youth are faced with different forms of bullying. With technology, access to information and the simplicity of instant gratification, some teens may be faced with cyberbullying, sexting and safety issues regarding settings on their devices. The issue with teens is that they are in fact learning as they grow and develop, and they may not think before they act.

Jennifer Maccarone, Chairperson of the Sir Wilfrid Laurier School Board, provides some advice to teens regarding the use of texting and sending photos. “Would you send this photo to your dad or your mom? If the answer is no, don’t send it,” she says. This advice resonates with teens because it does make them think twice before sending a photo that may not be appropriate. Maccarone also suggests that students should not be sending photos and texts that they cannot take back. “Once the message has been sent out into the universe, it will always be out in the digital world, even in the years to come,” adds Maccarone.

Students should also understand the legal implications regarding an illicit photo or text. Sending out compromising photos, sexting and cyberbullying are illegal, and can be brought to the authorities once a victim comes forward. Every scenario is judged on a case by case basis.

Even if an adolescent is not involved in the physical act of cyberbullying or sexting, they may be a bystander. Being bystander also has its legal implications. Observing an act of cyberbullying or seeing someone in a compromising situation and not speaking up for those who are the victim is also a form of consenting to the situation.

In order for students to feel safe at school, it is important to note that each and every student of the SWLSB is informed on the dangers of not complying with the guidelines as well as what it means to be a responsible digital citizen. Technology is advancing at a rapid pace and as a society, we are all responsible for the actions of our youth with regards to safety and security in our schools and environment. Awareness from a young age on guidelines of acting as a responsible digital citizen reduces the risk of digital and legal implications as a student ages and moves on to high school and adulthood.