Website aims to help teens emerge from the aftermath of 'sexting'
Published Monday, April 22, 2013 11:02AM EDT
Last Updated Monday, April 22, 2013 11:29AM EDT
A new website aims to help teens regain control of their lives in the aftermath of 'sexting' or cyber bullying -- an initiative supported by Laureen Harper and spurred by the recent suicide deaths of Rehtaeh Parsons and Amanda Todd.
Parsons and Todd both took their own lives after allegedly experiencing online bullying. Parsons' family says the Nova Scotia teen was raped, and then bullied for months afterwards. Todd, a B.C. teen, posted a video online telling a heartbreaking story of bullying and blackmail after topless images appeared online.
The website NeedHelpNow.ca is designed to give teens and their parents the tools to get through those types of situations without resorting to desperate measures. The website launched Sunday.
"This website prepares you, teaches you things you never even knew or thought of because, remember when we were teenagers, none of this was a concern to us or our parents," Harper, who is married to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, told CTV's Canada AM Monday. "You might end up being the safe adult that needs to know the answers.”
Lianna McDonald, executive director of the Canadian Centre for Child Protection, said the group developed the website after receiving an increased number of reports about how youth were being affected by sexual images or videos that appeared online.
Once the video was on the Web, teens and their parents were often at a loss as to how to deal with the situation, she said.
The site is designed to help youth regain control over their lives and demonstrate that "they are not defined by one incident and that they have help," McDonald said.
"The resource has information for parents, it has a step-by-step guide for youth in terms of the removal of content, it talks about how to cope when they are being mistreated or harassed and also how to approach a safe adult or get the help they need to be able to manage the situation better," McDonald said.
The site asks these key questions, then provides step-by-step answers:
- Want your peers to stop spreading your picture/video?
- Want your picture/video removed from the Internet?
- Want to talk to someone about what's happening?
- Want information about how to take care of yourself?
- Want help dealing with a situation that has gone too far?
Prime Minister Stephen Harper has a meeting with the parents of Rehtaeh Parsons scheduled in Ottawa Tuesday, to discuss initiatives to ensure the distribution of sexually explicit images, without consent, is treated as a crime.
Essentially, that would mean anyone who posts a sexually explicit photo to social media or texts such an image to friends, could face criminal charges.
Laureen Harper declined to discuss possible legal initiatives the prime minister may be considering, but she said parents have a responsibility to teach their children about the dangers of possessing such material, even if they didn't create it.
"We all think it could never happen to our children but your child could be sent this information, it could be on their phone. We have to tell our children that's illegal, that's a crime. If they have anything on your phone -- they may not have committed it or even been in the vicinity -- we need to teach our children that even having any content, if anything gets sent to them they should delete it."
McDonald said Canadians are experiencing a new awareness of the online threats their children face every day -- and tragedies such as those experienced by the Parsons and Todd families have spurred a new sense of urgency in terms of protecting youth from those threats.
"Our hearts go out to the Parsons family, to Amanda Todd's family. We've lost too many kids and if there's something we can hold onto now it's that Canadians are now talking, parents are upset, people are concerned and we know this should not be happening to kids," McDonald said.
"So I think if there is anything to say about these recent tragedies it's that they have been a wake-up call to Canadians and we are so pleased to have this amazing amount of support and average people saying 'enough is enough.'"