Yukon’s Information and Privacy Commissioner Diane McLeod-McKay sits for a photo in Whitehorse on Feb. 3. “Privacy awareness is an important message not only for adults, but also for children and youth,” McLeod-McKay said. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

Yukon’s Information and Privacy Commissioner Diane McLeod-McKay sits for a photo in Whitehorse on Feb. 3. “Privacy awareness is an important message not only for adults, but also for children and youth,” McLeod-McKay said. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

Learning about privacy in an online world

Yukon privacy commissioner offers up new resources for youth

For many Yukon youth, between online gaming, video chatting with friends, school projects, music listening apps and more, a big part of their lives is their online presence.

It’s with that in mind the Yukon’s Information and Privacy Commissioner Diane McLeod-McKay launched a new section of her website aimed at promoting awareness about the need to protect online privacy for children and youth.

“Privacy awareness is an important message not only for adults, but also for children and youth,” McLeod-McKay said. “Many young children play online games, interact on social media and use other resources on the internet every day. With the right tools, they can develop good online habits to protect their own privacy, as well as that of their families and friends.”

It’s no coincidence that the new section on the website was launched Jan. 28 on International Data Privacy Day.

The day is observed in Canada as well as other countries around the world to raise awareness and promote privacy and data protection.

In a Feb. 1 interview, McLeod-McKay said the materials selected come from a variety of efforts by privacy commissioners across the country over the last 10 years.

Providing education to youth about online safety is something McLeod-McKay said she’s wanted to focus on since she took on her role as privacy commissioner in 2013.

“Their lives are centred around it,” she said, highlighting many of the online formats youth use.

She had been making presentations at schools throughout the territory until COVID-19 brought those to an end.

At those presentations, it was clear just how tech-savvy youth are, so with school presentations not happening right now due to COVID-19, McLeod-McKay said she’s pleased to offer the materials through her website.

Some materials on the site were made in partnership with privacy commissioners across Canada, while others were developed by the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada (OPC).

Ahead of the International Data Privacy Day, the OPC also provided information about online privacy via a Twitter campaign, which included tips on privacy awareness.

The Yukon IPC supported the campaign with retweets of the daily posts from the OPC.

Within the website are lesson plans for teachers that address how difficult it can be to remove what may be posted on the internet, that explores privacy as a fundamental human right, that looks at the types of information gathered by websites and apps, and that cover privacy law.

Her office informed schools as well as school councils throughout the territory of the new website section and is hopeful teachers will find the lesson plans and activities useful. She noted as well parents and caregivers can also access the materials, perhaps getting new ideas on how to help their kids navigate online privacy.

In an emailed statement, Department of Education spokesperson Kyle Nightingale said the department understands the importance of students learning about online privacy.

“The materials and information developed by the Information and Privacy Commissioner are being shared with Yukon educators to support teaching students about the importance of online privacy, digital literacy and keeping yourself safe as part of the applied design, skills and technology curriculum and physical and health education curriculum at a variety of grade levels,” he said.

“On behalf of the Yukon Information and Privacy Commissioner, Yukon educators are also being encouraged to share their feedback or suggestions on these materials and information to ensure they most effectively support teaching students these important topics and skills.”

Through curriculum at various grades in applied design skills and technology and physical health, students are taught age-appropriate lessons about the topics and how to develop healthy behaviours, avoid unsafe situations and protect themselves and others.

“The materials and information developed by Yukon’s Information and Privacy Commissioner will be another valuable resource for Yukon educators to support students in learning these valuable skills,” Nightingale said. “We look forward to seeing the positive benefits these new materials have on students in our schools.”

Included in the materials is a long list of activity sheets that could be printed as well as posters and a 12-page graphic novel called Social Smarts.

McLeod-McKay said the graphic novel was often among the more popular pieces that were handed out when she’d visit schools.

“Kids really like the (graphic) novel,” she said.

Also included in the website is a section about gaming, videos about privacy and more.

A list of five tips to protect online privacy, for example, advises youth to “think before you click,” remember that what you post may not be private, know who your friends are, protect your privacy with passwords and respect the online footprint friends have as well.

McLeod-McKay said along with youth being informed of how to keep their information private, she also wants them to be informed about algorithms that are used by advertisers to directly reach those online.

It’s something she’s tried to inform students about during her presentations along with providing examples to show just how what’s posted can affect youth.

She cited examples of how social media postings have impacted students.

As additional materials for youth focused on online privacy become available, it’s expected they’ll be added to the website.

“Over time, we will develop the web page further, adding more materials and improving any resources that need updating.”

Contact Stephanie Waddell at stephanie.waddell@yukon-news.com

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