WARNING: This article contains details about sexual extortion and may affect those who have experienced it or know someone who has.
British Columbia is considering restricting the use of cellphones in schools in measures that Premier David Eby says will help protect young people from online threats.
Eby said the government would also launch a service to remove intimate images from the internet and “go after predators”, as well as introduce legislation to hold social media companies accountable for the harm they have caused.
A release from the province says all schools will have policies in place to restrict student cellphone use in class by the start of the next school year.
He said he would work with school districts to make sure that happens.
The release also said two new services will launch next week to help people prevent explicit images from being distributed online without their consent, as well as sue predators for damages.
Attorney General Niki Sharma said the services would help people, especially young adults, remove their private images from websites.
The statement said these services “will improve access to justice and provide a clear path to prosecution.”
“Technology can be an extremely useful tool, but when used by bad actors, it can have devastating impacts on people’s lives,” Sharma said in the release.
“That’s why we help people, especially young adults, remove their private images from websites and take legal action against predators.”
Legislation to hold companies responsible for harm caused to the public will be passed in the spring, the statement added.
The law would allow the government to “recover costs” associated with online harm.
“The government could use these recovered funds to provide treatment and counseling programs and establish monitoring systems and educational programs on the harms of using these products and services,” the statement said.
Warning about sharing intimate images
Education Minister Rachna Singh said mobile phones in classrooms can distract children from “focused learning” at school.
“There is also a time and place for cell phones, including when they are used for student accessibility purposes,” she said.
“By learning in a safe school environment how to use their cell phones responsibly and respectfully, including when to put them away, students will be better able to develop healthy habits around technology and social media use in their everyday life.
The moves come after Eby said last month the government was planning changes this year to honor the memory of Carson Cleland of Prince George, B.C., who police say died in October after experiencing online sexual violence.
The Prince George Police Department issued a statement in November, more than six weeks after Carson’s death, warning parents about the risks young people face online.
The release said officers went to the boy’s home on Oct. 12 and found him with self-inflicted injuries. Their investigation later determined that he committed suicide following online sextortion.
For anyone who has been sexually assaulted, assistance is available through crisis lines and local support services through this Government of Canada website or the Canadian Association to End Violence Database. If you are in immediate danger or fear for your safety or that of others around you, please call 911.