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B.C. to restrict cellphones in schools in effort to protect kids from online harm

The government will launch a service to remove intimate images from the internet and "pursue predators," as well as introduce legislation to hold social media companies accountable for harms they have caused.

Two new services will start next week to help prevent the distribution of people's explicit images online

A white man and woman weep at a podium, while a white man behind them holds a picture of a young boy.

WARNING: This article contains details of sexual extortion and may affect those who have experienced it or know someone affected by it.

British Columbia is moving to restrict the use of cellphones in schools as part of measures Premier David Eby says will help protect young people from online threats.

Eby said the government will also launch a service to remove intimate images from the internet and "pursue predators," as well as introduce legislation to hold social media companies accountable for harms they have caused.

A statement from the province said all schools would have policies in place to restrict students' classroom cellphone use by the start of the next school year.

It said it would work with school districts to make sure that happens.

The statement also said two new services will start next week to help people prevent the online distribution of explicit images without their consent, as well as pursue damages from the predators.

WATCH | Parents of sextortion victim Carson Cleland make emotional plea to youth:

‘You are never alone’: B.C. parents speak after son's death due to online sextortion

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Duration 2:52

Ryan Cleland and Nicola Smith urged youth to speak out when in unsafe situations at a news conference announcing measures to keep children safe online. Their 12 -year-old son Carson Cleland died by suicide due to online sextortion in October 2023.

Attorney General Niki Sharma said the services would help people, especially young adults, get their private images taken down from websites.

The statement said the services would "improve access to justice and offer a clear path to legal action."

"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 statement.

"That's why we are providing supports for people, especially young adults, to take down their private images from websites and pursue damages against predators."

WATCH | Law prof says social media companies need to be accountable to youth:

B.C.'s plan to protect kids from online harm validates young people's concerns, law professor says

5 hours ago

Duration 1:15

University of B.C. professor Kristen Thomasen, an expert on artificial intelligence laws, tells BC Today host Michelle Eliot the province's plan to hold social media companies accountable for online harms sends an important signal to young people.

Legislation designed to hold companies accountable for harm caused to the public is coming in the spring, the statement added.

The law would allow the government to "recover costs" associated with online harm.

"The government could use those recovered funds to provide treatment and counselling programs and put in place monitoring systems and educational programs about the harms of using these products and services," the statement said.

WATCH | Niki Sharma announces new services for victims of online sextortion:

B.C. attorney general announces services to stop explicit image distribution

6 hours ago

Duration 2:35

Attorney General Niki Sharma announced two new services coming into effect on Jan. 29 through the Intimate Images Protection Act. The services will help stop the distribution of explicit images without people’s consent, as well as provide victims with easy access to support and legal tools.

Warning about sharing intimate images

Education Minister Rachna Singh said cellphones in the classroom can distract children from "focused learning" in school.

"There also is a time and a place for cellphones, including when they support student accessibility purposes," she said.

"By learning in a safe school environment how to use their cellphones 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 lives."

The measures come after Eby said last month that the government was planning changes this year to honour the memory of Carson Cleland of Prince George, B.C., who police said died in October after being sexually victimized online.

Mounties in Prince George issued a statement in November, more than six weeks after Carson died, warning parents about the risks youth face on the internet.

The statement said officers went to the boy's home on Oct. 12 and found him with self-inflicted injuries, and their investigation later determined he killed himself as a result of online sextortion.

For anyone who has been sexually assaulted, there is support available through crisis lines and local support services via this Government of Canada website or the Ending Violence Association of Canada database. ​​If you're in immediate danger or fear for your safety or that of others around you, please call 911.

Credit belongs to : www.cbc.ca

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