School board offering internet safety seminar

By Ken Kellar
Local Journalism Initiative reporter

Virtual session to cover how parents can keep kids safe while online

In order to help foster a sense of community that can be lacking during lockdown, as well as to help parents navigate the possible dangers of the internet, the Northwest Catholic District School Board (TNCDSB) will be holding another virtual parent engagement seminar this Thursday, March 25 at 6:00 p.m..

Brad Oster is the assistant to the superintendent for the TNCDSB and oversees the Catholic Parent Involvement Committee (CPIC) that is helping to put on the engagement seminar. He said the theme for this week’s seminar is “internet safety,” a hot topic as more and more of the world moves online in order to continue with a host of different activities – education among them. Furthermore, the online seminars will help to keep families and friends across the school board connected to each other while the province and region is still under significant lockdown protocols.

“It’s all about what parents need to know about keeping their kids safe online,” Oster said.

“These sessions that we’ve set up monthly are meant as a way to support parents and families with resources and information. Content is based on requests from families. We’ve sought it out directly. Lisa LeBlanc, our mental health lead, she went to the school council meetings and asked ‘what are some things you need as families?’ so it’s kind of a virtual way to build a sense of community among our TNCDSB families and really break that isolation.”

Oster explained that the CPIC receives a certain amount of funding each year that is used towards creating activities to help keep families engaged, which proves difficult in a year when in-person activities are still limited well below what would be considered normal. As a way to help battle the isolation of the pandemic, Oster said the board approached the CPIC and asked them to think of ways to keep parents across the school board engaged and involved.

“The committee said ‘why don’t we try to do some virtual engagement evenings?’ and that’s how it started,” he said.

“So what they’ll be covering during the next session is information about apps, games and online sites that kids are using; what they’re for, what are the risks, how can you safeguard your children from those risks? And even for some kids later in elementary school, there’s things potentially on dating apps. Some apps are masked to look innocent, so how to spot them. There will be information on how to set parental controls and monitor what sites and apps are being used.”

The seminar will also include a question and answer period at the end to allow for parents to voice their concerns or learn more about specific instances of internet safety. Oster noted that in order to encourage more parents to participate, there will also be prizes available to be won. Because internet safety covers so many different topics and facets of the internet, any one topic might not be given the time some parents want, which is also why the question and answer portion is vital.

“Those questions and answers are going to be key,” he explained.

“Parents do have questions and concerns around internet safety, or cyber bullying, and this is a great place to ask those questions, even if there isn’t content per se in the presentation about it, we have a lot of experts around that table that can speak to things like cyber bullying and different ways we can deal with that.”

When it comes to narrowing down a topic for any given month, given that parents of school aged children likely have a handful of concerns or things they would like to learn more about, Oster said it comes down to what families under the TCNDSB umbrella need and how recurrent any specific request is.

“What it comes down is that we’re trying to support them however we can,” he said.

“Internet safety is a huge huge issue that we have to deal with as educators, so when [LeBlanc] canvassed, this was one of the topics. Next month, I don’t know what the topic will be, but again we’ll look at the list from parents. From our standpoint, we look at what resources we have and who are the people we have that can deliver the information to the parents. There is a lot around internet safety, but I don’t always think that parents know how to access some of those resources, so that’s our goal: to really show them.”

Any parents who are looking to take part in the virtual parent engagement seminar about Internet Safety can visit The Northwest Catholic District School Board’s Facebook page for the link or go to