When a group of Grade 7 students get free laptops this spring, one of the leading features will be totally outside the box.
The laptops will go to 21 students from Tahayghen and Port Clements Elementary who finish an online safety program with help from the Masset RCMP.
“For most of the kids in the program, this is the first device that they’ll personally own,” says Ian Keir, principal of Tahayghen Elementary.
“So it’s nice that it comes with some messaging about responsible use.”
Called Kids, Cops & Computers, the program is funded by the RCMP Foundation and was available to just one RCMP detachment across the province.
Local RCMP Constable Joshua Smith said it was thanks to officers in the Masset RCMP’s First Nations policing section, who highlighted the financial need and long-term benefit of having such a program here, that the RCMP Foundation chose north-end Haida Gwaii. Students were also selected based on their learning potential and involvement with community and school activities.
Over the winter and spring, the 21 students will join six workshops with local RCMP officers that cover being safe online, cyber bullying, dating violence, family violence, and self-esteem.
Sometime in May, the schools will host a wrap-up dinner where students will present a final project on one of the workshops to their parents and peers. After that, each student can take home an HP laptop and USB drive — tech that should serve them well when they go on to Gudangaay Tlaats’gaa Naay Secondary.
Keir said the laptops will help connect families as well as students, noting that Haida Gwaii schools now share a lot of information with parents using school Facebook groups.
Asked about how often problems like cyber bullying come up at Tahayghen and other schools, Keir said it hasn’t been a major issue yet, perhaps because internet connections here are relatively expensive and until recently, fairly slow.
“I think it’s still a valuable message for kids, especially as kids spend more and more time online, and have their own devices,” said Keir, who thanked the Masset RCMP for bringing the program here.
“Good for them for doing the work,” he said.
“For sure it’s something extra on their plate, but I think it’s pretty meaningful to kids that are in Grade 7 in Masset and Port.”