By Carlie Connolly
Last week, over 2,500 students in Grades 7-9 along with parents and staff, got an important lecture on online safety.
Darren Laur, co-owner of Personal Protection Systems in Victoria B.C and a staff sergeant for the Victoria Police Department has presented to over 210,000 middle school and high school students across Canada and the U.S.
His company is a self-protection and awareness company, focusing on online and offline safety. This has become a big topic because of the amount of kids that are online.
Laur said that with a large amount of students using technology, they think that they are digital citizens, but that doesn’t make them digitally literate. He comes in and teaches them digital literacy to get them to understand what is happening online.
The lectures were sponsored through the Medicine Hat Police Department along with and the Medicine Hat safe community association. This was all brought forward as part of fraud prevention month.
The biggest messaging that Laur pushed at in his talk was that as digital citizens, what is being done online is public, permanent, searchable, exploitable and for sale.
“There is no such thing as privacy and because of that fact, we’re now finding that a lot of colleges and universities and even employers are turning to social media and using it as a filtering mechanism to make a decision,” he said.
Even with some negative components, he still thinks that the Internet is great to stay connected.
“With that coolness factor that the Internet has is to treat it with respect and understand that it can either work for you or against you especially when it comes to post secondary education or job opportunities of the future.”
He said that the majority of kids are great digital citizens creating music to movies, using social networks for the purposes of modernizing what they are doing like YouTube, but there is still that very small percentage that are doing things they shouldn’t be doing.
His talk didn’t just have the kids on their feet but teachers too, as a lot of them came up to him after stating that it was just as important to them to hear the discussion as it was to the students.
Laur stated that Internet safety is not a school issue and that parents are the actual foundations.
“They are the ones who are giving the kids these digital keys (smartphones) to drive the digital highway without any kind of understanding of what these very powerful tools can do, so it’s no wonder that the kids will take them to school and then get in trouble with them.”
He also did a parents presentation in the Hat to bring them up to speed on the issues, stating that it’s important to compound the message to kids so that the kids really understand the rights and wrongs.
“The research has shown that parents who engage their kids online talk about what’s going on with proper opal watch and compounding the message,” he said.
Having a 21- year old son, Laur said that he has learned a lot abut t4echnology from him.
“Kids love teaching parents if parents give them the opportunity to do that.”
He believes that the start of middle school is an appropriate time for a student to have a cellphone but said that they should earn that right to privacy by showing parents good digital citizenship over time.