Teenagers: Did you recently accept a friend request from a 16-year-old girl you didn’t know? If so, you will be held up as an example in Darren and Beth Laur’s talk on Internet and social media safety. It’s their way of capturing an audience for their talk on Internet security.
Darren, a Staff Sergeant with the Victoria Police Department, and his wife Beth have been visiting schools across the province with a message on Internet security. The talk focuses on both how to present yourself online, as well as how to avoid becoming a target for predators.
They will be at Revelstoke Secondary School on Monday, Dec. 2. During the day they will give a talk to students and at 6:30 p.m. they will make a presentation to parents.
I spoke to Darren to find out what his talk is about.
Alex Cooper: What is your talk about?
Darren Laur: The talk is all about Internet and social media safety. We approach it a little differently in that we look at it from an enlightening and not a frightening perspective. We actually believe that social networking, social media is extremely cool. We encourage youth, teens, young adults to go online and become good digital citizens. We believe that youth that become really good digital citizens will have an advantage when it comes to post-secondary opportunities and job opportunities in the future…
Some of the bigger issues are everything to do with our privacy and how what’s funny today might not be funny tomorrow when you’re applying to college or university or for a job. We now know that post-secondary institutions as well as employers are using our kids’ social networks as a filtering mechanism to make decisions on the students who come to our school or work for us.
Kids have to understand that everything we do online is public, is permanent and is very searchable. Because of those three things it makes everything they do online extremely exploitable. In other words, their social networks can either work for them or they can work against them.
AC: What is a good digital citizen?
DL: A good digital citizen is somebody who takes the good ethics and morals [of] the real world and can apply them over into the cyber world … There are people – both adults and young people – who are doing things online that they would never do if they were face-to-face with that person in the real world.
Good digital citizenship is about having good ethics and values that transfer over from the real world into the online world. Those lines are becoming very blurred today … I give them case studies and good examples where youth have done things online that have come back later on to haunt them trying to get into university or a job.
AC: I use Facebook quite a bit and have my privacy settings set high. Does that make a difference?
DL: One of things I can say to you is there’s no such thing as privacy online. I’ve never been as concerned about my privacy as I am today. You can have all your privacy settings up, but Facebook has announced just recently that anything you’re posting into their social network is for sale and they’re selling it to people who want to sell us things.
That’s what I mean about social networking. You have to be careful about what you’re doing. Where is this going to reach? How is it going to be used for us and against us into the future?
I talk a lot about mobile issues as well, understanding their settings, getting them to turn off their geo-tags on their phones so that pictures taken and shared within social networks or via instant messaging can’t be tracked back to their location … Every time you take a picture with your phone it’s geo-tagged with the longitude and latitude of where your picture was taken in the world …
If I see 20 pictures and they look like they’ve been taken in the same place, what the online creeper will do is copy those pictures, use the program, and if all 20 of those pictures have the same location, I now know where you live.
AC: So, there is an element of personal safety to your talk?
Absolutely. The biggest threat in the past, in 2005, 2006, when social networking first became very popular, the biggest concern that adults, teachers and law enforcement had was that our kids would connect with pedophiles online. Although that’s a reality, it’s become much more of a rarity in our society. We still need to understand it’s still a reality …
In my full-time job I assisted teenagers who were preyed upon online by these online predators. We still need to be alive to this issue but that’s not really the biggest issue. The biggest issue that our kids face is everything to do with their privacy and what they’re doing online and how what they’re doing today can come back to haunt them later on.
AC: What’s the message for parents?
The big message I’m going to share with parents is let your kids go online. I honestly believe that kids that are good digital citizens have an advantage. .. If they don’t have a social network then a lot of employers will think that’s weird.
The message to the parents if you need to learn about the tech. You need to learn about social networking and it’s not as hard as you think it is. The reality is social networking is creating it’s own language and if you don’t speak the language you won’t be able to communicate with your kids about what they’re doing online … It’s about getting involved with your kids to understand what they’re doing online. It’s not as scary as you think.
A lot of my presentation to parents is to get them to understand what is the technology, where can they go learn about it. All those types of things, so they become comfortable, so when they sit down with their son and daughter to talk to them about tech they come from a knowledge base. Because without that, how can you have a conversation with your kids.