Students get schooled on online crime, bullying
WATERLOO — Good news about the internet: kids are doing amazing things online and most know how to stay safe from creeps.
Yet it seems some youths still don’t grasp that what they put online could last forever and may haunt them later when they seek jobs and scholarships.
Retired B.C. police officer Darren Laur delivered this lesson at Laurelwood Public School Thursday. He has investigated internet crimes. It opened eyes.
“I think a lot of people need to know how to use (the internet) to its better potential,” said Spencer Tully, 13.
Spencer goes online to play video games and to monitor top tennis matches, taking care to avoid strangers and shield his identity. He was startled to learn how criminals can exploit the internet to blackmail people or steal identities for fraud.
“I hadn’t realized how much crime goes on,” he said.
Taryn Lacey, 12, was surprised to learn about the misuse of certain emerging social media applications that she doesn’t use. “I didn’t know that they could cause that much damage,” she said.
Taryn won’t let strangers follow her online. She covers the camera on her iPod to help guard her privacy. Her favourite online sites are Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube.
She’s delighted that the internet keeps her in daily touch with friends all over the world after she met them at summer camp. Her parents couldn’t do this when they were kids.
“It’s really fun to hear what they’re doing throughout the day,” Taryn said. “I find it really helpful because it’s not like I’m losing all my friends.”
Laur has a business called Personal Protection Systems that preaches online safety. He told students they should use the internet because it’s amazing. He tells parents to let their kids go online. “I truly do believe that social networking is cool,” he said.
But there are risks that he wants everyone to learn. To illustrate, he told students that
in the days before he spoke to them, he searched Laurelwood students online and used fake online accounts to persuade five of them that he’s a teenage girl. He’s 52.
Students heard about online bullying and youth suicides, an emotional topic. It baffles Leo You, 13, that bullying remains a problem despite the harm it causes.
Leo avoids social media but goes online for his cadet activities, and to search art and inspiration for drawings. He uses the Pinterest site.
The practice at the Waterloo Region District School Board is to integrate the internet into classrooms and to educate students about online dangers, teaching them to be what the board calls good digital citizens.
“I think that education is taking root,” said Bryan Rankine, vice-principal at Laurelwood.
Laur agrees. He’s seen students get savvier as the internet develops. “The educational component is starting to work for us. It really is,” he said in an interview.
He doesn’t advocate for keeping kids off-line. “The internet is what’s going to make them a success in the future,” he said.
Online lessons from Darren Laur
Nothing is ever private. Things are never deleted. What you put online is public, permanent, searchable, exploitable, copyable and for sale. “The sooner you understand that important rule, the safer you will be.”
Many kids share too much about themselves, inviting identity theft and fraud.
Your webcam can be hacked and controlled remotely, inviting strangers to prey on you. Tape it over when not using it.
What you put online will be searched later by employers and schools. You could lose jobs, scholarships, and opportunities over postings you thought were long gone. Think before you post.