Just like in the visual world, online actions can reflect on people’s future career and education prospects, a social media investigation expert reminds Vanderhoof’s residents earlier this fall.
With afternoon session for students and an evening edition for the general public, secondary school students and community members learned about safety awareness and protection strategies in the online world on Nov. 25 in Nechako Valley Secondary.
It’s the latest series of events from NVSS’s parent advisory committee’s youth exploitation safety program, to educate the district’s youth and community in how to protect each other against sexual exploitation and human trafficking.
Presented by Darren Laur from Personal Protection Systems Inc, an education company aiming to promote awareness and safety both offline and online, the workshop is more about teaching students how to use Internet to their advantage for future success, Laur said.
“A lot of people think I’m going to talk about sexual predation,” he said. “But really, the bigger threat to these young people is what we call their digital dossiers.”
His presentation focussed more on how what people are doing online in their social networks is now being used by education institutes and employers as part of the application process.
“I want the kids to think of their social networks more like their digital resumes,” Laur said. “Knowing that others are going to see it, and potentially hire you from that, or allow you into a college or university.”
He refers to the current student population as Generation Z.
“Generation Z no longer sees the difference between online world and the visual world,” he said. “They see it as one world…it’s totally integrated into one world for them.”
He added, “We need to understand that and teach them that perspective.”
Having presented internet and social media safety programs to schools across western Canada as well as the United States, Laur uses a fake social network for the purposes of social engineering schools, he explained.
“To see how many students will invite me in, believing that I’m a 15- or 16-year-old girl when in fact, I’m a 50-year-old male,” Laur said. “I got 30 of them in this school who invited me.”
He explained that the experiment aims to send a message to students about their internet literacy.
“You think you knew what a fake site would look like but I fooled over 30 of you guys,” he said. “I was able to get about 30 of them within 20 minutes.”
Through the presentation, he aims to drive home to students the idea that everything done online is public, permanent, searchable, exploitable, and for sale, he said.
“You remember those five basic things, you’ll have a safe time online,” he said. “Internet is a really cool thing and I encourage young people to get online and create a really good digital footprint online.”
With more than 29 years in law enforcement and currently a staff sergeant with the Victoria City Police Department, Laur started his company because he has seen many bad incidents online, as a result of lack of knowledge and understanding, he said, adding he believes that knowledge and the application of knowledge is power.
“Because the Internet is so new, we’re still in the wild, wild west of what’s happening online,” Laur explained. “So one of the things I do is bring those issues to the forefront.”
He added, “Here’s all the good things for the Internet…but here are some things you really need to think about because these things are coming back to hurt young people.”
For Grade 10 student Christian Kelemen, the presentation was very instructive.
“I believe that people needed to understand their privacy settings for the internet,” Kelemen said. “Regardless of what their settings are, people need to be careful about what they post about each other.”
In addition to Amanda Todd, who committed suicide in 2012 and her video on cyber bullying had gone viral, the presentation brought into light other similar stories and individuals, he said.
“These people are equally important and their story needs to be heard as well,” he said.
For Grade 12 student Chloe Perry, the workshop was very interesting, she said.
“The Internet, it’s big and you think you can always get around [the privacy concerns,]” Perry said. “Nobody has taught us about it until now.”
She added, “It’s that easy for somebody to look at your stuff online, and you can’t always protect yourself but you can always prevent.”
For her, she doesn’t think digital bullying will ever go away.
“You need people that will actually take a stand, but then very few people would actually do it,” Perry said.
She tells of a friend who “trolls around” online, leaving “stupid” comments on a friend of a friend’s social media page.
Perry has heard the other side of the story, the experience of the individual who was made fun of, but her friend was not fazed by the alternate perspective
“You need something that will happen that will give her a scare,” Perry said.