Alaska Highway News

Communication key to childhood cybersecurity


SEPTEMBER 27, 2017 10:44 AM

The best technology to keep youth internet savvy and safe is their brain, and there are a few things parents can do to foster that technology, parents learned last week.

Former Victoria police officer Darren Laur was in Fort St. John to speak with students and parents about the dangers lurking in the shadows of the nebulous world wide web.

“We are the ones giving our kids the digital keys to the digital world,” Laur told a group of 60 during an animated and at time humorous public talk at Bert Bowes school Sept. 18. “They’re no different than car keys.”

Laur, retired from 29 years with Victoria city police, has presented internet and social media safety programs to more than 360 schools as part of his White Hatter initiative. 

Giving a child the keys to the digital world—either through the computer or a smartphone—means parents should remain in control when it comes to their children’s online habits, he said. Parents should also foster a culture of participation and communication as kids learn to craft their online identity and become what Laur calls good “digital citizens.”

Online safety is about health and wellness, Laur said, noting one in four teenagers are targeted by some kind of predator. 

That means ensuring phones are kept out of the bedroom when it’s time to go to sleep—“game changers,” Laur said, that not only interrupt healthy brain activity and translate to tiredness in the classroom but exposes youth to serious risks given the time and a lack of supervision. 

Research has found teens spend an average of five hours online every day, and 66 per cent of them say their parents don’t need to know about their online activities. Further, 71 per cent admit they purposely hide their online activities from their parents, including deleting internet history or inappropriate videos.

“Explain to them that there are people out there that may want to exploit them,” he said.

Phone addiction is quickly mirroring alcohol and drug addiction, Laur noted, attributing it in part to what he called “FOMO,” or the fear of missing out. At the same time, companies are increasingly targeting youth as smartphones become a billion dollar industry. The devices have become more like mini-computers than phones, and it’s about finding balance when using technology, Laur said.

“Compound the message. The kids call it nagging, that’s what it is,” he said.

Kids have no right to privacy from their parents when online, and Laur provided a laundry list of phone apps and computer software parents can use to monitor activity and protect their home computers from malicious attacks. 

However, any sort of monitoring should not be done covertly, Laur stressed, as that will only model bad behaviour. “I want you to let them know you’re doing this. Be open with them,” he said.

Laur writes about youth and online safety at

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