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Parents key to online safety for children and youth

Students can manage the Internet better if they receive the proper guidance

Alyson McAndrews, The Times

Published: Monday, March 05, 2012

When former Victoria police Staff Sgt. Darren Laur tried to gain access to the Facebook walls of A.W. Neill Middle School students, he had no problem getting onto 90% of the pages. He did so ahead of presentations to parents and students at the schools for the anti-bullying day of action.

Laur now travels around B.C. delivering his message of being safe Internet and digital citizens. So far, 50,000 students have heard him speak.

His first message to parents is that the Internet is not as scary as they probably think. Predators do exist online, but they are rare, and if your child gets into trouble, it is more likely to be in a cyber-bullying or sex-texting situation.

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Nora Moncur, principal at A.W. Neill middle school, helps students manage their online security with new information from personal internet security expert Darren Laur.


He also told parents at the Tuesday night meeting at Neill that the most time kids spend online is from 10 p.m. to 3 a.m. on their mobile phones.

"That one shocked everyone, I think," said Neill principal Nora Moncur. "Parents say 'how is that possible? I took the computer out of their room.'"

That said, neither Laur or Moncur advocate taking smart phones away from kids and they discourage not allowing children online.

Laur wants parents to talk to their kids about how to lock down their information and learn to be good digital citizens because kids need to have a good, clean background online to be ready for the jobs of future, he says.

Moncur agrees. The work she sees her students complete on their smart phones and through the Internet is a truly educational and important part of their school experience.

However, both say you need to know what your kids are doing, especially when they first go online.

Laur recommends using Spec-tor monitoring software on the computer, and Phone Sheriff for cell phones, which gives parents the ability to lock phone use, so between 10 p.m. and 3 a.m. you can keep junior offline and actually sleeping.

"It has to be overt though. You have to tell your kids the software is there," Laur says. "If you don't, you're teaching your children that sometimes it's okay to not be up front."

He says covert software is a last resort for students who have proven that they are high risk, and it's the only way for a parent to know what is going on.

Another easy safety tip is if you post photos online, it's good to turn off the meta data on your phone that allows people to see the GPS co-ordinates of where a photo was taken.

Parents need to talk with their kids, rather than at them, about online safety and being a good citizen. If they get into trouble, they have to be able to come to you, Laur says.

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