Students, families learn about online safety

By Rob Vogt – Local Press Writer
With technology playing such a big part in the lives of children and youth, it is important they learn to make good choices.
To assist in that effort, the school councils of Willow Creek Composite High, West Meadow Elementary and Granum Schools partnered to bring in Paul Davis, an expert on online safety, on Sept. 22.
He spoke at West Meadow in the morning, joined by students from Granum School; the high school in the afternoon; and did a session for parents in the evening.
Davis has spoken to more than 650,000 students across five provinces, to help them make safe online choices.
“I hope the majority will make good choices,” he said.
Davis opened by asking three questions:
1) In your bedroom at home, who uses an iPad, tablet or personal computer?
2) How many use a smartphone?
3) How many use some sort of social media including Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok?
A varying number of students raised their hands for each question.
Davis pointed out children are not supposed to be on social media until they are 13 years old, so no student in the room should have been on social media.
Davis said parents either didn’t read the rules or didn’t care about the rules. He hoped they hadn’t read the rules, because that can be corrected.
However, he was not allowed to talk about social media because no one in the room was old enough to be on it.
As an example, he pulled up the rules for Instagram, and it clearly states users must be 13 or older.
Davis gave two rules to follow, and asked students to write them down.
The first rule is “Respect the rules”. If the rules say you can’t use social media until 13, respect that.
“How about we start respecting the rules,” Davis said.
The second rule is to use technology with your parents and remove all technology from the bedroom.
Technology is the responsibility of parents and they cannot relinquish that responsibility.
“You’re a kid, and you deserve to be a kid for as long as you can,” Davis said.
He talked about the digital trail, which proves your digital foot print. It shows just where a user has interacted online.
Davis stressed parents own the technology, not students.
“It doesn’t just impact you,” he said. “It impacts them.”
Davis turned his attention to cyber-bullying. The number one source of it is social media. If a student bullies someone online on a Sunday afternoon, and it is reported to a principal, the principal has three choices – issue a warning; suspend the student; or call the police. If the student is 12 years or older, they can be charged.He emphasized your words matter, and saying “It was a joke” or “I was kidding” doesn’t matter.
Davis then discussed what to do about cyber-bullying.
Do not respond. Instead, report everything, and ask for help from teachers, principals, and parents. Print and collect evidence as well.
“Don’t be afraid to ask for help,” Davis said. “If you don’t ask for help, we don’t know what’s going on.”
Worse, the bully gets away with it.
Davis then asked what can help?
Do not use social media, he said. Students can’t anyway, until they are 13 years old. Staying away from social media also protects students from bullying; disinformation; and predators.
Predators are looking for children online and will get to know a child’s friends, family, and teammates; study their photos and videos; and use information they post and share.
Davis then discussed sharing pictures.
A picture is worth 1,000 words, he said, and online they also tell another story – its actual physical location.
A picture is a digital book, and contains all sorts of information.
Davis demonstrated how in 14 minutes he could use a picture to find out the name, address, school, and much more of the person who posted it. He could even get a physical picture of the person’s house using Google Street View.
Davis said a student is one of thousands being monitored by criminals using artificial intelligence.
He suggested when people go on a vacation, they should only post pictures after they return home, instead of while on holiday when no one is home and the house is unattended.
Davis said deleting is a myth as well.
Once something is posted online, you never know who will see it, and you can never get it back.
Everything is stored on massive servers, or computers, even after deleted from a personal device.
Davis moved on to YouTube, a site where anyone can post and view videos.
He had two rules for YouTube – don’t upload video until you are 13; and when you are 13, and upload videos, turn the comments off so you can’t see what people say. Also, only use YouTube Kids.
However, when a kid says “I want to be a YouTuber” Davis tells them to follow their dream. He urges them to make videos that inspire, and change the world for the bettrer. Besides, they likely won’t make a dime on their videos, but will still have an educational experience if no one sees the video.
Viruses are another concern.
Davis said the number one way to get them on a computer, tablet or phone is by clicking on links. He urged everyone not to click on links, except in context, that is you know the person who sent you the link and what the purpose is.
“Always be suspicious (of links),” Davis said.
Another issue is webcams. Once on, they can be hacked and criminals can spy on people using them.
Davis tells children to cover their webcams, and the best way is using a simple bandage or Band Aid.
He then discussed passwords.
Davis emphasized never to share passwords; and that parents must have all passwords. Parents are responsible for their children, so they must know passwords in case of emergency.
He suggested going to the Dollar Store, buying a scribbler, writing down all passwords in it, and keeping it at home.
Passwords are the key to privacy, and must be protected.
“A password is like a key to your home,” Davis said.
Students also get involved in online gaming.
The number one rule, Davis said, is to play age-appropriate games.
He cautioned that friends are not found or made online.
“Remember that one forever,” he said, adding the chat box is not a friend. “You don’t know who lives on the other end of that screen.”
Davis then briefly discussed texting.
He emphasized using proper sentence structure and not using emojis. Now, not only in school but college and university, instructors are receiving assignments written like texts, with no sentences and with emojis such as hearts and happy faces.
Davis then turned his attention for the last part of his presentation on when students should be online.
He talked about coding.
“I want you all to take an interest in computer coding,” he said, and take five months to see if they like it.
“Try to make the next good game, make the next great app,” Davis said.
Even if students don’t like it, they learned something.
He suggested three things students should do at home – download a math app, a language app, and learn to type.
If they do five minutes a day of each, for a total of 15 minutes a day, it will be beneficial.
“Screen time does not have to be unhealthy if you do it for creation,” Davis said.
He also discused how to get online in a positive way.
Students could do a podcast, and all they need is a computer, Internet access, and a parent’s permission.
Or they could start a blog, where all they need is a computer, Internet access and a parent’s permission.
In both cases, they can talk about anything they want and people will come, get information, and leave.
“You’re building a positive digital foot print,:” Davis said.
He encourages students to send him their websites, which he reviews. He has seen student sites on everything from baking and art to crafts, dance and so much more.
Since the pandemic, he has reviewed more than 200 student websites.
“I want you to be unique,” he said.