Of all of Paul Davis’ fake online accounts, the eight-year-old girl seems to slip through the cracks the most when he follows or sends a friend request to children.
Davis, a social media expert, gave some hard lessons about online safety to students and parents during a Social Networking Safety presentation at Our Lady of the Snows Catholic Academy, Monday (Jan. 18).
As a speaker about online safety, privacy, cellphones and cyber bullying, among others, Davis has presented to over 250,000 students and given his presentation to government organizations such as the RCMP and the Department of National Defence.
Davis’ sobering presentation at OLS highlighted to students and parents how easy it is for youth to become vulnerable online and what parents can do to be more involved in a youth’s online presence – whether it’s for safety, security or cyber bullying avoidance.
Davis warns about the security on popular websites that focus on sharing photos and information with others in the shared network.
“Safety begins with family,” Davis said.
“The youngest group, they just want to get online and have no idea about security, absolutely zero … with adults, they just gave their kids technology and thought it was a great idea without understanding, ‘OK, I’m going to give you this device and I’m going to learn it with you.’
“As a personal security, security for their kids and understanding consequences of action because it applies to the parents and it applies to the kids.”
Davis said he uses fake online accounts and explained how easy it is to find out children’s personal information and use it against them.
With older students, Davis’ presentation changed to social media and alleged privacy, ‘sexting’, Wi-Fi hotspots, and how they can be found online.
“With older kids, they believe they are invincible, meaning they go online and they’re using technology because they have this belief of alleged anonymity. Or they’re using applications that are telling them they’re anonymous,” Davis said. “Again, I’m going to bust those myths. They feel more cavalier to go online and say something and not realize there are consequences to those actions.”
Davis underlined these lessons aren’t limited to students in larger cities.
In December, three male teens from Okotoks were arrested and charged for sharing personal photos of a sexual nature of female peers.
In just the past decade, online activity among youth has rapidly increased in popularity.
OLS Principal Vince Behm said the goal is teaching students how to keep themselves safe and how to use technology for its proper use.
“Our focus has always been on working to help students and parents understand how to deal with and use technology appropriately rather than coming up with artificial rules,” he said.
Another negative area that has risen to prominence in the past decade is cyber bullying, to the point where the boundaries of bullying now begin outside of school.
“Now (bullying) starts off generally online, makes its way to the school, ends up in the principal’s office and the police are getting involved,” said Davis. “The number of times the police are getting involved with stuff starting at home is outrageous.”
Davis offered his advice to avoid cyber bullying: talk to a trusted adult about the situation; never reply to the messages; save the messages; and if it doesn’t cease, contact the police.