Internet 101 for parents
International and national safety expert to speak at CHS on how parents can avoid taking ‘the blue pill’
It’s a rare individual that can hold a teenager’s attention so well they forget about checking their phones for texts or emails. Let alone a roomful of 40 such teens.
Personal protection specialist and 28-year law enforcement member Darren Laur seems to have that knack, so much so that Cheney High School’s Noah Ziemann was beyond excited to get him to come to town to speak.
“As soon as he started it was, click, he was on with everything,” Ziemann said of Laur’s presentation last November at the Youth Court Conference held at Seattle University’s School of Law.
Laur was all the senior, who also serves as Cheney’s Youth Court judge, could talk about on the trip home, Cheney Municipal Court Administrator and Youth Court adviser Terri Cooper said.
“He was so excited, I asked him, should we do this for our high school safety class and he said ‘yes,’” Cooper said.
Cooper said they decided to use a $500 Traffic Safety Grant they had been holding onto to help pay for part of Laur’s fee, with officials at the school district agreeing to cover the remaining $2,500.
Laur will speak this Friday, May 9, at the high school during the day to each class: juniors, sophomores and freshmen. He will follow that with a presentation Friday evening to parents “Internet/Social Media Safety and Digital Citizenship for Parents” from 5-7 p.m. at the high school.
Laur’s presentation style hooked Ziemann, but what also kept him and the others “zoned” in was the information he provided and his feelings about the online world.
“I think the Internet is the coolest thing ever invented by humankind,” the Victoria, British Columbia resident said in a phone interview.
There has been a lot of good things that have come from the Internet and social media, but there have also been bad things. For Laur, it’s what one uses it for, and what they understand about that usage. He likens it to a scene from the movie “The Matrix” where Morpheus, the leader of a group of cyber warriors, offers a prized recruit, Neo, a version of reality.
“You take the blue pill, the story ends. You wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill, you stay in wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.”
“We have all swallowed the blue pill,” Laur said. “We have allowed the online industry to dictate to our kids.”
Laur covers a number of topic sregarding the Internet, such as understanding that what is posted online is public, permanent and searchable; the dangers of screen names and profiles and who the Internet predator is and what are their tricks.
To do that, he uses an actual Facebook page he has set up to look like the page of a 16-year-old girl. Laur then sets out to demonstrate the techniques used by predators and hackers, putting up such a believable façade that he often has 20-30 students in the audience becoming “friends” with the made-up girl on Facebook.
From there he shows how he is able to find out information not only about the new friend, but that person’s family and their habits, opening up all sorts of illicit possibilities from identity theft to physical burglary. Laur’s Friday evening presentation geared towards parents is designed so that adults with the bare minimum of exposure to the Internet will come away feeling they have the information to safeguard themselves and their children — something too often delegated to others.
“Parental abdication is huge,” Laur said. “We need to understand it’s a parenting issue, not a school issue.”
Laur’s presentation is free and open to the public.
John McCallum can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.