Darren Laur tells the theatre full of Timberline Secondary students that he's as attached to his phone as they are to theirs

‘There’s no such thing as privacy online’

Retired staff sergeant and award-winning Internet safety advocate encourages digital literacy for kids and parents

School District 72 (SD72) played host to a special guest this week as online investigator, retired Victoria Police Department staff sergeant and award-winning Internet safety advocate/educator Darren Laur came to town.

Laur specialized in online crime as a police officer, and he’s brought that expertise to his new role as consultant, public speaker, counsellor and teacher. He has given talks to over 250,000 students all across North America, and this week, he was sharing his expertise with the students and parents of Campbell River.

Two evening sessions took place at Timberline for parents, along with daytime presentations for students of L’École Phoenix, Timberline, Southgate and Carihi.

The charismatic and engaging man’s message was both simple and complex: “There’s no such thing as privacy online.”

In 2006 or so, when teenagers began taking to social media en masse, Laur says, the biggest concerns that parents, law enforcement and educators had was that our kids would be opening themselves up to sexual predators and pedophiles.

And although that’s one reality about online life and should never be downplayed or glossed over, Laur says, it’s not his primary concern these days. Tech-savvy kids have a much better understanding of the digital world than they used to, and they realize that some “people” aren’t who they say they are.

No, the biggest threat that these kids face online isn’t sexual predation, Laur says, but the repercussions of their own actions.

“Those of you sitting in this audience who have decided to become really good digital citizens, you will have an advantage when it comes to post-secondary opportunities and job opportunities of the future, no doubt about it,” Laur told the theatre full of Timberline students Wednesday. “But those of you who decide not to become good digital citizens will see, from examples in this presentation, that what you’re doing online can come back and kick you in the ass for the rest of your life.”

He went on to give many, many examples of teenagers losing jobs because they posted something online that their bosses didn’t appreciate. He cited other examples of gifted athletes who lost college scholarships because of things they said on social media platforms.

And he told them once they put something online, it never goes away.

The first thing a prospective employer does these days when they receive a resumé, Laur told the students, is check out their “digital dossier.” They look at everything that is attached to that person on the Internet, including social media platforms, to see if that’s someone they want their company’s name associated with.

SD72, according to assistant superintendent Nevenka Fair, was excited to be able to put on the presentations, as digital literacy, she says, is an ever-increasingly valuable resource for students.