“I’m loved, I have family and friends who care about me; I’m okay”. This is the most powerful message you can send to the world, according to John Parsons, Cyber Safety and Risk Assessment Consultant. This key theme was at the core of a series of presentations given by John, on Monday 4 February 2019, to students about staying safe online. John works with victims of cybercrime all over New Zealand and he took time out of his busy schedule to visit Woodford House.
John opened his talk by explaining how commonly used terms such as ‘online identity’ and ‘digital citizen’ wrongly suggest that we can have two personas, one in real life and one online. He went on to explain that this dehumanising language can have a negative effect and that young people need to consider themselves as ‘citizens who use digital technology’.
“It’s all about citizenship, regardless of context. If we don’t take our values online with us we can get lost”, says John.
John talked about keeping a positive attitude online by adopting a ‘chin up, shoulders back’ approach and that we can become vulnerable when we don’t connect with the people who are there to support us.
In 2018, the New Zealand Teens and Digital Harm report by Netsafe stated that, ‘Overall, 7 in 10 teens in New Zealand have experienced at least one type of unwanted digital communication in the past year’. During his presentation, John addressed the issue of online harassment and recommended the following strategies:
- Don’t reply
- Gather evidence e.g screenshots
- Save the evidence into a folder and show it to someone you trust
John advised that ‘competency and projecting the right attitude helps to keep people safe online’ and recommended posting positive photographs with family and friends, rather than isolated selfies taken in a private space, such as a bedroom.
John urged students to care about themselves and others by thinking about what they say on the internet as people can form the wrong opinions, including future employers. He advocated that integrity, respect and human rights should extend beyond ourselves whether we are online or not. John also acknowledged that everyone makes mistakes and that students should not be afraid to talk to people when things go wrong.
At the end of the talk, John stressed the importance of staying connected to our values and remembering that it is not about the technology, it is about the choices we make. He outlined the following three recommendations to stay safe online:
- Take care of yourself
- Build an identity that works for you not against you
- Stay mindful of who you are connected with on the internet
“I learnt a different perspective as I didn’t really think about cyber safety that way before. It made me think about what I am doing online and what I could do differently; maybe thinking more about my actions, what I post and being more aware.”
Jaimee Whittaker, Year 8
“John Parson’s cyber safety talk was a real eye-opener. I learnt so much about all the people on the internet and their tactics. It was interesting listening to real stories including scams and fake marriages. We learnt how to spot scammers and fake accounts. This really helped me learn more about the reality of social media and that it is not all good.”
Rosa Lowry, Year 10
“John Parson’s cyber safety presentation was really informative and intriguing as it gave a good perspective on how to be safe and aware on social media. John gave good tips on how to make sure you post wisely. Overall, our Year group enjoyed the presentation and we hope John will come back again.”
Safiya Nicholas, Year 12
Mrs Andrea Jackson, Communications and Marketing Coordinator