Keeping our kids safe

Cyber-safety expert John Parsons (second from left) with Leamington School principal Mike Malcolm and teachers Bex Paulsen (left) and Sarah Kirk.

Cyber-safety guru John Parsons came to town last week, and Steph Bell-Jenkins went along for some tips.

When I discovered cyber-safety expert John Parsons was giving a talk at Leamington School last Thursday night about keeping kids safe online, I was super-keen to attend.

Up until then I had viewed digital devices through an anxious (suspicious) parental lens, seeing them as ticking time bombs that could detonate with alarming consequences as our children grew old enough to venture alone into cyberspace.

With serious threats like online sexual predation, cyber-bullying and cyber-crime to fret about, I was dreading the day my children asked for their own smartphones and Facebook accounts.

But after hearing John’s talk, I felt an enormous sense of relief.

John works throughout New Zealand as an internet safety and risk assessment consultant to schools and the private and health sectors, providing specialist advice on how to use digital communication technology safely.

Last week he visited Cambridge to run teacher and student workshops and parent information nights based on the book he released last year, Keeping Your Children Safe Online – a Guide for New Zealand Parents.

At the risk of exposing my own ignorance, I admit I was expecting John to demonstrate a suite of nifty computer tools that would target online threats to children and destroy them like virtual heat-seeking missiles.

He did no such thing.  Instead, he gave me the most comforting and heartening advice I could have hoped for:

I already have the tools I need to protect my children online.  Turns out it’s all about good parenting and “good old-fashioned family values”.

After hearing John’s talk, I feel comforted by the idea that if we let our kids know how much they’re loved and wrap them in family values, they will act with just as much kindness, decency and good sense in the virtual world as they do in the real one.

Cambridge News has a copy of John’s book, Keeping Your Children Safe Online – a Guide for New Zealand Parents, to give away.  Just email your name and contact phone number to sophie@cambridgenews.nz by 5pm, Friday 9 March to be in the random draw.

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