Brandon Laur gives a talk on digital literacy and internet safety. He wears a white hat, a nod to hacker culture, and to the hackers that protect internet safety. Photo submitted.

White Hatter educates students and parents on digital safety

On Tuesday, December 10, the White Hatter, an organization dedicated to educating people on internet safety and digital literacy, gave three talks about how to become digitally literate.

Two talks were given to students. The first talk was for grades 4-7 students, and the second was directed at high school students. The last of the three talks was in the evening, and was for parents.

For Brandon Laur, one of the White Hatters who presented on Tuesday, it’s about emphasizing the positives of technology, while also reminding people to stay safe.

“People are doing really cool and awesome things with their technology and we need to acknowledge and celebrate that fact,” said Laur. “At the same time, we have to ensure that parents and students are really using their critical thinking skills to question what they see.”

The name White Hatter was inspired by hackers. In the digital world, there are two kinds of hackers – black hat hackers, who attempt to access computer systems and operate often outside the law, and white hat hackers, who are employed legally to stop black hat hackers.

Increasing awareness and education around some of the dangers is one of the first steps towards building a safer online world, according to Laur. It’s important to educate yourself, because this technology won’t be going anywhere anytime soon.

“Everything we do is either controlled or mediated by technology, it impacts everything we do because it has been incorporated into everything,” said Laur. “Our job is to enlighten, not frighten.”

Topics that were covered in these talks range from cyber-bullying, to the dangers and legality of sexting for older students, to tools and resources that both parents and students can use when they come in contact with a potentially dangerous situation.

Laur says that the number one thing to remember when it comes to technology is that it’s not scary; it’s not hard to learn how to use something safely as long as you apply critical thinking skills.

For students, however, this can be difficult.

“A lot of the issues we see with younger people is usually because the critical thinking part of the brain isn’t fully developed yet,” said Laur. “We’ll be talking about the brain science of it all with the parents.”

The information that the White Hatters presented to parents about how to protect their children will also be applicable to themselves, according to Laur.

In fact, all the information in each presentation is applicable throughout the entirety of someone’s life. Parents will be able to apply the skills that they learn in the talk to their own lives, and protect themselves as working professionals online as well.

These skills will last a lifetime, and will hopefully inspire the people who were in attendance to properly digest and critically think about the content they consume online.

With the rapidly changing digital landscape, there’s no time like the present to arm yourself against the potential dangers that come with it, regardless of age.

For those that wish to seek more information, go to www.thewhitehatter.ca for resources on all the topics covered in Tuesday’s talks.

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