The Keys to Online and Social Media Safety: Upcoming Guest Speaker
The formula he uses to deconstruct a constantly evolving, often-complex topic is simple.
For Paul Davis, a self-described “IT cyber father-figure” — it all boils down to this equation: facts + guidance = success.
“The way that my message has evolved, mostly, has been instilling the responsibility for their actions — literally each and every day — when they’re online.”
Davis has crisscrossed North America over the past 12 years visiting schools in-person and virtually, distilling the raw facts about online safety.
He will be speaking to students at St. Michael’s College School (SMCS) in early October 2022 about tech, social media, and digital awareness.
“The message in terms of what I deliver to students, when it comes to technology changes literally every month,” says Davis, whose background is in IT. “The core message of the impact on how they use it, is pretty much the same. It’s delivering a message of accountability and responsibility.”
There is no shortage of topics to address: privacy, digital footprint, safety, photo-sharing, sexting, consent, cyberbullying, inappropriate content, etc. Then there is the stream of new apps and functionality on existing or emerging platforms.
“One thing that’s really materialized over the years is we love coming up with excuses when something happens online,” he says. “Common excuses — I didn’t mean to, I wasn’t thinking, it was an accident, it was a mistake, a lapse of judgment, and the best excuse ever, which is, I was joking. The need for education has never been greater.”
This will be Davis’ fifth visit to SMCS.
When speaking to students on this topic, he does not mince his words.
“Your actions not only impact you, they impact your loving, caring, parents, guardians, and caregivers,” he says referencing some of his core messages. “The technology they’ve loaned you is owned by them. How you use it doesn’t just impact you, it impacts them. So, the next time you use a piece of technology, which you know is on loan to you by your parents — remember what you do will not be excused.”
What started as a one-off guest address at his daughter’s school when he worked in IT, has swelled a dozen years later to presentations delivered to more than 700,000 students and counting.
“My daughters were never overly restricted with how they used technology,” he continues, trying to dispel a common misconception he hears from many adults. “Did I have restrictions? One thousand per cent. But if there’s a message I deliver to parents is that restriction at a young age is important, because you’re cultivating their curiosity. You’re giving him a $1,000 phone. They have Wi-Fi or they have mobile data, and you have got to make sure they’re the right age to get on certain platforms.”
Davis’ approach with his children, who are young adults, was built, he says, on a balance between appropriate limitations and a healthy parent-child relationship.
“The one thing I know is that if a child doesn’t have the relationship with a parent, or guardian to say, ‘Hey Mom, I need to talk about something,’ and they go to their friend — it’s never a good outcome,” he adds. “But the kid who has a relationship with their parents that can open up about anything without fearing judgment, shame, or embarrassment — gets results.”
In the meantime, Davis’ goal with student audiences is always to be explicit and succinct.
“Give them factual information on how technology works, updated always with what’s new and trending, provide them with the guidance on making great choices.”
He also adds, provide them with appropriate food for thought, like this:
“A post you make reflects mom, dad, and yourself. So, make wise choices.”