This week, I had the privilege of listening to Carol Todd as she visited one of my university classes. If you are unfamiliar with who Carol Todd is, she is the mother of Amanda Todd. If you haven’t heard of Amanda Todd, I encourage you to watch the video below.
Carol is an inspiring woman, who demonstrates strength and resilience’s in unimaginable circumstances. She is open and willing to share their story, and uses her experience to raise awareness towards mental health, cyber bullying, and internet safety.
After listening to Carols story, my initial reaction was fear for my students and fear for my role as an educator in this era of technology. As my fellow educator, Emily Grace shared, “I figured if I just wrapped them in bubble wrap and refused internet access, I should be good, right?” This was my first, go-to reaction. The safest way to keep students from harm on the internet is to just limit their use, right? As Emily continued to share, in a world which technology is now a staple of, limiting students use of technology is not only unreasonable, but likely impossible. The best way to battle cyber bulling and internet concerns are to educate students, and to encourage proper use of technology.
There are multiple engaging ways to teach students about internet safety, and the importance of monitoring what they post. One way which I have constantly seen as I scroll through my Facebook feed, is that of educators asking for their posts to go viral. As I asked google for a single example of one of these stories, I was bombarded with story after story of teachers using this strategy in their classroom. One which really spoke to me was from a sixth grade teacher in Oklahoma. She shared that she noticed more and more inappropriate images from her students, and students alike, that were being posted online. Whether it showcased a student with their middle finger proudly raised in the air, or of young girls in their bras, the images were alarming. After writing a little note and posting it to Facebook, it went viral within hours- reaching over 50 states and countries all over the world. This is one of story of many, that truly demonstrated to students about how quickly what they post on the internet can reach others.
The Sextortion of Amanda Todd discusses another huge issue that students are faced with as they use social media and the internet. “Sextortion” was a term I was not previously aware of. For those of you who were in the same boat as me, Share Care defines it as, “Sextortion occurs when a person uses guilt, power, or knowledge of a certain secret to force another person into providing sexually explicit photos, having sex, or performing sexual favors.” As an educator, I often struggle with what topics should be discussed in the classroom, and what topics should be left alone. As sextortion was a central part of Amanda’s story, are topics of sexting and engaging in sexual relationships over the internet something that should be addressed in a classroom, or left to parents to discuss at home? These topics are so important, and are a reality of the world we live in today. As an educator, I believe promoting awareness and responsibly in regards to what you are posting online is crucial to avoid situations such as sextortion. Showing students how quickly their posts can go viral, as well as demonstrating to them how nothing can ever be completely erased from the internet, are realizations we need to teach our students. I also think that in a world which is increasingly “hyper-sexualized” we need to focus on self-identify, and respecting ones self and body.
I am interested in what your thoughts are regarding internet safety for our students. How would you educate students on internet safety in your classroom? What do you think are the best ways to actually get through to students in regards to their conduct online?
Thanks for reading & I look forward to reading your ideas!