The emergence of the World Wide Web and YouTube, as described by Michael Wesch in An anthropological introduction to YouTube, a new participatory culture developed. People now are no longer passive viewers but active creators of content and though this opens a platform for creativity, it also has repercussions for opening an anonymity for hate speech.
What happened to Amanda Todd and so many other victims of cyber stalking and sexploitation just illuminates how dangerous this anonymity can be. You don’t always know who is on the other end of the messages you’re reading. Further, with all the software out there to misdirect where messages are coming from, it makes it that much more difficult to locate users. Amanda Todd’s mother, Carol, discusses, if her daughter’s predator was caught sooner, it might have saved Amanda’s life. Not only was Amanda stalked and exploited by an anonymous person, this exploitation escalated into in person and cyber bullying. Amanda felt alone.
Cyber bullying has the potential to escalate faster than the speed of light and as Justin Preston explains, in TELUS Dark Cloud: the high cost of cyberbullying, the more you read the comments, the more you start to believe what they are saying. This internalization negatively impacts a person’s mental, emotional, and physical well-being. Justin Preston and Carol Todd both took their tragedies and turned them into organizations to fight for their causes. Justin created Rise Against Bullying and Carol created the Amanda Todd Legacy Society.
The tragic reality is that there will always be predators looking to prey on and exploit the vulnerability that inhabits the average teenager, the best course of action is to raise awareness. As digital usage continues to gain momentum and the age of access continues to decrease, it is imperative to increase awareness of just how damaging cyber stalking and cyber bullying is and more resources need to be allocated to stop it in its tracks!
What does this mean for the future classroom?
An important emphasis we, as teachers, need to open student’s minds to is that they aren’t alone, that we are in a digital world and though that may grant us access to endless possibilities, these access points consequently make us vulnerable to being hacked, stalked, antagonized, bullied, and exploited. We need to teach our young people how to navigate through these risks and ensure that they feel like they can ask for help.
Raising awareness through continuous discussions about how to critically analyze comments, teach about bullying and cyberbullying, have diverse resources available from organizations (see below), reinforce a safe environment so students feel supported if they are in unsafe situations, take part in school activities that promote anti-bullying awareness like Pink Shirt Day.
How Pink Shirt Day Began
Organizations & Resources
It Gets Better Project - "a nonprofit organization with a mission to uplift, empower, and connect lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer youth around the globe"
Bullying Canada - "We speak with bullied youth and their parents; bullies and their parents; teachers, coaches, guidance counselors, and principals; school boards; local police if a child’s life is threatened; and local social services to get youth the counseling they need to heal."
Teachers' Essential Guide to Cyberbullying Prevention - "Get advice and resources to support your students."
Digital Citizenship & Social and Emotional Learning PDF - "This guide will help you connect challenging digital dilemmas to social and emotional skills through discussion questions, lessons, and digital tools that target key SEL skills and build students’ character."
Jenn New - an outgoing, nature loving, cooking competition addict, Moose Jawvian who just happens to be a C1-C2 ventilator dependent quadriplegic.