This week we had the pleasure of having Carol Todd speak to us. She is the mother of Amanda Todd the young woman who ended her life because of the online harassment that she was receiving. The first thing I did after listening to Carol speak was watch “Stalking Amanda Todd: The Man is the Shadows” from the Fifth Estate.
I googled the term Cyberbullying and got the definition, “Cyberbullying is the act of harming or harassing via information technology networks in a repeated and deliberate manner. According to U.S. Legal Definitions, “cyber-bullying could be limited to posting rumors or gossips about a person in the internet bringing about hatred in other’s minds; or it may go to the extent of personally identifying victims and publishing materials severely defaming and humiliating them.” via wikipedia. I also found that in Canada, suicide is the second highest cause of death for youth aged 10-24. Each year, on average, 294 youths die from suicide. Many more attempt suicide. Aboriginal teens and gay and lesbian teens may be at particularly high risk, depending on the community they live in and their own self esteem. (Canadian Children’s Rights Council) This is an astounding number, I think many youth similar to Amanda Todd get sucked into these online communities and then are blackmailed and can’t escape them. These people who are online harassing youth are manipulative and conniving and they know how to get under peoples skin in order to get what they want out of people. One of the things Carol talked about was educating our youth and how to safely using technology, she had the example of we would not just had a set of keys to a 16 year old and let them drive without teaching them, similarly we cannot hand a cell phone, an Ipad or a laptop to a young person without teaching the how to properly use it. With all of the apps and social media networks available it is crucial that youth know what is and is not appropriate when using them.
The following video by The National talks about how social media is affecting teens.
With how prevalent social media is within our society it is important to help students understand how to develop their digital citizenship. It is also important to show youth that social media does not need to consume their lives and that life does exist beyond their phones and computers. Not only is it important to show youth how to appropriately use technology but I also think we have the responsibility to educate our students on supports that are out there if they are being harassed online. I think information is key when talking to our youth about technology. They need to know the dangers that exist and they need to know how to navigate online in a safe way. If we can effectively do this then I believe we can hopefully prevent tragedies like Amanda Todd’s death.