This week I watched The Sextortion of Amanda Todd. When watching this video I was overwhelmed by many thoughts and emotions. There were different quotes that stuck out to me during the documentary that I had to stop the video to write down. I would like to take this time to reflect on these words that really impacted me.
“We’re in an age of technology that never goes away” (CBC, 2013).
I do not condone whomever took the screen shot that ultimately caused Amanda Todd to take her life, but the reality is that the choices we make online can affect us forever. If Amanda knew the potential risks/repercussions and understood what kind of predators were lurking in the cyber-universe she may have refrained from making the decision she did that day.
“The internet is an endless popularity contest” (CBC, 2013).
This is a statement that I unfortunately can relate to. As young teens we thrive for attention and what better and quicker way to do it then use the internet? I believe this what provoked Amanda Todd to make the choice she did while on BlogTV. She wanted to be accepted so badly that it clouded her judgement to the possible risks to her actions. The disheartening fact is that many girls (and boys!) have difficulty with their self-esteem and can reach out to the online community. They may meet people that seem nice and kind in the moment or like Amanda’s friends said “flattering” (CBC, 2013). In these moments it is hard or almost impossible to see these people as bad because you are receiving attention in ways you have never experienced before. All warning bells are hushed by the kind and endearing things said and youth become blind to the fact that these kind words may be a trap and that they could be putting themselves in a harmful situation. Because of this it is important for parents and educators to not only teach children how to protect themselves online and be aware of these dangers. We need to help students navigate the online world and be able to recognize who and what is safe.
But more importantly we need to teach them to care and love themselves. When Amanda Todd went online that day she was looking for the love and attention that was lacking in her life offline. If she had more confidence and felt like she fit in in the outside world I feel as if she would have been less likely to make the decision she did. I don’t know this for a fact, but I am speculating and relating my experience to hers. I know if I had felt like I fit in with my peers in high school and had a higher self-esteem I would not have fallen victim to trusting certain individuals online. In hindsight I recognize now that my vulnerability blinded me to the fact that I was being taken advantage of. Fortunately for me my mistakes have not come back to haunt me.
I don’t think explaining the dangers and telling students to be safe online is enough because it is likely they will go online with the mindset that it won’t happen to them or that adults are just being overprotective. To further help our students make the right choices when going online we need to help them become comfortable and happy in their own skin so they don’t need to go out and seek approval from others.
“You can get a different version of yourself…. You can edit yourself” (CBC, 2013).
Like I discussed above we need to help our students become confident individuals that love themselves. We need to help tear down the expectations social media has to be beautiful and perfect. We need to help our students lead a #nofilter lifestyle!! By doing this we can hopefully begin to prevent our students from reaching out to the online world in unhealthy ways. It is one thing looking for approval/encouragement/constructive criticism in your hobby (i.e. singing), but when you go on looking for reassurance on your looks and personality you begin entering dangerous territory. Students who seek attention online in this way may begin to do or say things to gain the attention of others and not consider the affect it may have on them after. They also may be too trusting to others who say things to them that make them feel special or wanted. As a result they can not recognize that they are being lured into an unsafe situation.
The internet can be a great tool for connecting with others, but when we don’t use it in the right way or do not fully understand it’s dangers is when it becomes a weapon of destruction.