I had the privilege of listening to Carol Todd mother of Amanda Todd speak last week. If you are not familiar with the Amanda Todd story, she was a 15-year-old girl who took her own life after being blackmailed online. The man accused of blackmailing her is now on trial for child pornography and extortion in the Netherlands. Amanda put a heart-wrenching video up before her death about how this has effected her life that went viral. This is something that I hope will never happen again. Here is a link to a documentary explaining the story in more detail.
Carol Todd recently got back from attending the trial when she came to talk to the ECMP 355 class. I was in awe listening to this woman speak. She is an inspiration to listen to and she is so passionate in educating others about the dangers of the internet and Amanda’s story. There was not one once of pity come across in her voice when she talks about what she has gone through and how she continues to deal with it everyday.
Carol’s talk started with talking about the intrigue and the appeal that the Internet is to everyone, but in particular young people. You are able to post things; you get feedback whether it is good or bad, people are paying attention. Honestly, who doesn’t like to see the hearts and the likes that they can get when they post something. She related it back to children getting stickers when they do something good; it is a form of positive reinforcement. Young people are trying to experiment with where they fit into the world and who they want to be. In Amanda’s case she was quiet and the Internet gave her a voice, a voice that allowed her to showcase her talents such as singing. She was just a young girl wanting to break out of her bubble. It really seems so innocent. It could have been something innocent but the Internet has become a scaring place. Katia Hildebrandt said something that really stuck with me that “there is a false sense of security” when it comes to the Internet. Particularly with things like Snapchat, I am guilty of this as well, thinking that as soon as I send a silly picture that it will just disappear forever. This leads me into the next point that everyone needs to be educated in the proper use of technology.
Technology is becoming a part of our life, as I have said in other blog post, that we need to embrace it rather than fight it. But with this we also need to be aware of Digital Citizenship. It is something that people of all ages, with whatever device you may own, must learn about. An analogy that Carol Todd said really put this into perspective that “a phone is a computer, you wouldn’t give a kid keys and tell to go drive a car without teaching them how to.” Students need to be taught how to use social media forums, what is appropriate to put up, what to do when someone starts saying strange things.
The final point that I took away from the time with Carol Todd is the lack of empathy that our world has. Katia Hildebrandt talks about “In a world where forgetting is no longer possible, we might instead work towards greater empathy and forgiveness.” The mentality of students presently is something that is quite scary to me. Nobody helped Amanda. In Robbi’s blog post she talks about the mob-mentality. Yes, Amanda made a mistake but everyone deserves forgiveness and a shoulder to lean on. In the same blog post, Robbi also provides some great resources that can help in teaching empathy to students.
Digital Citizenship is something that I hope to learn more about personally. It is something that is important and that needs to be taken seriously in the classroom and in schools.
Here are some resources: