Our class was so lucky to be able to have the incredible Carol Todd join us in class this past week and it was so wonderful to be able to learn from her. Before Carol joined us, I had heard of her daughter Amanda’s story before but I still wanted to learn more, and learn from Carol within the context of Amanda’s story and legacy. In order to do this, I watched The Sextortion of Amanda Todd , Stalking Amanda Todd: The Man in the Shadows as well as Carol’s TedTalk.
One of the things that Carol said that really impacted me was how she talked to teenagers about their involvement with strangers online. She asked her students what they would do if they were sitting at home alone and heard a knock at the door. Would they call their parents to ask if they were expecting anyone? Would they peek through the curtain to see who it was? Would they hide away in their bedroom, scared?
Would they swing the door open and invite the stranger in.
Carol had mentioned that this parallel was so impactful for the teens that she was speaking with, and that they responded with things like, “I have never thought of it that way before.” For this reason, I think that it is so important that as teachers, we do as Carol did and walk with, teach, and open the eyes to children and teens about internet safety and cyberbullying. One thing that I have heard from many teachers and parents is that they are scared to talk about cyberbullying and internet usage at all because they think that it will only provide outlets and information to kids to use it more than they do. But I think that schools are THE ABSOLUTE BEST place for our students to be learning and having conversations about these things because as their teachers we can guide and teach them ways to be safe, responsible, and respectful online. We need our classrooms to be spaces where we demonstrate healthy online engagement with our students.
Another thing that Carol brought up that really stuck with me was putting in place a circle of trusted adults in student’s lives to enable them to be able to talk about any struggles that they may be having. Now, this sounds simple – but it is VITAL, especially because unfortunately, many students do not have a trusting or healthy relationship with their parents. Another reason is so that if students are not wanting to speak to their parents about something due to shame or anger etc. – these trusted adults can be an outlet for them so that they never feel isolated in an attempt to help to free them from any shame or humiliation.
“We need to click with compassion” – Monica Lewinsky
It was even more evident to me how far we have built this a culture of humiliation using the internet after watching MONICA LEWINSKY’S TedTalk titled The Price of Shame. Monica speaks about how these online spaces have become permissive environments where we allow awful, hateful, condemning language and threats that we “let go” because we convince ourselves that the person that they are directing them at did worse things than we ever could. But the reality of these types of hurts inflicted behind keyboards reaches far past any screen. Like Monica says in her talk, we need to remember that our right to freedom of expression also comes with a deep responsibility – one cannot exclude the other and she outlines a few of these responsibilities in three words consent, context, compassion.
“Shame cannot survive empathy” – Monica Lewinsky
online in the dramatic power shift that happens when condemning is chosen over empathy and compassion. People are quick to assume their own backstory and invent people as villains than understanding both intended and unintended context. Ronson explain Twitter users as “hunters” in a mutual approval machine. This creates a scary kind of groupthink. There is a website outlining what groupthink is where I also found these 8 symptoms (below – taken directly from site) that I found were unfortunately relevant to the account Ronson gives of Justine Sacco’s tweet and the subsequent devastating and malicious actions taken againt her via Twitter.
- Illusion of invulnerability –Creates excessive optimism that encourages taking extreme risks.
- Collective rationalization – Members discount warnings and do not reconsider their assumptions.
- Belief in inherent morality – Members believe in the rightness of their cause and therefore ignore the ethical or moral consequences of their decisions.
- Stereotyped views of out-groups – Negative views of “enemy” make effective responses to conflict seem unnecessary.
- Direct pressure on dissenters – Members are under pressure not to express arguments against any of the group’s views.
- Self-censorship – Doubts and deviations from the perceived group consensus are not expressed.
- Illusion of unanimity – The majority view and judgments are assumed to be unanimous.
- Self-appointed ‘mindguards’ – Members protect the group and the leader from information that is problematic or contradictory to the group’s cohesiveness, view, and/or decisions.
Unfortunately, the trend that I am noticing among these stories is that these people, these victims, are seen in 2D. They are seen as almost fictional characters, imagined by digital communities in a way that could never be related to, and thus, conscious’ remains clear and even our identities anonymous. When we see a post, we don’t see someone’s life, see their intention, see their hurt, see their family, see their past, see their context, see the implications of our hate – because our online perceptions are screen deep. I wish that people cyber sleuthed their cyberbullying victims in the same way that they cybersleuth the dates that their set-up on – to humanize them, to grow compassion amidst a simple profile. My goal as a teacher is to create an environment, an attitude, a responsibility in my students to view their online and offline lives as connected, and to view other’s online and offline lives as connected, as 3D, as precious, beautiful, valuable, lives and to have the grace and wisdom to approach healthy disagreements.