Cyberbullying Reflections

Reading the initial article:

We were asked to read this article on a cyberbully’s trial, prior to our class. Unfortunately I missed class and so I am playing catch up now. I will post reflections before and after the article as well as responses I had during the class.

Initially, I reflected on how, when I see articles like this, I always read the site but don’t take time to upload the videos. I realized, after I watched the video in conjunction with the reading, how much learning I have likely been missing through this habit! The video had to do with Suicide Squad (and memes) whereas the article had to do with the trial of Amanda Todd’s cyberbully – they were related very little and so I learned more by making use of everything on the site.

After reading the article I reflected a lot on a person’s individual right to privacy and respect of their body. Threatening to leak images, when the person clearly does not want them on the Internet, is a clear case of abuse and is so sickening – as was the fact that they did this to blackmail the victims into sending more pictures.

I also reflected on the fact that I have seen others online who follow in Amanda’s footsteps, by writing on cue cards and then silently revealing them to the camera to tell a story about their life – usually not a good story. I did not know that Amanda Todd was the girl who started this. I believe that it is a great alternative to simply speaking one’s story – it sends chills because, to me, seeing words and no lips moving is almost like they have been silenced – they feel too emotional to speak, or they have had their rights (their voice, their power) taken away. The way in which the message is sent, also sends a message – if that makes sense.

I also wanted to share a sad reality I discovered when I googled Amanda Todd to post a photo of the written messages… Right below this photo:


was this photo…

Wow. My stomach churned when I saw this. The photo was tied back to Amanda Todd, so someone deliberately made this joke. I want to be a teacher who makes students stop and think about their morals, and not fall victim to just finding everything amusing/not caring about the effect our words and jokes have on others.

The fact that our young children have to navigate this online world of serious news, of disgustingly dark “humor”, makes me so saddened. I remember the first time I killed a monster online, for example (I was 6 or 7) and how I was momentarily traumatized… I can only IMAGINE how vulnerable, anxious, and torn children must feel nowadays with such dark things that can be accessed so quickly.

Kids must be thinking: Do I laugh at this meme because it’s supposed to be a joke, do I take it seriously and say it’s offensive – if I DO take offensive, will I get made fun of for not “loosening up”?

I remember seeing things like “I am going to kill myself” on Youtube comments and as a child I felt guilty but helpless, like I should be helping them but I didn’t know how because I was only a kid and any words I sent them would be through a computer and not face to face. I realize now, as an adult, that words – even if typed out and not heard – CAN make a difference. Don’t be afraid to take action, even if it is as simple as referring them to a helpline. It still is difficult when, as an online participator, depending on the forums you are going through you could be seeing these messages dozens of times a day.

Reflections on the Documentary “The Sextortion of Amanda Todd”:

As her mother was talking about how she was good with technology and so she had her face and identity posted a lot online, it made me think how sad this is… How technology could actually have opened doors for her and become something she made her life out of. It isn’t technology itself that created hell for her, and as teachers we need to remember that when we are thinking of introducing technology to classrooms… it is the PEOPLE BEHIND that technology. It is her extortionist, the bullies, who did so much damage to her, and unfortunately they used technology – something she excelled at and enjoyed, ironically and tragically – as a powerful tool against her. I also found it sad how, the more she was online, she got obsessed with her image – she needed to learn how to use the technology in moderation, to get her voice out there, but not have it consume her.

I also thought about my times on a site called Horseland. Before it was turned into a cartoony, little-kid website, there was lots of freedom as to how you could design your pages and horse photos, and so both kids and adults would play to perfect their graphics skills and meet fellow horse lovers. It wasn’t set up like a 3d computer game, it was set up so you literally had to click buttons over and over to “train” your horse. (The site is not even recognizable anymore – they cater to an entirely different population now.) I felt popular on the site because I made many friends, and was on the chatroom very often sharing my interests and whatnot with them. I made graphic designs with photoshop and excelled incredibly – at age 11 I could cut out images and transfer them seamlessly onto other backgrounds, creating entirely new photos. I also knew HTML coding to create the layouts around the graphics. I would sell my skills for the currency of the site, and then buy horses/trainers/ etc. with the money bought – in short, the online world also taught me a lot about business and economics. (Neopets is another good site for teaching children financial and pet responsibilities, too.)

I knew what was safe to share and what wasn’t, but what I definitely learned on there was how some people just need to be avoided. There were a few players who were so rude, and the worst part was that they were extremely intelligent and manipulative (charismatic, in a bad way) too and everyone knew it. They could have used their gifts for good, but instead used it to put others down. So I learned a lot about the good and bad sides of humanity on this little website.

“Now today’s creepy old man is 25 or younger” really stood out to me because, growing up, I was told to watch out for older men and not younger. This is very important for me, when I am having discussions about online safety with my students. Just because someone is young, does NOT mean they aren’t dangerous. I also think it is important not to count women out, as well – who can be just as predatory and manipulative.

The conversations between pedophiles/extortionists about asking advice on how to blackmail made me reflect on how the Internet can be “helpful” to ANYONE. I was told often as a child that pedophiles build communities, and in this tech age it is easier than ever to quietly make “friends” and get stronger. This is why we always hear about RCMP/vigilantes breaking up pedophilia “rings”.

When the RCMP told Amanda Todd to change her behavior, instead of going after the perpetrator, it basically made me think of victim-blame in our society. I remember arguing with my mother when a university security guard told me to “lock the door to the music room in case some guys decide to bother you” instead of allowing me the freedom to play with the door open, and promise to reprimand men if they did anything inappropriate. It is too close to the idea of “she asked for it” for my liking. I was immediately reminded of this perfect photo that cheekily points out that preventing rape is up to the RAPIST – it should not be up to the victim to change their behavior.

I love what Carol said about how Amanda’s video wasn’t a suicide video, it was a release video. I completely agree and thought along those lines when I read the first Amanda Todd article and focused in on those messages – the arts (drama, poetry, painting, photography) are all amazing ways in which we can actually sort ourselves out and begin to heal. I am a firm believer that we need to look at our issues to fix them, and that is what she was doing – looking at them, figuring things out.

Reflections after The Class Video:

I found it interesting how one man (jphiliprose) acts as a full time troll to try to “take down” Carol Todd and prove the Amanda Todd cyberbullying case as “fake” – I really wonder what drives him to be this obsessed, and this out of touch with reality that he goes so far to disprove what is a tragic example of the effects of cyberbullying. It blows my mind – then again, a lot of humanity does.

I love how Katia encouraged being open with talking to students about “trolls” and bullies online, so they are aware of the reality and aren’t blindsided when they run into one online.

I like how the first thing Carol brought our attention to was Amanda’s Youtube video, and I can’t believe I didn’t think of watching that. When I hear sober news stories like this I subconsciously distance myself – I don’t want to go and get the personal details etc. However I think firsthand learning (from the source – the victim) is extremely valuable.

Carol mentions how over-judgement turns into cyberbullying – it is an escalation of criticism. Carol’s advice to those building relationships with children is to open the line of communication with them – building trust, safety, where they feel they can initiate conversation about things that bother them, without fear of being scolded etc.

She mentions how Amanda enjoyed sharing online because she got positive feedback, and I do believe that all people need to experience good attention to succeed in life, so it is so great that Amanda (and others) could have that opportunity through technology, where in real life their parents or teachers may not be supportive and giving them the attention they need.

Carol also stresses how you can’t be gullible online, which I completely agree with. I want to see the good in people, I usually give people the benefit of the doubt, and I believe that does make me a good adult for students because they feel safe and cared about. However, online, I need to continually remind myself to check everything out, be critical, and be reserved – I like to overshare, I like to learn, and I like to trust, and as Carol says not everyone can be trusted. This definitely will be going on in the back of my head in my future online relations with those I do not know face to face. I was thinking in particular about all that I share on dating sites, and then when Carol Todd brought that up I thought… whoa, this is hitting close to home. Yes I am 22, but I am also relatively tiny and helpless in some situations, and so I do need to be careful and really respect myself by being reserved and cautious.

I commend Carol for being a trailblazer in pushing through to make sure pedophiles and sexploiters face punishment for their illegal online behaviors. Unfortunately, although online technology has been around for decades, legal conditions to keep it safe are still a ways off!

I thought it was interesting how Carol Todd said some people think 9-10 years old is too young to be teaching safe online digital identities… The Chinook School Division does not think so! When I interned, my grade 4s went through an online class (on Moodle) on Digital Citizenship. All of them each had a password which led them to modules with different learning objectives (and ways of assessing/learning – forums, multiple choice quizzes, etc.) and they learned about being safe and savvy online in an authentic context (they weren’t learning about online safety but by reading it in a textbook) and had opportunities to talk about websites they use, learn how to post in forums, and so on. I wish I could share it with you but unfortunately it is closed only to Chinook staff and students! However the teacher of the course provided me with these links as extra resources, which you are welcome to check out:

Common Sense Media – American (Different programs for K-2, 3-5, and 6-8)

Ignition – Digital Literacy and Responsibility

Australian Digital Citizenship

I thought it was GREAT that RCMP have resources on online safety, and I thank you so much Carol for encouraging the community (read: us as schoolteachers!!) to make use of that valuable resource and invite them into our schools to talk.

Our daycare is 100% technology free (NO screens) and I connected strongly to that when Carol brought up the topic of role models and technology. It amazes me how many adults act like little kids on technology, ignoring their children as they play away on games or socialize with friends – it is so sad looking at a lonely child as their parent is clearly addicted to technology. I hadn’t thought of this in relation to safety but it makes sense – show your children that they, like you, do not need to survive on technology 24/7 – that you can be a strong, smart, capable person, and you don’t always need to be online looking for the approval of others/trying to make friends with those who troll you online. It is not much of a challenge to get students interested in non-technology activities because they are used to it, and I think it is good that – even if their parents are dependent on technology – their daycare workers can go a whole day without playing on their phones, and spend time with them instead!

That swimming analogy was fantastic. We shouldn’t throw students into technology and expect them to learn it all themselves – we need to guide, and learn alongside them. For all of the people who say “It is as though my 3 year old knows my iPad better than me…” it is not true. They may know how to get places, but not how to be safe. I thought my Grade 4s would be tech savvier on my laptops than I was, but they struggled with how to capitalize letters (some didn’t know the concept of holding down shift!)

“It takes a second to put yourselves up, it takes never to get yourselves down” – this quote of Carol’s is so true and echoed what Katia had touched on in an earlier class. Life is fleeting, but the online world is an eternal record. Think before you post.

What Carol and Katia said about a “false sense of security” also made sense – even if it sounds like a good deal, hold onto your morals. Even if you think it is 100% safe to send the nudes, if you don’t want anyone else to see them… wait until you see your significant other in person to undress! Because with hackers, untrustworthy friends, and even technological accidents… something can always go wrong.


One thought on “Cyberbullying Reflections

  1. Pingback: Carol Todd’s Visit – The Powers of the Internet | Dakota Browne

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