The balance of teaching digital citizenship

I watched the documentary The Sextortion of Amanda Todd found it extremely eye opening, as I didn’t know the whole story behind her suicide; the extent the extortion had gone to. If you don’t know the story already Amanda Todd was a young girl who was extorted and bullied into committing suicide after pictures of her flashing were released online and sent to people at her school; with the extorters goal being to get more pictures. This documentary really affected me; I felt a lot of anger and disappointment towards the RCMP who told her parents asking for help for their underage daughter who was being extorted that “if Amanda does not stay off the Internet and/or take steps to protect herself online there is only so much we as the police can do”(The Sextortion of Amanda Todd); this essentially teaches kids to not come forward with issues surrounding the internet as they would have to give up their online identity. I also felt both hope and sadness; hope when I did research afterwards and found that there is a person believed to be connected with Amanda’s extortion in custody (Vanmala and Lundman), and that law enforcement will take future cases more seriously, and sadness because this all came much to late to save Amanda.

Knowing that there are places on the internet where adults will gather and coldly and methodically plan the extortion of a young girl is extremely terrifying, and made me realize the importance of teaching online literacy/digital citizenship in my future classrooms. This is important because hopefully we can encourage our students to both become a part of the many inviting communities that can be found online and to alert us if they find something that they are uncomfortable with rather than trying to deal with it on their own. One thing I worry about is how to teach my students to be wary of the internet without making it seem evil, as I know in my educational experience this was not the case; our teachers didn’t know the internet very well if at all and taught us to stay away from it. This teaching method led to us finding our own way into the vast areas of the internet with no support system. It seems like a delicate balance between teaching them about how to be safe/create positive digital identities while supporting them through their exploration.

“The Sextortion of Amanda Todd.” The Fifth Estate. Prod./director, Tamar
Weinstein; prod., Rachel Houlihan. WEB. CBC, 2013.

Vanmala, Surbramaniam and Lundman, Susan. “Dutch man suspected of tormenting Amanda
Todd had 75 other victims, Facebook report says.” CBS News-Canada. CBS News-
Canada, 5 December 2014. Web. 18 October 2015.

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