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This past week I watched a very sad indictment of the "Sextortion of Amanda Todd" being aired on CBC The Fifth Estate, to commemorate the anniversary of Amanda's death. I was horrified to hear how twelve and thirteen year old teens are sharing lewd images of themselves on group blogging and webcam sites. I was even more than horrified to see how online predators could take advantage of such students, and blackmail them into sharing more revealing images. This tragedy exemplifies some insidious dangers inherent with image sharing sites, such as SnapChat and Instagram, and with private chat rooms. Media literacy is not the topic on display, and images provoke more than just fear, or isolation, they can provoke students to suicide.
This brought to mind many ways as parents we need to be involved in our students' "online time"?
You will often hear students saying that the time they spend alone on their computers is private and they have the "rights" to not share their online behaviour. Not only are cases of cyber bullying on the increase, many are not being reported for fear of reprisal. Often the RCMP cannot respond to complaints in time, due to the nature of time sensitive issues regarding the Internet.
So what can we as parents/teachers do in this situation?
- Help our students gain awareness of maintaining appropriate digital citizenship, about creating a digital footprint, empowering them with rules and behaviour for fostering online friends.
- Consider and decide how your family may choose to monitor online and offline conversations. Teens are often awake late into the night when lights go out.
- Encourage loving relationship with your developing teen, that includes lots of openness to discuss all kinds of topics.
- Discuss and encourage safe digital citizenship such as those found in moderated sites like our school Ning.
- Discuss and apply safe strategies around online activities in group Skype/webcam/google hangout chats if there are no moderators.
- Discuss why there are age restrictions set by social media sites. As a parent you know your child's emotional maturity and ability to communicate responsibly. You may choose to wait until your student is 13 or older before establishing a social network profile.
- Pray for your students to imbibe wisdom in relationship, and in sharing personal information and healthy self esteem.
For information on sites which can help you deal with bullying and preventative education go here. To watch a great powerpoint with good discussion topics go here