I remember my life before social media, do you? As a future educator, I must remind myself that many, if not all, of the students I will teach have grown up in the eyes of social media. Seeing as they have grown up in this world, chances are they may not be aware of all the possible benefits and more so dangers associated with their digital identity. In a technology-based world that no longer forgets even the slightest of slipups, it seems students, who sometimes lack filters, are the most vulnerable when it comes to damaging their permanent digital identity. For this reason, I believe schools and teachers have an important role in educating students in proper digital citizenship and protecting their digital identity. As a Secondary Social Studies teacher, I would create lesson plans revolving around the creation of the internet and social media, while taking a look at the online backlash and criticism that has ruined lives over decades, as a result of the creation of the internet and various online platforms. This would include victims such as Monica Lewinsky, Justine Sacco, and Amanda Todd, each who have experienced online harassment and bullying in some form. With my students, I would also explore how to create a positive digital footprint and what it means to be a good digital citizen, likely using videos such as these to illustrate this idea.
I would also talk to students about being aware and careful of the personal information they post on social media or share with websites, as there is always the possibility of being hacked, especially as hacking is on the rise. Being aware of your online presence is now as important as being aware of your offline presence.
One of the videos I watched through my EDTC 300 course to create this blog post was “The Price of Shame” by Monica Lewinsky. Monica Lewinsky has first-hand knowledge of how it feels to be a headline across the digital world, but chances are, she would do anything to change that. When her scandal with President Bill Clinton was plastered first across the internet, then newspapers, television, and radio, it rocked Monica’s world. As Monica says, her scandal was “the first time the traditional news was usurped by the Internet for a major news story.” This makes her the first large-scale case of online harassment, bullying, and slut-shaming by media sources, but also, potentially by anyone who had access to the internet. Recalling the events which followed the scandal, Monica says she “feared [she] would be humiliated to death, literally.”
This quote from Monica’s Ted Talk stuck with me:
“In 1998, we had no way of knowing where this brave new technology called the Internet would take us. Since then, it has connected people in unimaginable ways, joining lost siblings, saving lives, launching revolutions, but the darkness, cyberbullying, and slut-shaming that I experienced had mushroomed. Every day online, people, especially young people, who are not developmentally equipped to handle this, are so abused and humiliated that they can’t imagine living to the next day and some, tragically, don’t, and there is nothing virtual about that.”
This quote reminds me of a saying I learned growing up: “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.” The internet has proven this childish saying untrue, as suicide is the second leading cause of death among Canadian young adults (age 15-24) as of 2015. As of September 15, 2009, a study by the World Health Organization “shows that young people are often at risk [of suicide], and that suicide is the second largest cause of mortality in the 10-24 age group.”
As teachers, we must remind students to be careful with their digital identities, as it is no longer a person’s reputation that follows them everywhere but also their digital reputation and identity, and that if not carefully crafted, their digital lives could potentially ruin their physical lives, as well as many future opportunities.