This past week I chose to watch and respond to the two documentaries recommended, Sext Up Kids and The Sextortion of Amanda Todd. I expected a response to flow immediately, however, what I watched and learned from both left me utterly speechless.
Here I am, nearly one week later, still stammering over words and jumbled thoughts about the serious issues these two documentaries introduced me to.
Lingerie lines for 4 to 12 year olds? Cappers? Kagoy?
What happened to kids will be kids? Simple Barbie dolls without thong underwear? Why is sex selling to all ages, rather than just the targeted twenty somethings?
It should not be targeting my innocent, precious 4 year old niece who already looks at her reflection and says she is “too chubby” for her age appropriate Dora the Explorer bathing suit. Grade four students should not be describing and demonstrating to me what “twerking” is: “Miss Kuntz, you need to tell your nephew ‘shaking the butt’ is actually called twerking these days. It’s a lot of fun to do.”
We have some changes to make. I want a revolution. I want to change this world we are in.
While I realize it is not all up to me as an educator, I can’t ignore how important teaching digital citizenship and healthy technology use is for both the students and the parents. It is important I display, demonstrate, and help students develop a positive online presence. Furthermore, it is important I introduce and explain the importance of an online presence to the hesitant and naive parents to ensure consistent and effective assistance for the students stepping into this monstrous online universe.
It is vital students understand the consequences of their online actions. We must trust our students with technology and social media, but also present immediate consequences for misconduct online. This presents an obvious dilemma: what do we do when it happens outside of school hours? Do we refuse to get involved when it’s outside of school hours? Do we monitor and get involved in dire circumstances?
My stance I hope to apply in my classroom: if it comes into my classroom, it becomes my problem. If a student’s online misconduct creates drama, fear, or discomfort for other students, I will address the issue. I will use it as a teachable moment to emphasize consequences of poor digital citizenship. I believe it is moments like these students will walk away with greater understanding and knowledge.
It is also important students learn from tragic stories such as Amanda Todd. At first, I made the uneducated assumption Amanda’s situation was an extreme and rare case. After watching the documentary, I sadly realized her online experience is the norm for many adolescents. It is important students develop confidence and self esteem to understand they do not need to show themselves. This generation has become focused on getting “likes” on social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter that they stop at nothing to gain followers, friends, and favourites. In order to avoid negative outcomes, we must demonstrate to students healthier choices and experiences to post or like online. When students begin to place value on photos of healthy interactions and involvement rather than glorified sexual and racy content, we will see a positive shift both online and in our classroom.
I acknowledge this “sext up” situation is beyond the classroom; society is sex-obsessed. I do believe as a teacher it is possible to inform, influence and possibly even become the role model students will look up to rather than the half naked men and women singing in half time shows. Through building strong relationships, demonstrating care and concern for each student, I believe I can help my students be the change, the revolution, we need to see, and everything will be alright.