Stories like this always really touch me deeply. Although this subject might not be directly aligned with what I usually write on this blog, I felt the need to write about this because first I am a parent and as an active digital citizen, I strongly believe that we all have responsibilities to respect, educate and protect not only ourselves but also others as well.
I’m sure most of you have heard about Amanda Todd. If you don’t know her story, she sadly committed suicide last week at the age of 15 as a result of cyber bullying.
Amanda posted a YouTube video last month detailing how bullying (on and offline) began after an online stalker sent nude pictures of her to people she knew. Her video has now close to 4 million views.
Several memorial Pages have been created on Facebook (R.I.P Amanda Todd has over 975,535 likes as of today) and her story is being shared all over the world. But shockingly, the bullying is persisting and again Facebook is being used to post inappropriate pictures, Pages and disturbing comments of Amanda even after her death. To find out how to report these bullies on Facebook, please visit “How to Report Things”.
Unfortunately this is not an isolated case; there are many more stories like this! The fact that teens are connected to technology 24/7 means they are even more vulnerable than ever!
The American Academy of Pediatrics calls cyber bullying the “most common online risk for all teens.”
Like many other teens, Amanda Todd fell through the cracks as authorities never stepped up to help her. A national child exploitation group received a tip almost a year ago and was passed along to law enforcement as well as child welfare (source http://yhoo.it/WyTYVq). This was not just a case of cyber bullying but also child exploitation.
Social Media’s Impact on Teens
A large part of today’s generation’s social and emotional development is happening while on the web. Some potential risks for teens when using the web such as lacking awareness of privacy issues, internet addiction and cyber bullying are not to be ignored!
The web and social media sites like Facebook have definitely amplified bullying problems-39% of social network users have been cyber bullied in some way, compared with 22% of online teens who do not use social networks (http://pewinternet.org).
Despite all this, it’s not all negative. According to research by Common Sense Media, teens are much more likely to report that using social media has a positive impact on their social and emotional lives than a negative one. As well, social media can provide many additional socialization and communication benefits when used appropriately.
“Social media participation also can offer adolescents deeper benefits that extend into their view of self, community and the world”. (American Academy of Pediatrics Clinical Report)
While the web can be an incredible social and educational tool, children’s online safety and education depends on adults and parents taking a proactive approach.
What You Can Do About Cyber Bullying
- Make sure your kids have their privacy settings on social networks set correctly.
- Teach your kids about privacy such as never sharing passwords or personal information and the possible long term consequences of sharing too much information on the web.
- Talk to them about what to do if they get bullied or if they see others being bullied and what behavior is appropriate on the web. Bullying is not only wrong but it can have legal consequences!
- Make yourself familiar with the technology and social media sites your kids are using.
- Monitor your child’s online activities.
- Do a Google Search and Image search on your kids name to see if anything comes up.
- If you see any content, pages, comments that are inappropriate, don’t ignore it! Make sure to report it.
- Use parental controls on your computers to block access to inappropriate websites.
- Be a good role model.
Your Role as a Digital Citizen
As business owners, internet users, community members and digital citizens, we all have the ability to do social good, be positive influencers and active members of our communities. Everything we learn about being a good citizen in real life should also be carried over to our virtual lives. The digital footprints we leave behind can impact our privacy, reputation, jobs/business, security and relationships.
Being a digital citizen goes beyond simple Internet activity. Small businesses and individuals can harness the power of the web and social media to create positive change in their communities and even influence change across the globe.
“Young people will be safer online when they see that they can make a difference online and when their agency is acknowledged, respected, and guided by the adults in their lives.” ConnectSafely.org
Technology can be used to improve our lives in many ways but it can also have terrible consequences as it was the case for Amanda Todd. Our role as digital citizens is to make sure we don’t let this happen again by taking immediate action which can be as simple as reporting inappropriate online behaviour, providing support, educating others or actively participating in putting an end to cyber bullying.
What are you going to do?
Facebook has in place resources to help parents and teens fight bullying. https://www.facebook.com/help/420576171311103/
Twitter also has measures to help the fight against cyber bullying http://bit.ly/QZCZK3
CyberTip!ca Canada’s national tip line to report the online sexual exploitation of children https://www.cybertip.ca/app/en/
Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI) http://www.fosi.org
Web Wise Kids http://webwisekids.org
Connect Safely http://www.connectsafely.org
Common Sense Media http://www.commonsensemedia.org