Fear not.

I am feeling some of the same feelings I had last semester. I left EC&I 832 feeling digitally literate and confident with my ability to teach digital citizenship, but this week I was thrown a curve ball! I was introduced to many new social media sites and tools. I had heard about a few of these sites, but never really knew what they were, nor had the curiosity to check out.


Photo Credit: filipinooutsourcers via Compfight cc

Many of these sites, such as YikYak and 4chan, allow users to comment and participate anonymously. Nima Naimi says the anonymity offered by the app may lead to a lack of empathy and users saying things that they wouldn’t normally say in person. Participants in these communities can say and do almost anything they want without being accountable. So we should ban them and rid the internet of these sites, right?

Young people are also turning to the internet and social media to cyber self-harm. Students are inflicting psychological self-harm on sites such as Reddit, Ask FM, and Tumblr. They do this by creating fake online identities to attack themselves and inviting strangers to do the same. They may be doing it to finally open the conversation so they can get the help and support they need, they may be experiencing a mental health disorder and this is the most suiting outlet for them, maybe it is low self-esteem or depression. Needless to say, this is a growing issue and is impacting more and more teens and youth. So we should ban them and rid the internet of these sites, right?

Teens and students are also being exposed to porn and explicit images at younger ages. All you need is one kid in the playground going looking for the bad stuff and every kid sees it. Students are seeing stuff on the internet that they are unable to process and are confused about. Furthermore, one student can expose many others to these online searches. For example, just this past week at school we found in the search history on one of our shared tablets “porn” and some other explicative searches. Unfortunately, since this is a shared tablet and doesn’t require a log-in we were unable to find out who (out of the 3 classrooms using the tablet) was performing this search. So we should ban them and build restrictive firewalls of these sites, right?

The answer to all the above questions is NO. Of course we have to be aware of the complicated and sometimes complex issues that may come from these sites, but at the same time there is a bigger picture. How do we teach our students to be empathetic in online spaces? How do we combat issues such as cyber self-harm and cyber-bullying? How do we help kids cope with a digital deluge of inappropriate images?

The answer is not by shoving it under the rug and pretending it is not an issue. The answer is also not by banning students from using the internet and restricting all access. The answer is by teaching and modeling digital citizenship. If we don’t explicitly teach, keep the conversations open, and talk about the issues, we are leaving students to figure out these complicated and complex issues on their own. Something they may not be capable of doing at this point in time.

To be honest, I was quite shocked to hear of some of the popular sites and things available on the internet (even though I consider myself as quite tech savvy). I am thankful for this course and my learning project as it has given me a purpose to:

“Download it, try it, poke around, see how it works, see the kinds of things that are being posted,” he suggested. “And that’s just going to help you have a better understanding and open up a dialogue with kids.” – Dan Misener via CBC News




6 thoughts on “Fear not.

  1. andreachalifour says:

    Yes, I think you are right in having to teach digital citizenship. It is certainly tricky in some ways though. I am having these conversations with my own seven year old and he just doesn’t have the knowledge base to understand why he just can’t go anywhere he wants on the Internet.

    • Kristina Boutilier says:

      I totally agree Andrea! It is so tricky, especially with young children when they don’t have the context. I think at that young age it is important to monitor and be aware of what your children/students are visiting and from there have conversations.

  2. asingh2 says:

    Great post Kristina- I too did not know about many of the sites discussed this week, I question how many Students in our city are accessing and using them?

    The idea of teens self hurting via SM is something that I had never considered before either, and I think some of the questions you raise are important. How do we help our children in this information/technology age- and you’re right perhaps more importantly how do we balance the discussions/teaching pieces with the fact that our children are still children?

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

    • Kristina Boutilier says:

      I agree Amy… I bet we would be surprised to know how many were actually going to them!

      I am hoping by the end of this course I will be able to have some ideas on how to answer those questions! I think the starting point is constant communication between parents, students, and teachers on these issues. I don’t think shoving them under the rug and pretending they are not there will work. Of course everything has to be done in context and at an appropriate time, but I am happy I am exposed to this information so now I know what is out there!

  3. Shantelle Roundell says:

    As I read each bolded question at the end of each paragraph I was thinking “YES!” and “Can we really ban them?” but before I even got to the end of your blog I had already concluded that as soon as something is banned, another similar forum is created for people to participate in the exact same behaviours. So what’s the point in trying to ban everything bad when you know you can’t keep up to it?

    I agree the answer is in digital citizenship for our students and own children. And not just a three-part lesson done in September so your class is allowed to use the technology. It has to be ongoing conversations and as issues are brought up. Otherwise kids are left on their own to decide how to process the information and to choose whether or not to participate and engage in those activities.

    Great post – lots to think about!

    • Kristina Boutilier says:

      Totally agree Shantelle! There will always be a new thing to “ban” so it is all about teaching citizenship. Someone in class said it is a behavioural issue, not a technology or app issue and I couldn’t agree more!

      AMEN! It is way more than a 3 part lesson done in September!!!!

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