Unfortunately I was unable to attend our live broadcast of ECMP 355 on Wednesday evening, but thanks to the power of technology, I was able to watch the recording of the class this weekend. Our prompt for our blog this week was fairly open ended. We were asked to respond to our guest presenter, Carol Todd. One would think that this would be easy. Carol Todd is the mother of Amanda Todd. For those of you who have not seen the 5th Estate documentary, The Sextortion of Amanda Todd, I highly recommend watching it. As I watched Carol Todd speak to the idea of digital citizenship, relating it to her daughter’s own experience, I was overwhelmed with her strength, her power, and her resilience. She was able to speak to her daughter’s legacy in a way that was uplifting. A way that shone light on what others can do to educate about digital citizenship, how to constructively use technology, and to think about how our actions can reflect who we are as human beings. But as I try to unpack everything that Todd shared with my class, I sit here unable to refine my thoughts.
I took the advice of my professor, Katia Hildebrandt, and watched the 5th Estate documentary, Stalking Amanda Todd: The Man in the Shadows. If you have any background with Amanda Todd’s story, this documentary follows the investigation of her online stalker. The disturbing part of this short, forty-minute documentary is the lack of commitment to finding this online predator. Could he have been stopped before Amanda Todd took her life? Watching this documentary helped me connect to some of the things Carol Todd spoke to our class about, mainly the steps that need to be taken by parents and educators in the technology literate world kids have come to know and love.
The Digital Playground
Something that Carol Todd spoke to our class about was this idea of the digital playground. This analogy she used was so effective because she was able to relate the world of yesterday to the world of today so to speak. She said that when her kids were growing up and going to an outdoor playground, she would take the time to make sure the park was safe. This means she would check the playground for broken glass, unsafe equipment, and document the other people using the playground. In the same way, parents need to take the time to check the so-called digital playgrounds that their kids are using. This means understanding the technology kids are using and teaching kids how to use them. Todd has an effective way of explaining this in her words below.
“Would you ever not teach your kids about driving a car when they are sixteen. As parents would we just hand over the keys and say ‘here you go, drive it, you’re sixteen now. We wouldn’t. So then why do we hand over cellphones and tablets without teaching them how to use it?’’
The problem is that not all parents see technology in the same way as they view their child driving a car. Why is that? Is it because they do not understand the dangers of technology? Is it because they don’t want to take the time to teach their kids about technology? Maybe it is simply that they did not grow up with the same access to technology as their children so they are unaware of the measures that need to be taken. Whatever the reason may be, parents need to understand the risks of the digital playground and take the time to educate themselves and their children. Technology is not going away. It is a part of the world that kids will grow up in. The question that everyone needs to answer is how are ways of parenting and teaching going to shift to meet the needs of technology. If there isn’t a change, the story of Amanda Todd is going to become an all too familiar one.