EDTC 300,  Professional Learning

Cyber Safety in My Schooling: Reflecting on the Past and Reimagining the Future

During my time in school, cyber safety was approached primarily through scare tactics. These methods aimed to instill fear and caution regarding internet use rather than fostering an understanding of responsible online behaviour. This approach included powerful, often distressing, stories and strict warnings about the permanence and legal ramifications of online actions.

Scare Tactics in Cyber Safety Education

One of the most significant examples of scare tactics used in my schooling was the Amanda Todd story. Amanda Todd, a young girl who tragically ended her life due to cyberbullying and exploitation, was a central figure in our cyber safety education. We were shown her YouTube video, where she narrated her painful experiences using flashcards. The intention behind sharing her story was to make us realize the severe consequences of irresponsible online behaviour, especially regarding sharing personal information and engaging with strangers.

Additionally, we were repeatedly told to never post anything we wouldn’t want our grandparents to see. This phrase was meant to remind us of the lasting impact of our digital footprint. The idea that “the internet is forever” was emphasized, cautioning us that anything we post online could resurface at any point in our lives, potentially causing harm.

A particularly memorable incident was a school-wide presentation in ninth grade addressing the issue of sharing explicit images. The presentation focused heavily on the legal implications, stressing that possessing, sending, or forwarding such images constituted child pornography, even if the photos were of yourself. The presenter spoke condescendingly, effectively shaming us and highlighting the potential legal troubles we could face.

The Ineffectiveness of Scare Tactics

In my experience, these scare tactics were not effective. Instead of fostering a deep understanding of digital citizenship, they created an atmosphere of fear and anxiety. Students often dismissed these warnings as exaggerated or irrelevant to their personal experiences. The condescending tone and shaming language used in the presentations alienated us rather than engaging us in meaningful discussions about responsible online behaviour.

Scare tactics tend to be counterproductive because they do not address the underlying reasons why students might engage in risky online behaviour. By focusing solely on the negative consequences, these approaches fail to provide practical guidance on how to navigate the digital world safely and responsibly. Moreover, fear-based strategies can lead to a sense of helplessness, as students may feel overwhelmed by the potential dangers of the internet without understanding how to protect themselves effectively.

A Better Approach: Education and Empowerment

Reflecting on my own experiences, I believe that a more effective approach to cyber safety education would involve a combination of education and empowerment. Instead of relying on fear, educators should focus on providing students with the knowledge and skills they need to navigate the digital landscape confidently and responsibly.

  • Schools should implement comprehensive digital literacy programs that cover a wide range of topics, including online privacy, cybersecurity, digital etiquette, and critical thinking. By equipping students with a solid understanding of these concepts, they can make informed decisions about their online activities.
  • Cyber safety education should be interactive and engaging, utilizing real-life scenarios and case studies to illustrate the importance of responsible online behaviour. Role-playing exercises, group discussions, and interactive workshops can help students understand the implications of their actions in a relatable and impactful way.
  • Instead of focusing solely on the negative consequences of online behaviour, educators should highlight positive examples and role models who demonstrate responsible digital citizenship. Showcasing individuals who use the internet for positive purposes, such as social activism or creative expression, can inspire students to use technology in meaningful and constructive ways.
  • Creating an open and supportive environment where students feel comfortable discussing their online experiences and concerns is crucial. Encouraging open dialogue allows students to share their perspectives and seek guidance without fear of judgment or punishment. Educators should foster a culture of trust and respect, where students feel empowered to make responsible choices.
  • Cyber safety education should extend beyond the classroom, involving parents and the wider community. Schools can organize workshops and information sessions for parents to educate them about online risks and provide strategies for supporting their children’s digital well-being. Collaboration between schools, parents, and community organizations can create a holistic approach to cyber safety.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the scare tactics used in my schooling were not effective in promoting responsible online behaviour. Instead of instilling fear and anxiety, educators should focus on comprehensive digital literacy education, interactive learning experiences, positive reinforcement, open dialogue, and community engagement. By empowering students with the knowledge and skills they need to navigate the digital world safely and responsibly, we can create a generation of informed and responsible digital citizens. Cyber safety education should be an ongoing process, adapting to the evolving digital landscape and equipping students with the tools they need to thrive in the digital age.

2 Comments

  • Katelyn Fuller

    Hi Anna,

    I enjoyed reading about your experience with cyber safety. I would say from reading your post, and reflecting back on my own I would say there are a couple of similarities in how we grew up in the digital world.I’m not sure if you’ve received your midterm review from the TA, but she mentioned in mine about adding in links and photos even in our “regular” blog posts not just the learning project posts!

    • Anna Van Winkoop

      Hi Katelyn!
      Thank you for sharing your thoughts! It’s interesting to hear that we had similar experiences growing up in the digital world. Cyber safety has always been crucial, and it’s great to see how our reflections align.
      I haven’t received my midterm review yet, but I appreciate the tip about adding links and photos to all our blog posts. It’s a great idea to make our content more engaging and informative. Thanks again for the suggestion and for connecting over our shared experiences!

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