Monica L.’s Story, Digital Identity and Mental Health

I was touched and moved by this video. I appreciated the candidness of Monica’s sharing. 

It takes incredible courage and strength to come to a place of readiness to be able to openly share one’s journey in the ways she has with others.

She said It had taken her many years to become ready to share her story. She said that she shares it in the hopes that it will help others. And she does it so she can be strong in her own truths.

She said she was deeply affected by her online takedown, which occurred synonymously with the rise of social media. She suffered from the rumours, the gossip, the destruction of reputation and character. “Don’t most 22-year olds make a few mistakes that they regret in their life?,” she asks. I have to agree that she is right.

Why do we people think it is okay to be so mean, so cruel, so judgemental, so dehumanizing to others? Why does the anonymity of the internet bring out the worst in people?

Whether it is from the effects of cyberbullying, in person bullying, or other psycho-social conditions, our students are at risk. We must always remember this.

Our students are always at risk of experiencing deep levels of hurt. 
We are in a place to help them. We can change lives. We can save a life.

The truth is these deeply interwoven aspects and layers of mental health extend beyond just one realm of online or offline – some kids will be prone to emotional challenges no matter what their level of online safety practices and digital literacy. And some yet will be more likely to engage in risky online behaviour despite every heed and warning we could ever give. Still, it is our job to educate them. And further still, we must always be ready for potentially rising mental health crises in children and adolescents.

Mental health crises' can sneak up upon them - and us - so quickly.
We can make a choice to speak up. We can try to help.
We can make a difference. Do not ever forget it.

We can do an incredible service for our kids by truly familiarizing ourselves with the online platforms of which they become so well-acquainted to themselves. We can help to educate them to protect themselves. And we can support them along the way – connecting with the kids themselves – as well as with parents and the community.

Reaching out to colleagues, friends and counsellors is necessary to keep ourselves healthy. We must take the time to debrief. To seek all of the support that we need. Holding space for other’s suffering – witnessing their difficulties, and intervening in the ways that we may – can be difficult, painful, and cause our own suffering.

Some of these kids may have already had many struggles before we met them. There are limits to the ways we can support them. Coming to terms with these limits is challenging work. I believe we must always try – to be present, to offer our best selves- caring, supportive, empathetic. 

And ultimately, our job as teachers is to help guide them to become the best humans they can be – kind, caring, empathetic. Holding space for them matters. And just being there for them teaches them all of these values.

We can teach them that the world of communication and the ensuing responsibilities of this, falls not in one place – online or offline – but rather along the whole spectrum – in the realm of these mixed and complicated spaces.

Kids Help Line

Bell Let’s Talk

Crisis Services Canada – Suicide Prevention – Support

In each other’s spaces: Digital Sleuthing exercise

Left to right: Dani, Rosalie, Janet

For the class exercise, I snooped on my friend Rosalie. After this was complete, I gave her some feedback about her digital identity. 

One of things that stood out to me was Rosalie was surprised  about some of the information that was available about her online. She simply was not aware that certain information was out there. 

 It’s just nice to know what is publicly available or not. But all too often, we do not take the time to figure this out. For this reason, I feel grateful for this course, and the learning experiences that have been offered to us.

For example, neither of us realized that YouTube shares your personal playlists publicly. Rosalie seemed surprised by this and I was as well. For this reason, I’m going to check my own settings, and make sure I’m not sharing my YouTube lists with others. For me, I prefer to be more private with what I share with others. 

My friend and classmate Janet snooped on me. I felt fairly content with the feedback that she gave to me. Mainly, that most of my personal details, such as my birthday and address are hidden. I feel that’s important in protecting ourselves from threats like identity theft. Also, because I work in some higher-risk settings, I like to keep my home life safe and private. It was nice to hear the feedback from her that my online presence comes across as professional. This is what I aim for in the work I do through my business. 


After completing our class learning, my view has shifted. I now feel strongly that every person should be making themselves aware of what information is available about themselves online. It is so easy to live in an imaginary bubble where you do not think to ask yourself what kind of information about your life may be public, but it is a question everyone should be asking.

I plan to educate my family and friends about the importance of this. One of the aspects that I love about being a University Student, is the exposure to new ideas and concepts and the openness that comes along with it. I feel that it is easier to explore new ways of knowing and doing as a student. It is also easier to try to convince some of the hard-minded adults in my life to learn to think a little bit differently, when I can share knowledge from a classroom perspective.

Here are some articles I will share with my friends and family:

Manage Your Online Reputation

17 Things to Know Before Googling Yourself

10 Tips to Improve Your Online Privacy

Here are some resources for Working with Kids

What Can You Do To Protect Your Online Rep? (Video for Kids)

Educating Kids About Digital Privacy

Resources for Teachers – Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada