The internet can be a really scary, deceptive place. Because of the anonymity that is allowed, people are able to hide behind their aliases and hurl insults and hurtful language to people they have never met. It’s causing our students to have low self esteem and suffer more frequently from depression and anxiety disorders. What is the antidote and how do we allow students to be their full authentic selves while not giving too much personal information away? What about ourselves?
According to New Report Reveals Inconsistent Privacy and Security Practices in Ed Tech, teachers must “seek out companies that have responsible practices.” How much thought do teachers put into exposing their students to the latest educational technology before they actually know what it is about? According to the article, seventy-four percent of the educational technology companies that they researched reserved the right to transfer any information they collected to a third party. These companies are using the information from our students before they even have the legal ability to vote. Something is wrong here.
The Educator Toolkit for Teacher and Student Privacy states “teachers and students throughout the United States have their personal data shared with dozens, if not hundreds, of technology companies, organizations, and government agencies over the course of a normal school year, seriously threatening their privacy.” Every day, teachers and students are voluntarily signing up to have their data used in a variety of ways. It is usually explained in the “one-hundred page” agreement that you must agree to before signing up for a website or app, but how many of us really read those?
As an educator (or just a human being), it is important for me to be my authentic, sometimes messy self. I also teach this to my students; that is, that they show up and be seen. How can we do this if big technology companies are around the corner trying to use whatever they say and take advantage of their vulnerability? I’ve compiled a list of steps that I think are important for students to remember when they are opening up and being vulnerable:
- “What other people think of me is none of my business.” Laverne Cox, Trans Activist.
I first heard this quote when I was listening to a podcast and have since made it a part of my daily mantra. I listen to my inner “Knowing” (a Glennon Doyle reference) and I make the decisions that best fit my life. I think that we must start from an early age in teaching our students to be emotionally resilient and let go of what others “think.”
- Words do hurt. Students must realize that the words they use against people on the internet have real life consequences and can cause someone a great deal of pain or lift someone’s spirits. We must teach our students to always think before they post. Sometimes if I need to write a difficult email, I will let it sit overnight and come back to it in the morning. I never want my raw, unfiltered emotion changing the way I treat other people.
- Not everyone deserves your vulnerability and to hear your story. Brene Brown states that we should only share our story with those who have earned the right to hear our story. Do not share your story with people who will use it as a weapon against you. Share it with people who are also willing to share and be vulnerable.
In conclusion, I believe that while it is important to be careful about the type of information that we put out on the internet, I think that it is equally important that we help to foster a society where we denounce shame and live our authentic truths. True connection cannot happen when we remained guarded and don’t allow anyone into the vulnerable aspects of our lives.