The Web of Shame

The web has a way of making it extremely accessible to shame people. Instances like what happened to Amanda Todd and Monica Lewinsky have shown that the media can create a giant web of shame that can have detrimental consequences. For example, Amanda Todd was the victim of sexual exploitation and cyber bullying because of something she deemed as a mistake. Unfortunately, in the worst of cases like such, this can lead someone to become so vulnerable to the point of suicide. In other instances, such as the Lewinsky case, it causes years of shame and humiliation that one must learn to cope with, have been a victim of moral judgement.

Although I strongly believe that the faces behind the screen that drives this “culture of humiliation” should be at the forefront of this conversation, teaching digital literacy and citizenship to young children and adults becomes an integral part of it. People make mistakes. People have been making mistakes for centuries. Unfortunately, there are people out there who make it their life goal to belittle and bully someone based on these mistakes and use social media as tool to do so. As and educator, I want to prevent this by teaching students about consent, safety, and that it is not their fault. I think a part of shame has to do with the overwhelming feelings developed by the harsh and moral judgements of other people. Then, social media makes it easy for this to happen because people are a lot tougher behind the screen which brings public shaming to a whole new level.

However, it is important to address the fact that sexting (sending and/or receiving sexual messages) has become an increasing problem with children and youth. According to this article, in a 2013 Kids Help Phone survey, “28% of young people who had sent sexual messages felt pressured into it.” Again, I think we should be also talking to the “pressurer” but those being pressured are most at risk. There are many things we can tell students not to do online, but another strategy is telling student what to post online. Scaring children and youth about the potential consequence of sexting is not always going to work, so why not create and promote a positive digital identity and environment? Teaching about the do’s and not always the don’t’s (even though this is also a conversation to be had) can show students proper and purposeful use of technology.

In addition, an interesting strategy that has become popular is the Don’t Get Sextorted, Send a Naked Mole Rat campaign.This campaign provides “a way out” of getting sextorted by using a naked mole rat to differ conversations. This allows for a humorous, less serious approach when talking about this issue. It could be introduced by educators if they are unsure of how to approach this subject. However, the serious factor must accompany this, because cyber bullying, sextoration, and public humiliation is not funny. Creating a safe, warm and welcoming environment for students is basically the best thing, I think, teachers can do around this issue. If relationships are created, students will ultimately feel safe to confide in their teacher if a problem arises.

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