Unplugging. What does it mean to you?

We ended our semester with a final Great Ed Tech Debate and it was definitely a great debate. The focus was looking at whether or not we have become too dependent on technology and if what we really need is to unplug. I think this is an extremely important topic to discuss for everyone, not just those of us in our class.  Technology has become a part of our modern day lives, but do we rely on it too much? Do we really need to be on our phones as much as we are? 

Photo Credit: functoruser via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: functoruser via Compfight cc

The first group agreed that we do need to unplug because we are becoming too dependent as well as lonely. The connections that we make online may give us a false sense of our ‘real life’ relationships. Even though we are more connected now than ever before, many people are feel more lonely. As humans we crave intimacy and scientists have proven that to be intimate you need to be vulnerable which requires courage. Social media removes vulnerability and courage because we can pick and choose what we want to say, when we want to say it and how we want to say it. I’m sure we’ve all written a status or post to go back and re-write it 2 or 3 times until it’s exactly the way we want it to sound (or hope it to sound). It is interesting to think about that when we think about all of the statuses and updates we read in a day. How many are authentic? Or are they all authentic? Maybe even more authentic because we have the opportunity to think about what we want to say and put our thoughts together in a way that really gets our points out there?

Studies have also found that using technology can be just as addictive as drugs and that many millennials are becoming attached to their phones.  I think that there is a lot of pressure for students to keep up with everything on social media. Even for myself, I often find myself suffering from “FOMO” (fear of missing out) even though my friends and family don’t even update things that much. I find myself going back and forth between different social media apps throughout the day checking in to make sure I didn’t miss some major announcement like an engagement, pregnancy or birth. The constant ‘need’ to check in seems to be something that just happens naturally throughout the day. It’s almost as if I do it without thinking…it’s an automatic action. I often wonder why I feel the need to check in so often. I’m really not missing out on anything but the moment that’s happening right in front of me in ‘real life’. I try to make a conscious effort to put my phone in a different room while I am with my kids so that it’s not a distraction. But then they start doing something cute and I immediately go to reach for my phone to capture them on camera. Not having my phone with me, I usually run to grab it and by the time I get back the moment has passed. If I had my phone I would have been able to capture the moment.

Photo Credit: Martino's doodles via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Martino’s doodles via Compfight cc

But does capturing the moment on my phone have the same affect as capturing it with my own eyes without my device? A study has shown that we enjoy some moments more when we capture it with our phones. I would totally agree with these findings. However I do think that there is a difference between experiencing something while capturing every moment of it with our phones and experiencing it without capturing every moment with our phones. I think that taking pictures/videos can be a great way to experience an event. It’s nice to have something to look back on. But just like everything else I think there needs to be a balance. At a Garth Brooks concert I was at a few weeks ago, a lady in front of me recorded the WHOLE THING on her phone! She was basically watching the whole concert through her phone screen. Half the time the image being recorded was blurry because she was zoomed in and she wasn’t able to follow him the whole time because he moved all over. We made the comment that she will wake up in the morning and realize that wasn’t the best decision. Now if she had a tripod or something set up to record it so she could watch the whole thing in person and then be able to watch a quality recording of the video the next day, that would be a different story. I took some videos and a few pictures, but I knew I didn’t want to be on my phone the whole time because I would miss out on the experience I wanted in going to see him. I can watch youtube videos of his performances any day, so I wanted to make sure that I took it all in while I was there in person. Did I take some pictures and videos? Of course I did…two pictures before of me and the people I was with, and three short Snapchat videos of a few of my favourite songs. Do I regret not taking more? Not one bit.

Moving to the disagree side I have to admit I completely agree that it almost seems impossible to fully unplug. Even when we are in our cars, going for a walk or run, camping, travelling we are connected in someway. We use our phones to capture images that we will most likely share when we get a chance. Even when we are offline we are thinking about the online world. In reality, our offline and online worlds are not two distinct parts of our lives, they are our whole lives existing as one augmented reality.  It’s pretty clear that our online lives can exist without a lot of our offline lives, but do our offline lives depend on our online lives in the same way? Our offline lives existed long before our online lives, but this isn’t the case for our children who have been born with a digital life right from the day they were born without having any say about it. The idea of unplugging is something that our children will have to learn to manage more than we have had to because technology is still fairly new for most of us (10-15 years). Unplugging may also mean something different to each person. To me, unplugging is stepping away from social media most of all, and putting away our devices. I personally don’t worry about unplugging from TV but maybe that’s because I don’t use it too often, or I feel like when I do use it it’s to watch the news or a movie with my kids which I would consider to be positive uses.

Technology certainly plays a large role in our lives. It allows us to connect with people near and far. We can network, build friendships, meet new people and find communities that we feel welcome in. It allows us to video chat or FaceTime with no added cost. It helps us manage our personal lives including our mental and physical health. I think we can all see value in technology and appreciate social media but we have to be aware of the amount of time we spend on the devices we have. When it starts to take precedence over quality time spent face to face with our family, friends, spouses and kids I think we need to take a step back and think about how we can unplug and reconnect with the people around us.

Photo Credit: rbatina via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: rbatina via Compfight cc

In the blink of an eye

This semester seemed to go by in the blink of an eye! I forgot about just how quickly spring classes fly by. For my summary of learning I decided to try something different and make a movie using iMovie. I haven’t used iMovie since I was an undergrad 10 years ago and I am definitely rusty. My editing skills peaked at the 10 second mark and went downhill from there (ha ha) but I did my best to make it work.

With this being my third class with Alec & Katia you would think that doing the summary of learning would get easier but IT DOESN’T! At least not for me. I find that each semester everyone sets the bar higher and higher which is fantastic for my viewing and learning pleasure, but not so fantastic for me when it comes to creating my own summary. From what I have seen so far everyone has done an AMAZING job of not only summarizing your learning, but doing it in a creative way! You’ll see from my video that my artistic abilities are nothing to write home about especially after seeing what Dre can do (talk about talented)! I always find it so difficult to sum up my learning into a short video and to match the video/pictures up with my voiceover. I tried to focus on the points that stood out to me in the class rather than trying to talk about EVERYTHING (because that seems impossible). I do find the whole thing challenging in so many ways, but I am happy with my final product.

Thanks to everyone for sharing your knowledge throughout the semester and presenting such awesome arguments during the debate. Personally I thought the debates were a great way to encourage us to view an issue from both sides and to critically discuss both sides of the issue. I like that it forced everyone to get involved and allowed us to have some pretty powerful discussions. I’m looking forward to the fall semester and hope to see some of you in the Zoom room again! Have a  great summer everyone!

 

Does social media need a time out?

This week we looked at whether or not social media is ruining childhood. The debate was really well done by both sides and although I agreed with the statement that it is ruining childhood, after reading some of the blogs this week I don’t know if I truly feel that way. If there’s one thing I’m good at, it’s being really indecisive and sitting on the fence ha ha. Thanks to Jeremy and Amy for making it hard for me to stick to my original stance on the agree side.

Let me start with discussing the agree side which was the side that I was originally leaning towards. There were a few reasons I was leaning more towards this side than the other. The first is the issue with different mental health issues that can be brought on by technology.  Stress, sleep deprivation, cyberbullying and depression are all issues that children deal with when using technology and social media. I know what you’re thinking – “these issues existed before technology and social media were around.”  And you would be right in saying that. Stress, bullying, sleep deprivation and depression have been around since the beginning of time I’m sure. However, I do believe that technology and social media have played a big role in the intensity of these issues in adolescents. Technology adds to stress because we are constantly comparing ourselves to others through social media.

Stress might come from maintaining a large network of Facebook friends, feeling jealous of their well-documented and well-appointed lives, the demands of replying to text messages, the addictive allure of photos of fantastic crafts on Pinterest, having to keep up with status updates on Twitter, and the “fear of missing out” on activities in the lives of friends and family – Pew Research Center

Bullying has always existed, but recent bullying statistics show that there are more ways to bully someone using technology compared to times when technology didn’t exist. Technology makes bullying a lot harder to escape because it can follow the victim long after they have left. Sleep deprivation caused by increased use of technology and having devices in our rooms can lead to decreased attention span, drowsiness, depression and decreased grades. Social Media Depression may be something that we need to have more open conversations with our children (and even ourselves) about.

I also agree that social media is hurting the development of face to face communication skills in our youth and even adults. It is also difficult to communicate through text because we can easily misinterpret the tone of the message being sent. Take a look at this short video and see if it looks familiar. I’m sure most of us have been in a situation where we have misinterpreted a text or email and have had to clarify what we meant over the phone or face to face. When it comes to communicating face to face 55% of communication is body language, 38% is the tone of voice, and 7% is the actual words spoken. Body language and tone of voice play a huge role in this and when we communicate using technology those aspects are removed. It can be difficult to communicate face to face if we don’t develop the right skills to do it. In order to better communicate face to face we need time to practice.

The last thing that I have to say about it affecting childhood in a bad way is the false sense of ‘friendship’ they are receiving. Although this study has shown that 52% of students feel social media has helped make their friendships stronger I have to question that. I have to question whether having over 1000+ friends on social media makes students feel like they have a truly strong group of friends or gives them a sense of belongingness and popularity. It doesn’t matter how many friends you have on social media, studies have shown that out of all the friends you only have 4 close friends from that list.  Now when I think about that and think back to my days in high school, I would say that I had a friends list of 30-40 people that I would have considered ‘friends’ but out of those people there were only 3 other girls that I would have considered my best friends. So has social media changed the fact that although we know a lot of people and may call them friends, we really only have a handful of people we can go to to talk about real life or look to for support? I don’t think it has which might be interesting to think about.

I do agree that social media and technology can connect us. It allows us to keep in touch with family and friends (especially the ones who don’t live near us). We can reach out to family and friends and share information with them. I have to admit that although it connects us, I have found that I personally will pick up the phone less and less to call people to catch up. Instead I sift through Facebook waiting for them to update something about their life. Which is completely silly. If I want to know what’s up with them, I should call. But most of the time I don’t. So although it can provide great opportunities to connect us, if you are like me, it has potential to create some distance that doesn’t need to be there.

I really like this article that gives 5 reasons social media might actually be helping your kids.  I think discovering new interests and helping with creativity are definitely big pluses. I also agree with this article stating that it gives a sense of belonging and helps them express themselves. It is great that it provides a channel for them to express themselves, but we must teach them to do it in an appropriate way. Just because you can post something publicly and reach a large number of people doesn’t mean you have to throw out common sense or proper manners. We need to be teaching students that social media is a great tool for promoting issues and shedding light on them.

I think there are a lot of things that we can be worrying about when it comes to social media and technology. We do need to be mindful for their mental and physical health. We need to also be aware of the sexualization of young girls through the media as Shannon talked about. But we can’t blame technology for everything. I don’t think that technology is the problem even though my blog leans more towards the agree side. I do believe all the points I discussed but I know that we can use technology in positive ways to prevent those negative issues from becoming big problems. We as parents and teachers need to work with our children to harness the positive aspect of technology. We need to teach our children common sense, morals and manners. I feel like we blame technology because it’s easier to blame technology than to blame ourselves for not speaking up or having discussions with our children. As times change, our parenting needs to change. It’s not technology that needs a time out, we are the ones we need a time out. We need a time out to think about how we can create balance and healthy technology habits for our children so that social media and technology have a positive impact on our lives rather than negative one.

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Sharing Online: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

This week we focused on sharing online and whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing. Just like almost everything else in life there is a good side a bad side and even an ugly side. When we talk about sharing online we have to consider so many different ways that we share. We can share personal information, work related information, information about out kids and information about our students. Just like Roxanne mentions, no matter what we are sharing, we always need to think about who is seeing the information and what will the effects of that share be? I will attempt to look at all sides and share my thoughts on all of this.

The Good

Screen Shot of my Facebook Account

Screen Shot of my Facebook Account

There are many ways that sharing online can be positive. I’ll start with sharing our personal lives online. For me personally I have decided to share most of my personal information on Facebook because I have my privacy set highest on that account. I also have a limited number of friends and family on the account having only 204 people on my friends list (many of which are family). Although I have always been cautious of who I add online this number used to be closer to 500. I would say that at least once a year I go back over my friends list and delete people I don’t feel as connected to anymore. I don’t want to share information about my life or my kids life with people who I consider to only be acquaintances. In order to decide who I keep online I ask myself if I saw that person in the mall from a distance would I make the effort to go and talk to them. If the answer is no I delete them, if it’s yes I keep them. This is my way of keeping myself comfortable with the information I am sharing with my Facebook community.

Amy discusses sharing information about her kids and mentions that she is mindful of what she is posting and I am the same way. Even though I feel like it’s my close family and friends on my friend list I am always wondering if my kids will want to see this in the future. I also ask myself is this something my family and friends would appreciate or find nice to see? If it’s a rant, or me complaining about something I refrain from posting because I’m sure people don’t want to see that. I like the ability to share milestones, celebrations and pictures with family and friends who aren’t able to see my kids on a regular basis as well. In my life this is a big positive for social media. While I like to share, I tried to avoid being a “sharent“.

In our classrooms sharing can be an awesome way to keep parents in the know, communicate with students and share our classroom activities and student progress. Kathy Cassidy from Moose Jaw, Sk shares how student blogging has helped her students in the classroom. When students share online it can make them more accountable and they may produce better work. Teachers are able to share resources with other teachers and collaborate to make better resources. We talked a lot about not reinventing the wheel and this is a great way for teachers to work together. There are a lot of different benefits of sharing student work online. I think it’s a great way for students to share work beyond the four walls of their classroom. I also like that when students share with a larger audience they feel their work has a bigger impact. When they receive valuable comment from others it gives even more meaning to their work.

The Bad

While there are definite positives to sharing online, there are also negatives. As parents we can choose what we want to share about our kids, but we need to think about the long term digital footprints we are creating for our children. Sharenting can be a bad thing when we are sharing information that our children may be embarrassed by when they see it later. By sharing information about our kids we are creating their digital footprint. Do we have the right to create their online identity for them before they have any control over it? It is easy for us to post about our frustrations as parents thinking that we are only exposing information about our own lives when in fact we are exposing our children as well. We need to remember that digital footprints are like tattoos.  When posting online about your students keep this video in mind.

The Peel School District provides some social media guidelines that I think are important in preventing the bad from taking over. One guideline that stood out for me was the professional boundaries. I know teachers who are friends with students on Facebook and I have never been too sure about that. I think that it could be very easy for conversations or posts to become unprofessional or though of as so. Social media does allow us to connect with one another but we need to make sure that our connections with students are professional. In these guidelines it also suggests when to share student work. The bad side of sharing student work could be that students aren’t happy with the product once it is shared and that will be on the internet forever.

The Ugly

Sometimes information we share can go from bad to ugly. This was the case with Amanda Todd, a young girl who took her own life after a shared photo of her lead to extreme bullying. There are many similar cases in which information shared on social media results in such negative things. Sharing publicly could also leave you more susceptible to identity fraud as is the case with Alec who has been dealing with the issue for a few years now.

What Do We Do?

So, what do we do? How do we ensure that our sharing online is a positive thing? We all need to be aware of our digital footprint and the digital footprint we are creating for others when we share. We need to teach students that anytime something is shared online it’s there forever. We need to take care of our digital footprint and be proactive about it because if we aren’t, then someone else will.  We need to be mindful of what we are sharing and consider the lasting effects it will have. We also need to encourage people to share and have an online presence that is positive. I think a lot of people are afraid to share because we are worried about putting ourselves out there and worried about who will see it. The more we put ourselves out there and establish an online identity, the easier it will be to control it and prevent bad things from happening. The most important thing is to start teaching this from a very young age. Our students and children are growing up in a world where devices are used daily. They need to know what is appropriate and what is not and how to create a positive online identity.

My Detox from Technology

I have a lot of catching up to do for class. I wasn’t able to make it back to the hotel in time for class on Tuesday and I haven’t been reading blogs, checking Twitter or practicing my language and here’s why.

This past week I was on vacation with my family in Disney World. It was an extremely busy week filled with rides, characters, swimming, walking, and eating. If you have ever been to Disney World you know just how crazy it can be and if you have been with a 2.5 year old and an 8 month old you’ll know that travelling with kids is even more crazy. Our days went something like this:

6:00am wake up, leave the room by 7:00 to eat breakfast and be gone from the hotel by 8:00 to head to the parks.

9:00am walk through the park gates. Ride ride ride and walk walk walk stopping to eat and go to the bathroom when needed. Spend the whole day at the parks with kids napping in strollers and head back to the hotel upon park closing.

Somewhere between 8:30-10:30 arrive back at the hotel. Get kids ready for bed (if not already sleeping on the way home), lay out clothes for the morning, pack up the backpack (diapers, bottles, snacks, food) and get to bed to do it all over again the next day.

Repeat this process for 4 days! Yes it sounds crazy and I’m sure some of you probably think we are crazy for taking our kids who are that young to Disney World, but we love to travel to Disney. I could explain all the reasons why but that would require a whole other blog so I’ll save that for a rainy day.

Now to get back to the real purpose of this blog…my technology detox.

Because the week was so busy I had limited time to spend on my phone. I’m not so sure I can call it a detox because I did have my phone with me and I did go on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and take pictures while I was away. But I certainly did not use my phone to the extent that I do when I am at home. I would say that I probably decreased my usage by a good 95% while I was away. When I am at home, my phone is ALWAYS within reach. I sleep with my phone charging on my night stand and it’s the last thing I do before going to bed. I check my emails, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat before going to bed. When I close one app, I open another and keep checking back with them all until I am too tired to continue checking. If I don’t fall asleep within 5-10 minutes I am right back on my phone checking something. I have often felt that I may be addicted to my phone. And maybe I am??

I sometimes think it causes me to lose sleep because I am on it some nights well beyond the point where I am tired enough that I should be sleeping. When I wake up in the middle of the night I check what time it is on my phone but will check emails and social media sometimes for 15-20 minutes before I try get back to sleep. I think it’s a habit that I have gotten myself into. I saw a newscast before I left on vacation about FOMO – Fear of Missing Out– and I definitely agree that I suffer from that. I am constantly checking to see what people are doing and what I might be missing out on. It’s like I don’t want to be the last person to know who got engaged or announced their pregnancy. I wasn’t able to find the news clip I saw but while I was trying to find it I came across a quiz that you can take to see where your level of FOMO ranks. I took it and here are my results.

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Screenshot of Quiz Results from http://www.ratemyfomo.com

You can see that I am in the upper end of the curve. My ranking was high which wasn’t a big surprise to me. After the past week with limited cell phone use it made me realize that there really isn’t anything so important that I am missing out on. At the end of a long day I was tempted to sit and scroll through my newsfeed, but there was so much I had missed it was overwhelming and I decided to just head to bed. I had to tell myself that if there was big news I had missed I would hear about it soon enough. I didn’t have a nightstand on my side of the bed so my phone was plugged into the wall across the room. I didn’t fall asleep with it near me and didn’t spend time looking at it before bed. I didn’t spend time on it in the morning when I woke up either because we didn’t have time.

The limited use this past week was actually really refreshing. It was nice to recharge and nice to realize that I will survive without checking my phone every 15-20 minutes to see if I missed anything. I realized I don’t need to update pictures or posts on a daily basis to share what I have been up to because for the most part no one really cares that much about what I am doing anyways. I know that phones are amazing for connecting us and they make things very convenient as well, but they can also be a distraction. I am happy to say that I learned a lot about my technology use and will be making some changes moving forward. My first change is getting an alarm clock so I can charge my phone across the room from me where it won’t be a distraction when I wake up in the middle of the night. I want to continue to limit the amount of times my phone because a distraction and use it with for meaningful interactions or learning. For the most part keeping up and catching up with friends and family can wait. It’s the moments like these that won’t wait.

A family photo with Mickey Mouse

A family photo with Mickey Mouse

How do you feel about the amount of time you spend on your phone? Is it a distraction at times? What do you do to ensure you have a healthy balance between screen time and non-screen time? What were your results from the FOMO quiz?

See Ya Later Facebook

Over the years we have seen social media apps/platforms come and go. I’m sure some of you remember things like ICQ, MSN Messenger, Myspace and even Napster. If you have never heard of those or never had a chance to use them you make me feel old. Those names are associated with some of the earliest forms of modern day social media. Social media dates back further than ICQ and MSN as you can see in this infographic of the evolution of social media. 

Infographic by Simplify360

Infographic by Simplify360

In recent years we have seen young people leaving Facebook and heading towards Snapchat and Instagram. It is no longer considered cool to be on Facebook. Why you might ask? Well according to teenagers they don’t want to use Facebook as often because “old people” use it. Teenagers dread the day when parents add them on Facebook. Most teenagers agree that Facebook is used to keep in touch with their older relatives. I think that keeping in touch is much different than updating older relatives on their daily lives and what is happening at this very minute. That is where Instagram and Snapchat come in.

If you are unfamiliar with Snapchat check out this guide for parents and teachers to help you understand it a little more. To see what draws teenagers to Snapchat check out this interview with a 13 year old girl describing how to use Snapchat and why she likes it so much. I believe teenagers love to connect with their friends. When I was young I was constantly on the phone with my friends talking about boys, gossiping, being silly and just “hanging out”. The worst part about that was your parents picking up the other phone and maybe catching some of the conversation you didn’t want

Photo Credit: melissaellos via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: melissaellos via Compfight cc

hear. Or having to answer a call waiting, or having to say good bye because your parents needed the phone. Any chance I got though I was on the phone. When MSN came along I was often on MSN doing the same things I did while I was on the phone but the best part was I could chat with multiple people at a time. Sometimes on the phone I could connect with two friends at once by using a three-way call. The technology I used back then was different, but I was still using it to connect and share with friends. I was using it to socialize.

The difference today is that teenagers are able to connect with more people and in different ways than we were able to. They can be silly by sending Snapchats. They can share pictures and videos using Snapchat or Instagram from vacation so their friends can see how their trip is. It’s easier to share pictures and videos on the go than to come back from vacation and have to explain everything to your friends right? Like Heather said in her blog, it is about immediacy. Teenagers love the instant connections.

I mentioned earlier why kids are leaving social networks and a lot of it has to do with older people using the network that young people are leaving. It makes sense right. When I had to talk on the phone with my friends, if my mom came into my room I would stop talking. If I was in the basement talking and she came down I would take the conversation elsewhere (as long as I had a cordless phone). It’s the same reason kids are leaving social networks their parents are joining. My question is what will happen to things like Instagram and Snapchat? I am not a huge fan of Snapchat and don’t use it that often so I can’t see my Mom or Grandma using it. I have already had my Mom join Instagram and feel like my Grandma would too if I didn’t share my Instagram pictures to Facebook so she can see them. If older people continue to join Instagram will younger people start to leave it too?

I have seen a change in the way my friends use Facebook over the past few years. It is on a rare occasion that people update statuses. Some share their own videos and pictures. Most share articles or memes. I find that a lot of people use Facebook to “creep”. I have found that I use Facebook mostly to connect with my relatives and share pictures of my kids so they can keep updated on how my family is doing. I sometimes update statuses and but hardly ever update pictures of myself. My profile has been taken over by my kids. I have recently found that I am annoyed at the advertisements and was especially annoyed during the Canadian election last fall when it became a platform for people to share news articles and updates on the political parties. I joined Facebook  to connect with friends and family and lately it seems it has gotten away from that.

After reading Luke’s blog and watching the #being13 documentary I do think that with the increase in social media comes the increase need to teach children about digital citizenship. We know that students will be using social media and we know that it can sometimes lead to problems so how can we prevent problems from occurring. There are some great resources available from Common Sense Media and Edutopia on teaching Digital Citizenship. We need to remember that it’s never too early to teach about Digital Citizenship but it can quickly become too late.

What do you think the future of social media looks like? Will Facebook be phased out? What will happen to Instagram and Snapchat if older people start to use it? How has your social media use changed over the years?

Taking a Closer Look at Sexting.

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Photo Credit: sebilden via Compfight cc

I can’t quite describe how I felt after watching the CBC documentary Sext up KIDS. I was a little sad, sympathetic and somewhat worried but I was definitely NOT shocked. It isn’t news to me that kids – especially girls- are growing up way too soon. I have seen many of my little cousins grow up way too soon. Why do little girls want to grow up so quick? I think it is clear that there is a lot of pressure from the media for girls to want to grow up quick. Billboards, music videos, actresses, television ads, clothes, movies and so much more contribute to the pressure girls face to grow up. They are constantly exposed to images of women who are made up to look ‘perfect’. They see ads that sexualize women. They see women in music videos dancing provocatively wearing very little clothing. What is a young girl to think about her image when she grows up being exposed to all of this??

Girls are taught at a very young age that they need to look a certain way. The media pressures them to act and look a certain way to please others. Girls looking for attention from boys may take selfies in which their image is filtered to look its best. Worse than a simple selfie is taking a naked or semi-naked photo to send to a boy, otherwise known as a sexting. Kids (and even adults) often forget that once a picture is sent, it can be shared over and over. Sexting has required law makers to look at what is happening and develop new laws to prevent taking and sharing of sexual pictures.

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Photo Credit: Pro Juventute via Compfight cc

How Teens View Sexting by CBC looks at a variety of issues and findings regarding sexting. There are five sub-heading discussed in the article. Below you will find each sub-heading with a brief overview of the discussion.

  1. Sexting seen as an adult term. In the study titled Young People and Sexting in Australia  students surveyed said that they didn’t consider sexting to be an accurate term. It is a term used only by adults and they consider their images simply pictures
  2. It’s all about consent. Teens don’t have a lot of issues with the images themselves but the issues arise when the images are shared without the consent of the person in the image.
  3. A ‘culture of slut-shaming’. We are still trying to learn the boundaries of technology and deciding what is private and what is not. An image may be sent as self-expression or to show trust but if that trust is violated the girl is usually labelled and blamed.
  4. A gender issue. It is often the girls who are called sluts and labelled when they take a picture of themselves. The girl is usually blamed in a situations involving sexual behaviour. It hasn’t been until recently that we have began to discuss what the expectations are for males in relationships and what their responsibilities are when it comes to sexting. We forget that girls have sexual desires too and feel a need to satisfy them. It isn’t only boys who want to flirt or fulfill their desires.
  5. Change the Law? Two young women, Maryellen Gibson and Alice Gauntley, interviewed for the article want to see laws change around the non-consensual sharing of images. Gibson figures that if the images are shared consensually than there shouldn’t be any concerns. It isn’t until the images are shared non-consensually that laws should be considered.

I agree with a lot of what the girls had to say. I do feel that girls have always been the target of name calling and blaming even before sexting was a thing. It seems that no one remembers the male but will always remember the female from a situation. I don’t recall Bill Clinton receiving as much of the blame or shaming as Monica Lewinsky. Do you happen to know the male who was in Paris Hilton’s sex tape?? I didn’t until I looked it up just now (FYI his name is Rick Salomon). Remember the girl from the Calgary Stampede threesome, Alex Frulling? I bet you don’t remember the guys names…were they even ever mentioned? I don’t recall them ever being mentioned but I remember hearing days after the threesome was recorded that Alex Frulling’s Facebook and Instagram follows sky rocketed. Why does it matter that we don’t know the guys involved? It matters because no one seemed to care that they had no shame in partaking in the threesome in the corner of a parking lot. It matters because no one thought they were awesome for doing it. Nobody started following them on Facebook or Instagram. We are so quick to ridicule the females involved, but we rarely pay any attention to the males involved. That is something I hope changes in the future. We need to teach our children that it is not okay to have double-standards.

In terms of the laws, I don’t necessarily disagree with the comment that images being shared consensually shouldn’t be illegal BUT I do think that it should apply only to people over 18 years of age. At the age of 18 you are considered an adult and should be able to choose if you would like to send an image to another adult. The issue would boil down to the sharing of that image. I don’t want anyone to think that I am pro-sexting or think I’m all for it but to each their own. If that is what two adults decide to share with one another there should be no criminal actions. It is important to remember though that any image that is sent can be saved forever. If images were consensually shared, what happens if you decided that you no longer want the other person to have that image? Break-ups and divorces happen all the time. The saved images can become a problem after a break-up or divorce.

I decided to look into the laws surrounding sexting and I came across a few good finds. The first is this blog: Sexting and the Law in Canada from Kids Help Phone.  I was surprise to read a few things in this blog:

Most sexting images exchanged by teens qualify as child pornography, if there is nudity in the image.However, there is a narrow exception set out in the Supreme Court of Canada case of R. v. Sharpe, that may exclude the exchange of sexual images between intimate partners, provided that the sexual relationship is legal (that is, complies with age of consent restrictions) and the images are kept exclusively by those two people.

AND

Police have not prosecuted teens for consensual sexting in Canada.  However, there have been several reported cases of teens being prosecuted for child pornography offences where the sexual images were distributed more broadly, especially where there is clearly malicious intent.

Both of these quotes gave me a better understanding of some of the laws surrounding sexting. I am happy to hear that if images are being shared with others that you can be charged by the police. Hopefully this helps discourage people from sharing images without consent. In order for it to discourage people they must know about the laws. This is where we can step in and make sure that students are aware of the legal implications of sexting.

Sexting: Considerations for Canadian Youth created by Sexualityandu discusses how common sexting is, why teens sext and legal/privacy issues with sexting. It describes three categories of teen sexting:

  1. Exchange of photos solely between romantic partners in a relationship.
  2. Exchange of photos between two people not in a relationship but where one of the people sends a sext in the hope that it will help to start a romantic relationship between the two.
  3. Exchange of photos between romantic partners or the sending of photos from one person to another with the hope of starting a relationship but the photos are then sent to additional people (Pew Research Centre, 2009).

Category 2 and 3 are the categories that cause a lot of problems with sexting. This is where the legal issues arise for the most part. Category 2 makes me really sad to read. It is sad to think that sexting is used in hopes to start a relationship or to get someones attention. It is also sad that photos are being exchanged within a relationship but they aren’t staying within that relationship. As sad as it is, it comes as no surprise unfortunately.

It is important for us to be addressing these issues at a very young age. As Salem Noon from Sext up KIDS found with her iGirl Workshop for young girls it is often too late to wait until students are teenagers or pre-teens to address this issue. It may seem inappropriate, unnecessary and even feel uncomfortable to talk about at such a young age but the reality is that it needs to be discussed at a young age to prevent issues with sexting before it is too late.