Some of those who have been critical of our Internet and Social Media Safety presentations have two primary issues that they voice:
- One-time presentations do not have any positive cause or effect specific to youth online behaviour, and
- Our Internet safety presentation only produced a heavier work load for school counsellors.
I wish to openly reply to these concerns via this Blog posting:
I actually agree that one-shot presentations, when learning a “new” skill set, are less than desirable. In fact, as many educators are aware, there is an abundance of peer reviewed research to support this fact.
Given that I present to grades 6-12 students (digital citizens), the majority of whom already possess the skill set and digital devices needed to use the Internet and participate in Social Networking, the intent of our presentation is not to teach students a new skill, but rather I am sharing with them how to refine their already possessed skill set in a more desirable way via a “reflective learning” process. Our presentation is an effective method of improving performance (digital literacy), by using the outcome of reflection and empathy, utilizing real life examples of on-line youth in our presentation, to inform future practice. A one-shot presentation can accomplish this goal extremely well, if the instructor can connect with students at an emotional, psychological and physical level, and this is something we do extremely well. In fact, just recently Dr. Sameer Hinduja of the Cyberbullying Research Center published two articles on this very issue that can be located here:
Saying that our presentation is a one-shot event is also not accurate. We encourage students to stay connected with us via our Facebook page, Twitter and our Internet safety blog. On these three sites, we continue to share updated information on digital literacy, digital safety/security and online privacy on a daily basis. To date, we have almost 20,000 students who follow and interact with us on a daily basis via our three web-based resource sites. We also have thousands of students, who although do not officially follow us, also connect with us on an individual basis when needed. in fact, just recently a student who heard me speak two years ago reached out to us for help. We were able to bring this student’s issue to the attention of the school principal, who took immediate positive action. This is not an uncommon occurrence.
Fact: our presentation does change digital literacy, if you don’t believe us, then have a read of “some” of the feedback from students, parents teachers, counsellors and principals that can be located here, http://www.personalprotectionsystems.ca/feedback.html
We believe that it takes an iVillage when it comes to keeping our youth, tweens and teens safer while on-line. I do believe that schools/teachers/parents have a part to play in this process, but so do outside experts such as myself. Often, I consider our presentation an updated “booster shot” to the message being delivered by educators and parents. I have also found however, that many schools are not delivering any kind of tech safety or digital literacy, and our presentation helps to very effectively fill this void.
Heavier Work Load For School Counsellors:
Once again I must agree with our critics who bring this forward as a challenge, BUT this is something that we bring to the attention of schools before and after we present. We also see this as a positive and not a negative.
As many who have seen our presentation first hand are aware, we speak in depth on the topic of digital peer aggression (cyber bullying) and its sometimes unintended consequences. This part of the presentation is directed at both the targets of this crime, and those who target. I am very clear in my presentation that bullying does not cause suicide……”mental health crisis” causes suicide. I am also very clear however, that bullying can trigger mental health crisis, depression and suicidal ideations.
Not only have I been faced with multiple youth suicide in my full time job in law enforcement, but also in our family (my cousin completed the act of suicide) as well as personally, where I considered suicide in grade 10. That’s right me, been there done that and something I share with the students !!!! I share this given that I know how important it is to convince youth that “TALKING CAN OFTEN MAKE IT BETTER”. Suicide prevention experts, whom I have consulted with, all agree that giving permission to students to talk about suicidal ideations, is the first step towards hope and almost always helps to reduce the risk. These same experts also advise that talking to students about suicide does not put the idea in their head, it gives them the chance to let their fear out and talk about other options. Breaking the silence surrounding suicide increases realistic opportunities to save lives and to reduce suffering, and this is what we do. This is why to date we have had 99 successful interventions, working with schools and law enforcement, where students were self harming or considering suicide as an option, given that they were being targeted for digital peer aggression or sexting gone wrong, and connected with us for help, given my invitation to do so in our presentation.
I am also very aware of the research surrounding the “suicide contagion” and am very careful about the degree to which I share my message, especially at a school where a recent suicide of a student was in play. To date there was only one school, where I changed some of my messaging given the recency of a student suicide, to account for this psychological effect.
I am very clear in my presentation that if a student is being targeted and/or are considering self harm or suicide as an option because of digital peer aggression, I advise them to reach out to a parent, teacher, counsellor, principal or me. Talking can make it better, talking is a sign of strength and not a sign of weakness, and I am a poster boy for this fact.
I must also share with the reader, that the vast majority of school counsellors and principals, throughout North America, have thanked us for this message, and the fact that youth are coming forward to them to disclose after they hear me speak. Disclosure is the first step in the recovery process, and school counsellors play an important roll, that’s why they are counsellors. So, do “some” school counsellors see a spike in their services, yes, but this is a good and healthy thing for the students that they serve.
Fact: So do some school counsellors see a slight increase in their work load after we present….YES. Remember though, giving permission to students to talk about suicidal ideations, is the first step towards hope and almost always helps to reduce the risk, and I make no apologies in convincing students to do so, and school counsellors have an important roll to fulfill specific to this issue.
Cyber Food For Thought