I had never heard of Amanda Todd before this particular class. I also wasn’t familiar with the term sextortion before this class either. I had heard of sexting but thought it was something that the 20 something crowd did, occasionally older teens but not kids.
I did a google search about why kids sext and I found this article on Psychology Today. It was eye opening to say the least. I was completely shocked to find out that kids as young as 11 were doing this, around the same age as Amanda. I also found it interesting but not shocking the reasons the kids sexted. The girls said that if you wanted to be a cool girl you had to send the sexts. That is the problem with digital identities.
These young girls are trying to be the cool girls and they are doing things they are not comfortable with or know is wrong. The cool digital identity that is looked up to doesn’t show the bad side. These young kids, girls and boys, only see the positive. They see all the good comments, the encouragement from the viewers to keep doing it and it equates to feeling accepted which is what most teens want. What these people don’t see is the real people behind the cool online persona. The heart break, the feelings of shame, of hurt, and what ever other feelings are happening, are hidden, adding to the illusion that this must be ok. They also don’t see the terror, and the despair when those pictures are used against someone like Amanda Todd. They see what their peers and everyone wants you to see not the truth.
It has always been the case that women have always been held to high beauty standards and body image in print and on television but the digital world has taken it to a whole new level. We see more and more of the perfect woman(or man), that we are expected to live up to. The young people see young celebs topless on the beach, posting pictures of themselves topless, and think it can’t be that bad. Oh but it is. With print and television, there was no public venue to make your views known about the model’s body. When that happened it was in small private conversations among 2 or 3 friends. Not that it makes it right but my point is the people in those ads were never aware of those comments of someone thousands of miles away. The digital world has changed that and now we seem to think its ok to comment on someone’s body, or character, even though we don’t know them, simply because we now have a forum for it. Women seem to be the worst for this, tearing each other down, so viciously. It needs to stop.
To stop it we need to educate ourselves, our youth about false identities online. We need to educate them about what they see online is not the whole truth, it is a filtered reality that people wanted us to see, its not the messy we live in. We also need to redefine and reiterate what a friend is, and we don’t need thousands to be popular. We need make sure they understand there is a living, feeling person on the other side of that screen.