It seems that the issues that I get requested to speak on most during the last couple of months has been the issues of cyberbullying and sexting. Most of the time it comes in the form of an educator who has heard of me and wanted me to talk to other teachers about these technological issues. There was a rare occurrence that I had the opportunity to discuss these issues with high school students.
When I address the issues with educators, what they want to focus on is how they can recognize when somebody is a victim of cyberbullying or if somebody is in a sexting relationship, especially after the focus on both of the subjects by the media. It seems hard for me to separate these two issues as both deal with identity online and others' perception of that created identity. I am not saying that both are the same or even that both have the same social impact. The point is that both of these issues are popping up as teenagers attempt to create their own space in a virtual realm.
Cyberbullying is really a mechanism that a individual would use to force someone else out of website, social network or the entire Internet structure through the use of negative interactions. It is a power play used to claim control of the area that is hard to regulate and harder to control. The major problem occurs that cyberbullying is often reinforced in the real world setting and forces the individual target of the cyberbullying to protect themselves far beyond their ability to do so.
Sexting, on the other hand, is a mechanism used by a few as a form of individual expression and exposure. I am not saying that this is harmless exposure, rather there are risks that the individual may not be aware of. Once a picture, a video or even a simple note is sent, it can not be retrieved. It remains online forever. This is why I encourage individuals to think before they post anything online.
Both of these issues come back to the idea that one should be manage their online identity and interactions carefully. It is extremely easy to find yourself in a sititution that can be too much to manage if you are careless with what you say or post online.