My Story: Delivering Internet Safety Education to Students in Alabama
When I was seventeen years old, my ex-boyfriend tried to pressure me into sending nude photos of myself to him. I was appalled. This shocking request was in major opposition to the typical “first relationship” ideal I held as a high school junior.
The sensation of vulnerability and alarm was heightened as I discussed the matter with my peers and they expressed their belief that the exchange of explicit photos with their significant other, or maybe even a stranger, was totally “normal.” This experience was probably the first time the morals I had been raised with were directly challenged.
It took months for me to even consider telling my parents the real reason why this boy and I broke up. It took much longer for me to obtain enough courage to make a difference in the way internet safety and sexting are regarded by our education system. Since then, I have developed an internet safety campaign named “Text 2 Regret.” Text 2 Regret is devoted to guaranteeing that all students are equipped with the tools to navigate
the digital world appropriately.
Transforming My Experience
I first spoke publicly about internet safety education when I was a freshman in college after I was named a finalist for a university-wide persuasive speaking competition. I immediately knew that I wanted to give me presentation about sexting, the dangers for youth on the internet, and why our education system should be more committed to digitally protecting our students.
I did not expect how liberating it would feel to share the importance of internet safety with my college-aged peers. I could not help but think how much more beneficial the lesson could be to younger audiences.
The opportunity to confidently share my story and publicly swear my commitment to educating younger generations about internet safety led me to believe that there was a place for Text 2 Regret in classrooms everywhere. In the two and a half years since I built Text 2 Regret, I have engaged over 750 students in 17 Alabama counties, solidifying the campaign’s presence in every region of the state.
When I visit a classroom, almost every single student raises their hand when asked whether or not they are on social media. I am not just talking about high school or middle school students. Elementary students are becoming just as active with their digital presence as peers double or even triple their age.
I often stress to students and their parents that they should involve each other in their digital learning. Unfortunately, we live in an age where social media evolves so rapidly, it is an immense challenge for parents to confidently keep up with their children online. I also believe it is important to consider how online dangers affect different genders. Unfortunately, it is proven that women are much more impacted by online predators and therefore must be even more cautious when displaying their lives online. To learn more about this, I interviewed 15 young women about their personal experiences with navigating the digital world. As a woman myself, I was taken aback by how many women have experienced creepy men “sliding into their DMs” and online pressures to look or post a certain way.
I have since spoken to employees at the Alabama Department of Education about the internet safety curriculum present in schools. According to the employees I spoke with, there is a defined curriculum, but it is not as widely used by schools and educators as it should be. With a proclamation from Governor Kay Ivey of Alabama, I hope to change this in the southeastern region of the United States.
What I Teach Kids Now
Cyber Civics is the best example of an organization working to achieve comprehensive internet safety education for students everywhere. I recently connected with Diana Graber, the founder of Cyber Civics, and learned more about the organization’s purpose in ensuring students are educated and prepared to be the finest digital citizens possible. I am currently utilizing Cyber Civics lessons to present to students when I visit them in classrooms myself. I have never felt more confident about the quality of information I am presenting to students in-person or virtually than I do with Cyber Civics lessons in my pocket.
My goal is to reach at least 2,000 students using Cyber Civics lessons by next July. As a student located in Alabama, I am eager to visit schools in the southeastern region of the United States in person or virtually. I’ve found my purpose—as a student, daughter, and advocate—is to do what I can to ensure every generation is as digitally aware as possible.
About the Author:
Taylor Blatchford has been an advocate for internet safety education for many years. She partners with teachers and presents her campaign, Text 2 Regret, in classrooms both in-person and virtually. Taylor is originally from Boulder City, Nevada, and is a graduate student at The University of Alabama. She is also a titleholder with the Miss America Organization where she earns scholarships to pay for her education. She plans to earn a law degree where she can further impact the ever-changing world of media relations. If you would like to contact Taylor about teacher Cyber Civics at your school, please email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.