So I started off my Master of Arts at McGill, after having commenced graduate studies at Concordia in the Educational Technology department. Having worked as a Spiritual Care and Guidance and Community Involvement Animator, I had some previous experience working in schools and teaching. I then went on to work at the National Film Board of Canada on a program called CITIZENShift where I was able to do some research about alternative education, and that lead me to where I am today – McGill.
I came to McGill to do research about cyberbullying – a growing, ever-present, and pertinent phenomenon in the world today. Not only is it fascinating to do research about such a current topic and delve into the cultural nuances of adolescents now, as opposed to just a few years ago when the Internet was new – but it has opened my heart and mind to the troubles that teenagers and children are facing, while being able to empathize with them since, many of us who are now older, but young enough to remember such troubles, went through similar things. Setting aside the academic je-ne-sais-quoi of being able to discuss such a broad and controversial subject, something in me has really connected to it and become passionate about it. And it makes me want to do something about it, and to encourage youth to stand up for themselves, speak their minds, and be self-confident.
It has led me to do many different types of work to try and prevent cyberbullying through educational programs and workshops for educators, counsellors, police, children, youth, parents, and the like. And one such project that I came up with is called “Digital Respect” – a prevention program aiming to prevent cyberbullying among youth in the West Island of Montreal. It is under the organization Action jeunesse de l’Ouest-de-l’île (AJOI) and it has consisted of several phases including a film contest, an Ambassadors program, research, and a prevention program. All of the winning films of the film contest, which students as young as 10 and as old as 17 living in the West Island participated in, were awarded with prizes from Converse, usually a selection of different sneakers and tee-shirts. The winners and other participants were then invited to showcase their films in a Digital Respect Film Festival which was hosted by youth, and run by about sixteen different Digital Respect Ambassadors – volunteers who promote the program in their work and school milieus. It was a very successful evening at the West Island YMCA, where 10 short films were shown – 9 of which were created by students aged 10 to 17, and one of which was a short documentary film that I made along with an animation student at Concordia – Julien Wallot-Beale.
The event was also sponsored by many different companies and organizations. Concordia University Television and Coop Collective Vision were supporters of the event, who each donated a pass to their summer video bootcamps – where children and older adolescents were able to participate in specialized media education workshops and gain hands-on experience in filmmaking by learning from professionals.
Other sponsors were Build-A-Bear Workshop, HMV, Best Buy, The Body Shop, the YMCA, Lululemon Athletica, Concept Elite hairdresser, and M Toi spa – all of whom provided a slew of raffle prizes for participants. Nearly everyone in the audience went home with not only a sense of what cyberbullying is and its emotional effects on youth – from the point of view of many creative young people having created their own media – but with a prize, and a belly full of food since the event was catered on behalf of the YMCA and a huge array of many different types of candies were donated by Regal candies, by a friend of Lissa Albert’s (one of the Digital Respect Ambassadors).
About 80 people were at the event, including teachers, representatives from the government, school boards, parents, grandparents, and most importantly, many youth and children. To learn more about the Digital Respect program, visit digitalrespect.org
The project is now up and running in the Pepsi Challenge. Please visit the site to vote for the Digital Respect program every day until October 31st, 2010. And please spread the message to your friends, family, and colleagues.
And enjoy the following film, which is made by Justin, a young man living in the West Island of Montreal.