Turn your camera off in online class

Pressure to keep cameras on hurts some students

  • Graphic Nanor Froundjian

We’ve been facing big adjustments in this new era of online school, work, and the digital alternatives to in-person meetings and class. The abundance of online platforms we now have access to allow us to easily communicate and collaborate remotely. But the ease of studying and working from home is not without consequence.

With university classes moving from the lecture hall to Zoom, it’s become the norm for students to go on camera during class. But the new standard of cameras being on could pose significant concerns to other students.

Going on screen during class presents issues we don’t face within a physical classroom. The expectation of keeping cameras on pressures students to allow others a view into their home life.

Students living in poverty or who are houseless already live with restricted access to privacy. Some students have children, live in LQGBTQ+ households, or with family members struggling with addiction or mental health issues.

Students’ living situations being public knowledge could put them at risk of being discriminated against, harassed, or bullied.

The expectation to go on camera may also impose mental health challenges. To some students, keeping their camera on during class means feeling increased anxiety all class every class.

We can participate via the chat feature if we so choose and can go on with our learning without being overwhelmed by insecurity and anxiety.

Keeping cameras off during class is a matter of safety for some students. Allowing others into their home via video can be extremely dangerous to students with abusers.

A survey of Ontario university students found that almost 24 per cent of students experienced a form of stalking, in person or online. Someone who may attend their school could gain access to their information or location, and could even pass it on to others.
A dialogue needs to be had to counter the pressure this new norm can impose on students who don’t wish to be on camera during class. The needs of our most vulnerable students deserve a lot more attention when it comes to this new form of education.

That being said, going online presents concerns for everyone.

It’s important to remember Zoom is not neutral. It’s a tech company with its own agenda and policy that has its own best interest in mind, not its users.

The content and information shared on Zoom is not kept private and there are repercussions to this for its users. Zoom has faced multiple lawsuits for sharing users’ data with outside companies, including Facebook. Zoom has been accused of sharing this data without sufficiently informing users.

With Zoom’s policy, the company is able to use video images shared during meetings for the familiar targeted advertisements, and more alarmingly, for the development of facial recognition technology.

As the pandemic pushes us to find new ways to go about our daily lives, we can’t let the charm of online alternatives sway us from safeguarding our privacy and wellbeing.

Collectively, we have to question and challenge what becomes “normal” in these times of change.

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