As I was listening to someone talk about “Digital Citizenship” practices in their school district, I wondered if this was really setting the bar too low in our practices within our schools. As I think more about our world, and what kids have to deal with, it is pretty tough for them to just be “kids” and screw up the same way we did. They live in a totally different world where many will “google” them before an interview, and because of something that they have done at the age of 16 or 17, they might lose a job. If that was true when I was 17, I have no idea where I would be today. I had the ability to screw up but the mindset was not to share your life publicly. Now I believe that we have to be empathetic and give our kids some leeway and understanding for their mistakes, but does everyone feel this way?
The standards for kids aren’t just really high for what they do online, but what they do offline as well. It is easy to do something inappropriate when you are sitting with friends, have one of your buddies record it on their phone, and share it with the world. It reminds me of the time that a girl fell into a fountain while texting and it was posted for the world to see. Something unintentional that happened offline now haunts her online without her permission to post.
We can look at this and realize that kids don’t have the way we did and feel bad for them…
We can also realize that our kids have opportunities that we never had.
Remember the movie “Pay it Forward”? One of the big ideas from the movie was that doing something kind for others, and eventually, AMAZINGLY, it went around the world. At that time, that was a pretty cool notion. Now, when I write this post, anyone in the world can see it immediately. I have had comments from people in Asia, Australia, Europe, as well as all over North America. Getting an idea around the world is as easy as pressing “publish”.
So with the unfairness of what our kids deal with and a lot of the privacy that they (often on their accord) give up, are we trying to tip the scales in the other direction? The idea of being “good” online is not really that inspirational, and reminds me of this quote that I have used before:
“People do not fail in life because they aim too high and miss. They fail in life, because they aim too low and hit.” (Unknown)
I like to think that our kids have an opportunity to make a real difference in our world and I love the idea of “Digital Leadership” to push our students to think of doing something more with social media. The “Sincere Compliment” video did not only inspire kids in their school, but because it was shared openly, inspired many students/teachers (especially within Parkland School Division) around the world to do great things for others. I have seen a seven year old student in our district write one blog post, and receive 43 comments on her first try (some from her, but many from people all over the world). She is learning at a young age that she has the power to share a message across the world with ease, and I believe if kids realize they have the power to make a difference, they will give it a shot.
This is more than just “existing” and “being good” online, it is about making a difference. Isn’t that the bar we want to set for our kids, and if they miss, and are only good to one another, aren’t we still better off?