After reading the blog post, “8 Ways Kids Are Using Instagram to Bully,” I remain perplexed as to why the conversation revolving around social media and its implications on the lives of teens remains a negative one. While the author’s citations of past incidents may be true, they provide no service whatsoever to counteracting cyber bullying, however, only perpetuate negative stereotypes surrounding the world of social media. Rather than provide a solution or effect positive change to the cited malicious behavior, the author participates in the culture of shaming social media: an action that only makes the internet space less safe for teens.
As I explain in my (Spanish) EdCamp Global Classroom Presentation, “Buscame por Google, Se Reto” (Google Me, I Dare You), degrading social media promotes negative use. In psychology, this phenomenon is known as the self-fulfilling prophecy- if you have a negative attitude, negativity will occur. Similarly, by constantly lecturing students, parents, and teachers about the harms of social platforms, students develop negative schemas for social media and learn to associate its use with malicious behavior. Therefore, I dare to ask: why is the conversation never positive?
Well, that is quickly changing by thought-leaders eagerly following the footsteps of Dr. Marialice Curran. I was fortunate enough to meet Dr. Curran virtually several times, simultaneously creating a positive digital footprint as well as demonstrating 21st century interview skills as I hosted her on the Burlington High School’s live Google Hangout webinar, Help Desk Live. The only times I have met Dr. Curran face-to-face were at the nation’s first Digital Citizenship Summit, and again when she invited me to present at the first international Digital Citizenship Summit in England. In fact, the sole reason Dr. Curran and I met was because of my positive use of social media. After following my work avidly on Twitter and About.me, Dr. Curran was eager to speak with me and include student voice in her work with the DigCitSummits. As a direct result of leveraging social media to my professional advantage, through serving as a contributing author to the BHS Help Desk blog, Teachers With Apps, and my own blog, I have gained a digital reach of over 200,000 viewers in over 160 countries across 6 continents (82% of the globe), as well as been invited to speak in 4 countries across 3 continents, interning in digital content for EdTechTeacher, and even blogging for brands as renowned as Rosetta Stone.
Clearly my experience leveraging social media (Twitter, LinkedIn, my blog) is taboo. But– dare I question the status quo again– why does it have to be? If we collectively divorce from the rhetoric of social media’s explicitly harmful nature, then we embrace the challenge to promote positive social media use in schools. Students can learn to leverage Twitter to build a global community of learners, use YouTube to share their content, connect with professionals via LinkedIn, and assert their voice through blogging. Through education, demonstration, and proactive conversation we can abolish cyber bullying- but we must first abolish our negative mentality.