The New Currency: Likes

For the next 11 weeks I will be participating in an Open Access Course on Digital Citizenship and will be using my blog to post some of my reflections as I go through the course readings and discussions. I heard about this OAC after watching a webinar with the professor, Jason Ohler, recorded for the digital citizenship group on EdWeb.

One of the assignments was to watch Generation Like, a Frontline documentary that highlights the new currency of likes and how some teenagers strive to be an online celebrity (see links below to watch the video). I had read other blog posts about ‘Instant Celebrity’ (Digital Citizenship in the time of Instant Celebrity) and of course have seen many examples of videos going viral. I have also had discussions with students where they said they always accept those who want to be their friends or followers on social media because, ‘it makes you more popular.’ George Couros summed it up well when he said:

So if we continue to talk about “digital citizenship” with our kids, I think the conversations have to evolve past solely focusing on “being safe” and cyberbullying (which are important but there is so much more to discuss), but also about the impact that this media can have on our lives, and how some would even say that it is making us “needier”.  (Digital Citizenship in the time of Instant Celebrity by George Couros)

There are a lot of important topics within Digital Citizenship, and all of them are important but the big issue truly is our student’s vulnerability and need to be accepted and liked. This isn’t new. Teenagers have always had these needs. What has changed is the amount of exposure they can get. Before the Internet you might do something to get attention at school or other public place, but it only remained in memory. Certainly people would pass on the information, but it could soon become so removed from the actual event that it usually was forgotten.  Now when an event happens it is recorded, tweeted, posted, shared, retweeted and remains in the digital world to be seen over and over again forever.

What is disturbing about the Generation Like documentary is the reality of digital media and how much influence it has on our children. Both negative and positive consequences were highlighted and again we have to come back to the fact that whether offline or online being a positive contributing citizen is the true lesson. We want our students to get authentic recognition for the positive contributions they make to their world. Unfortunately, as was seen in this documentary, some are being rewarded for negative contributions to their world.

After watching this documentary I have become even more convinced of how important our role is to educate our youth on their digital community contributions. We also need to give our students authentic experiences so they can see the benefits of positive recognition. If we don’t give them opportunities to demonstrate positive digital citizenship then when given the choice they won’t be able to have any experiences to fall back on.

It also became even more clear to me the importance of having conversations with our parents as to the ‘big digital picture’. Although specific tools and apps will change, there are overall trends and shifts that are being seen online. When you combine these trends with basic child development you can start having conversations about what they can do to help their children navigate this digital world.

As educators, it is our moral obligation to have these conversations with all our stakeholders. Positive experiences lead us to life lessons and the ability to make better choices.

Generation Like Frontline documentary about teenagers quest for identity and connection.
What did ‘Generation Like’ think of Generation Like?
What Are Teens Doing Online?  Great infographic

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