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Does anyone remember life before social media? You know…the PT (Pre-Twitter) era? How about a day in your life when you haven’t accessed a form of social media in any way? As many of you read this I would anticipate that most of you can, and do, actually remember those days…I mean they were less than 20 years ago right?

Now take a second and think about how many students in school today, or our own children for that matter, have ever experienced a day PT (remember that’s Pre-Twitter). It’s a dwindling number and one that will be extinct very soon. As a school administrator and a parent I have accepted the fact that today’s generation of kids is in fact fully “plugged in” and I couldn’t be happier! As an educator, and a parent, I have always viewed social media as an awesome opportunity for our next generation of leaders to grow, learn, and find their voice through the expression of feelings, opinions, successes, and dreams. Just as my parents taught me values that I carry with me today, it is our job to teach the same values but maybe just in a different way. Think about it…were you taught about appropriate use of language growing up? Manners? Expectations? Responsibility? The same lessons still apply only now it involves Part B – the chapter focused on technology use. That really excites me as a parent and a teacher!

I don’t have to rewrite the book but instead adjust how the book of values is taught, shown, and presented!

I will never forget the day when my 3rd child demonstrated to me that she was indeed “plugged in.” She had just turned two and was playing around on an iPad and was swiping from right to left scrolling through the different features of an app.  Wow!  She had just demonstrated to me a skill that she will use for the rest of her life: Processing information and decision-making!  Hence the title of this blog – All the Kids are Doing It! It’s not uncommon for a 4th grader at my school to know more than their teacher about technology, bring different devices to school, and have the need to be taught through an online or technology driven format! The world has changed a lot in the last 20 years and the greatest benefactors of the advances in technology are the students in our schools. The educational doors that have been opened because of advancement in technology, social media presence in schools, and forward thinking educators has helped meet the challenge of an ever growing student population that comes into school and demands to not be “unplugged”.

So what’s our job in all of this?  There are really two options in my opinion.

First – we can shelter and hide students and children from exposure and fail to teach them the necessary skills and pay the price later OR we can teach digital citizenship at an early age and help mold a responsible digital citizen. Let’s not be blind to the fact that with awesome advances in technology also comes greater responsibility to educate, have tough conversations, and develop routines and standards that can be agreed upon by all parties involved. In my school we choose a three-pronged approach to teaching digital citizenship. We, like many schools, talk to our students in a whole group setting and fill them on the “what-ifs” if they make poor choices through social media. We also push out as many positives as we possibly can to demonstrate how often positive social media use is happening with our students! Trust me…the positives are happening everyday! The introduction of Class Intercom has also helped our cause as we can promote our students school story through our school’s social media accounts! The more positives we can demonstrate that are happening, the greater impact I feel we have among our student body! Ultimately that reflects well on the individual, their families, and our brand. Recently we have also been very successful meeting individually with students and simply asking them how things are going in their lives and including social media in that conversation. This often leads to great conversations and an open dialogue that carries over into the future!

I would assume that while you have been reading this blog post your phone has dinged or flashed with a text message or two and maybe you have had an update on your Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter feed. Trust me – I’m not offended if you multitasked between my post and social media. In fact, I’m rather impressed and I’ll admit I’ve done the same thing while typing this today! But I do want you to stop and realize that somewhere along the line our generation taught ourselves the appropriate time, place, and use of social media. Maybe it has been through trial and error or dedicating some of our free time to learn the ins and outs of social media use. Through our trial and error and learning we have made the decision for ourselves that there is positive value in social media. Maybe it’s the interaction with others or the instant news updates. Regardless, social media use is an integral part of how we operate as adults. In a way that makes us field experts in a way and the awesome part is our students in school and our kids at home don’t have to rely on trial and error to learn about digital citizenship! They have us! We are the first generation to have ridden the social media wave!

I challenge you to take your experience and put it to great use!

Cameron Hudson is a guest contributor to our blog and the High School Principal at High Plains Community Schools in Polk, Nebraska.

Jill Johnson

Over her 30 year career in education, Dr. Jill has served in various roles including secondary ELA teacher, professional development consultant, and high school administrator. After completing her doctoral study, Technology Leadership Qualities in Secondary Principals in Nebraska who Support Student-led Social Media Teams, Jill began her tenure as Class Intercom President.