If you look deep in the tombs of communication textbooks, you will find that social media applications, such as Facebook, were initially developed to make a global community united. The distance that spans between people and communities is immense. Hence, social media was devised as a tool to bridge gaps between people, culture, time and ideology. However, that isn’t exactly what happened. And like any sort of disruptive technology, instead of bringing people closer together – social media has been pegged to being one of the most powerful divisive tools in modern history. But, we all know, social media is not going away. It has become a ‘normal’ part of life, and in many ways, a tool that we just can’t seem to live without. The challenge has become how can we overcome the problems on social media and begin to empower social media users to use the tool for good – or really use social media as a way it was initially designed, to bring people together.
Problems with Social Media
Most of us can relate to a time where social media did exactly the opposite of what it was designed to do. Fights, bullying, misinformation, miscommunication and even malicious stories are shared on social media. We know it is a blatant misuse of a powerful technology. But that does not stop it from happening. And even though we know it is wrong, it does not make the problems, and the pain, it can cause, any less difficult to deal with.
This is when Kim Karr comes into the picture with her innovative, and empowering program, #ICanHelp.
#ICanHelp is an “interactive program(s) focused on social media issues tailed specifically to elementary school, middle school, and high school students” that empowers students to take steps against negativity online. The program is multi-faceted, and includes assemblies for students, digital leadership training for students, and workshops for parents.
The idea behind the program is to gives students, and their families, the tools necessary to use the internet responsibly.
When we think about the internet, it is a vast unknown – and when it comes with how to be safe, there are a lot of question marks. In general, the tween and teen years are difficult periods where learning how to be socially correct is difficult. On the internet, learning how to manage what is acceptable, appropriate and even ‘right’ is hard. On the internet, where boundaries are unseen and unknown, what is acceptable, appropriate is even more difficult to manage. Plus, the internet is seen as a place where rules that do exist, may or may not even be relevant.
#ICanHelp gives students the framework for making better decisions online. Even better, the curriculum is presented to parents too – which helps to bridge any communication gaps that commonly exist between parents and their growing children.
For our youth population, social media has been a place where judgement lives. That judgement, often culminates into bullying, hurt, and violence, against self or others. #ICanHelp has already made an impact on over 300,000 students in the United States and Canada and they have successfully removed over 800 pages online dealing with harassment, cyberbullying, and impersonation. Even more importantly, after their first year of work, 82.7% of students who have gone through the program report they will be more thoughtful online and 55.9% have stated they check their account to make sure what they post is positive.
If you want to learn how you, your children or local schools can become part of the #ICanHelp movement, visit https://www.icanhelpdeletenegativity.org/ to find tools you can use to join the fight against negativity.