Junior High

Recently, I had the pleasure and challenge of speaking to several hundred junior high school students during an all day conference.  I was the keynote in the morning, kicking off their day which was full of workshops on topics such as money, sex, jobs and other topics of interest.  My task was to speak to them about communications and technology.

There is no getting around the fact that I am quite a bit older than them, and their parents.  So, I demonstrated the communications technology available in my day:

Rotary Phone in Black

DIALLING….WAITING……”no answer. Maybe Patti is home. I’ll try her.”

DIALLING….WAITING….”Busy! Crap.  Maybe Gerry…”

DIALLING…WAITING…..”Oh, hello. Is Gerry there?  No? Well, can you give him a message…..”

The point is, when we wanted to gather friends for a party, gossip about frenemies with others, or simply abuse someone verbally, we had to do it in person, one-on-one.  There wasn’t the ability to generate thousands of likes to a mean comment about someone who had ticked you off moments earlier. There was time, and space, to think about it before acting.  On the upside, when we did connect with THAT PERSON, the conversation happened and then was gone.  The memory of the insults might linger but there was no trace of the actual audio.  Unlike today, of course, where even SnapChat can be screengrabbed and shared. (It was the case, about 5 minutes ago, that the app notified you of the screen grab but, about 4 minutes ago, someone invented an app that blocks the notification. Of course.)

It’s this persistence of social media memory that is the most problematic for the junior high school set because most of them aren’t yet thinking about the future with a capital F.  They know, but don’t dwell on, the fact that all their social media presence, good and bad, will be available for scrutiny as they go to university, apply for jobs, run for office, or play professional sports.

The time to take control of the narrative of you is now.  It’s never too soon to start thinking about who you want the world to see, and taking control over the forces that might get in the way.

For those of you with children, don’t wait to talk to them about the impact of technology on their lives; it’s not the traditional Stranger Danger talk anymore, although that is also important.  The chances of being lured to Montana by someone posing as a 13 year old girlfriend are slim but the chances of sustaining damage to their future, through the thoughtless posting of information, are very real.  It’s not just what your kids post about themselves, it’s what their friends and frenemies post and tag and share about them.

Joanna Piros