Given that my professional life is so digitally oriented, it’s not surprising that my 7-year-old daughter Laurel is well informed about technology. She knows that I write several blogs. She knows that the internet allows me to work with design clients I usually never meet in person. She knows that Facebook reminds me about people’s birthdays. She knows that when I look at my phone and suddenly start laughing hysterically, it might be because I’m perusing Twitter.
Laurel and I subsequently have talked plenty about internet safety and privacy (yes, she has already asked about starting a blog; no, we haven’t gone there yet), and digital bullying (yes, she has already asked for a smartphone; no, we haven’t gone there yet). And while these issues represent challenging aspects of technology, I still believe in the awesome that social media can deliver. Specifically, that kids can learn to use social media to make the world a better place.
It’s not as lofty a concept as it might sound.
Over the years, I have used my digital platforms for just this purpose. I have rallied my Boston Mamas community to sign digital petitions and participate in click-to-fundraise campaigns. I have used social media to raise thousands of dollars for premature babies and impoverished families in developing countries. I have designed greeting cards — and sold and spread the word about them exclusively online — to benefit ovarian cancer research. And most recently, I’ve been working on the launch of a new project — The Mission List, which aligns cause campaigns with women who want to use their influence in social media for social good.
What I have seen over the years is this: When it comes to causes, people are tired of talking about awareness. They want to do something, and social media offers an incredibly easy and powerful platform to make amazing things happen. And the beautiful thing is that it’s so easy to translate this concept to kids, who — once they get beyond the developmentally appropriate self-centered phase — also have the capacity to empathize with people in need.
So wherever you are on the spectrum of social media usage, I encourage you to think of the web in a different way. In addition to enjoying the web’s utility for communication, retail therapy, and entertainment, start talking to your kids about using social media for good. Engage them in the process, so they can experience how good it feels to help others. It can be as simple as using Facebook or Twitter to spread the word about your child’s philanthropic lemonade stand. Or to raise money for a local charitable walk. Or to share (via blog or other platforms) your favorite donation resources.
The world really can be a better place. And thanks to social media, it’s ever easier for you and your kids to be catalysts for change.
Christine Koh is a music and brain scientist turned writer, editor, designer, consultant, and conversationalist. She is the founder and editor of Boston Mamas, the designer behind Posh Peacock, a digital strategist at Women Online, and cofounder of Pivot Boston and The Mission List. She writes the personal blog Pop Discourse, and her first book, Minimalist Parenting: Enjoy Modern Family Life More By Doing Less, is scheduled for publication in March 2013. She lives in the Boston area with her husband and two daughters, Laurel and Violet. She tweets about it all at @bostonmamas.
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