Area Social Media Conference Teaches Students the Importance of Online Etiquette

11 May

On April 30, 2010, High School students from Durham, Wake and Iredell County Schools gathered at the Raleigh Convention Center to be a part of Social Media Futures’ Academy, a unique new media and technology conference.

Social Media Futures’ Academy (SMFA) is a one-day youth conference designed to address prominent social media issues facing high school students. The conference took place in conjunction with the FutureWeb 2010 Conference, co-located with the International WWW2010 Conference in Raleigh, NC.

Living in a digital society, social media has become an integral part in the lives of teens.  However, the uses of social media applications, beyond social communication, aren’t widely addressed among high school students. Social Media Futures’ Academy sought to create an environment that sparked conversation and encouraged students to discuss the pros, cons and future possibilities of social media.

Interactive Media graduate students, faculty from Elon University, Greg DeKoenigsberg from Red Hat as well as Chris DiBona of Google were on hand to facilitate, instruct and educate participants on the current and future impact of social media on today’s youth.

The connectivity that teens have to social media is paramount, but that connectivity is turning into a bully’s playground.

Cyber-bullying is nothing new, but is finally being given proper attention by the media, government and parents because of the many teens who have committed suicide as a result.

The most recent case is that of Alexis Pilkington.  A 17 year-old popular athlete from Long Island, who committed suicide after she was bullied online. Even after the teen’s death, her ruthless attackers never let up.  They Posted graphic pictures and lewd comments on her Facebook memorial page.

Yesterday, Fourteen-year-old Jamie Isaacs was the star witness in an effort to pass a new law on cyber-bullying in Long Island’s Suffolk County. Isaacs, was also a victim of cyber -bullying. But unlike Pilkington, is alive to tell of her sorrow.

During SMFA, Interactive Media Graduate student Karen Hartshorn addressed the issue of cyber-bullying to the high school students and teachers in attendance.  Here presentation “Hip, Connected, and Dangerous: The Youth and Cyber Bullying” was coupled with questions that asked the ways the participants had been bullied, and instruction on how kids should deal with cyber-bullying if it happens to them.

Teens long to be accepted by their peers. Now, social networks and virtual worlds are where their friends are gathering. It is easy to say,” Just turn off your computer. Delete you account.” Honestly, what teenager is going to be bold enough to abandon their digital circle? As a society, we must make kids aware of the dangers of the Internet.

Cyber-bullying is not going to stop, but if children are taught at a very young age the proper ways to use the Internet, then maybe, just maybe, we can prevent the next generation from living in fear of the cyber-bully.