Networking for good

A friend recently told me that her son, whose middle school plans to show Screenagers schoolwide before the semester ends, is already feeling defensive about what he anticipates will be “another parent attack” on one more dreaded teen behavior that we parents have to “do something about.”

“There are a lot of good things that happen on screens,” he insists pre-emptively. “It’s not just all wasting time.” His latest favorite evidence is a popular YouTube video considering the question, “Can video games make you smarter?”

It’s true that social networks and innovative apps have brought a lot of good into our lives. There are plenty of examples of online connectedness playing a big role in enabling people to advocate for positive ideas and take action quickly. In a large-scale crisis like a natural disaster or major accident, word can spread instantly on social media with photos, connecting people to help, services and volunteers.

We also connect more conveniently to people far away, re-connect to people from other eras of our lives, and establish valuable links with new people based on shared interests or knowledge. Political and grassroots activists mobilize support and get organized more quickly and cost-efficiently than ever before thanks to the existence of social media platforms.

I’d like to devote this week’s family conversation to the many “tech positives” in our lives. Our own teens will probably teach us a thing or two about it. Pro-girl blogger Michelle Cove challenged her readers to use social media for good — as in spreading inspiration and laughter — and shared three high-impact examples to get us thinking in that direction.

  • What is an example of how a social media network really benefited you recently?
  • Have you considered using social media to make something good happen for others or your community?
  •  Have you been inspired by movements or ideas you encountered online?
  • Have you experienced innovative uses of technology in your classroom?
  • What specific screen activity makes your life better?