Social sites have given kids an entirely new way to communicate – and many are using these tools to empower themselves and others.
The 100 cupcakes were cooling on the counter, each delicately iced and decorated. The napkins and the paper tablecloth were packed in a box by the folding table. The bake sale signs were slipped into acrylic frames. The charity’s information was neatly typed and folded into take-away pamphlets. After days of work, two thirteen year old girls were more than prepared for a day of fundraising at a local ball park.
Except for one massive problem: a torrential downpour.
“Now what?” said an exasperated mother, visions of wasted cupcakes dancing through her head. “Are you girls just going to stand there? Is now the best time to be playing on the computer, tapping away on your phone?”
“Mom,” said one, in the drawl only a thirteen-year-old daughter can master. “Relax – we got it figured it out.”
And indeed, they did: as it turned out, they were not playing on the computer at all. Faced with a messy day and a task that would not wait, two girls calmly proceeded to Plan B, or more specifically, Plan D – for digital. Within minutes, they had posted photos of the treats on an Instagram account, shared information about their charitable sale via a Skype group, and rather than throw up their hands in soggy defeat, created a Cupcake Delivery Service.
It took less than 30 minutes to sell all 100 cupcakes.
As the last crumb was wiped from the counter, it dawned on the mother that these quick-thinking kids were doing what literally came naturally to them. They turned to their online networks to get a job done quickly and well. So much for the telephone tree! Raised in an always-connected world, an entire generation is utilizing social media and networking tools to quite possibly change the world.
In its report on the youth movement in Egypt, referred to as Revolution 2.0, 60 Minutes eloquently explained the phenomena this way: “Their revolution began not with terrorism and tanks, but with Twitter and texts … an aging autocrat who ruled as a modern pharaoh fell victim to those weapons of the young —out-organized and outmaneuvered by social media, by kids with keyboards.”
Consider as well the phenomena of Invisible Children’s KONY2012 video campaign. Launched in March, the video literally stormed social networks and to date has been viewed by more than 100 million people worldwide, making it the most broadly shared video in Internet history. Don’t call it an overnight sensation: the video’s viral success depended on the hundreds of thousands of young people already engaged in the Invisible Children cause for more than a decade.
“I participated in an Invisible Children group in high school, Schools for Schools, and I stayed in touch with them through Facebook and Twitter,” says a 20-year-old college student. “When the video was posted on my wall, I shared it with everyone I knew, and they sent it to everyone they knew and it just exploded.”
While some kids are thinking globally, many kids are using social tools to affect change in their literal backyards. Raising money for a new skate park? Start a Twitter hash tag for the cause. Want to help a friend in a need? Share the news on Facebook to rally friends and allies for support. Need to quickly coordinate extra practice times for a sports team? Jump online and get organized.
“It’s fast and effective and I know I can reach a lot of my friends all at once,” says a college student of his class’s Facebook Page. “Some people promote bands or clubs on the page; some have used it to get massive support for an environmental advocacy group that’s big on campus. People will advertise almost anything that they’re involved in.”
Social media has created an entirely new way for kids to communicate, but it’s also given them a voice to empower themselves and each other. With networks already in place, a child doesn’t see the limitations that a rainy day might place on a planned outdoor bake sale. In fact, she doesn’t see any limitations at all. She just logs in and gets to work.
Today it’s a Cupcake Delivery Service; tomorrow, it might be her race to the White House.
Twitter as a real-time real-world educational tool to study political and social struggle around the world: http://www.eschoolnews.com/2012/07/13/how-twitter-can-be-used-as-a-powerful-educational-tool/
10 Ways that Social Media Can Change the World: http://mashable.com/2009/05/12/social-media-change-the-world/