Red Deer Public School District

Students learn best practices for navigating the world of social media

Trying to navigate the ever-changing world of social media not easy, but when it’s something you didn’t grow up with and you are not really in it like your children are, it can be impossible to understand.

Jo(e) Social Media has made it a priority to talk to as many youth in Central Alberta as possible regarding the highs and lows of social media. So far, they have reached thousands of students in Red Deer Public Schools alone.

The duo recently made their first of three presentations to students at Hunting Hills High School.

“We’ve been invited into schools to speak to kids about social media, digital citizenship, mental health, improving or cleaning up their digital history and really just being good citizens online. We gain their trust immediately, we have a charismatic, entertaining approach. We’re very relevant in their world. We’re not just coming in and talking to them, we’re talking with them,” said Joe Whitbread, who co-owns Jo(e) Social Media with Jo Phillips.

Whitbread said it can be tough for parents to not only understand the ins and out of social media, but to have meaningful conversations with their children about the subject.

“For the most part, every single adult have learned to ride a bike and we were taught by a parent, because a parent learned how to ride a bike and understood how to make it work,” he said. “But nobody at all in our world today was 12 years old on Instagram if they’ve had children.”

Kids use social media in completely different way than adults, and some of those ways are tremendously positive. They need to be listened to, we simply can’t apply our own adult experience to what their experience is, because they aren’t the same.

All of their presentations are approached from the perspective of the students.

“Most adults are approaching topics from a ‘when I was your age’ perspective. We cannot approach social media that way because when I was your age, we had a party line or one TV channel, or the biggest part of our technology was a solar calculator,” said Whitbread. “Our goal is that in every situation whether we’re speaking to 10 kids, 100 kids or 1,000 kids at a time is to pinpoint the problems or the troubles of at least one.”

Whitbread added the approach is working.

“After every presentation somebody comes up to us or messages us based on something we said. We want to teach as many kids as we can how to advance ahead in this unknown realm that is social media in their lives,” he said. “When we become vulnerable adults to adolescents, it completely changes the way that the presentations are perceived. The kids are empowered - we’re talking about social media which is their thing. The moment that we become vulnerable as adults when it goes home and the parents at the table decide to say, ‘you know what? I’m completely oblivious to SnapChat or SnapMap or Instagram stories can you show them to me?’ We actually gain an immediate respect from our kids then we can start to make progress in digital citizenship.”