We are always being told how important it is to stay active, get outside, and to exercise. And while it’s important to exercise your body, it’s also important to exercise your rights. One of our rights is the right to free speech. With the immense amount of information and technology available to all of us today, it’s easier now than ever to exercise our right to speak our minds! The act of expressing your beliefs online, or advocating for a cause is known as digital activism
Although it is encouraged to be digitally active, it is also important to maintain your digital citizenship at the same time. To elaborate, you should speak your mind and be an advocate, but at the same time, you should respect others’ beliefs. When something is said that you don’t agree with, it’s okay to state your opinion, but do so respectfully. As teachers, it is our job to educate our students on how to promote their beliefs and be advocates for change in a diplomatic, respectful, way.
Classrooms around the nation are taking a stand and beginning to spread knowledge and awareness on issues from a young age! The blog post “My kids, a cause, and our classroom” demonstrates the way that teachers can help young students learn how to be digital activists in a safe environment. This particular classroom talks about poverty and healthy eating.
By teaching students at a young age how to be good activists, they can begin to create their own voice online. Children at young ages are doing just this. This website about the Shorty Awards has multiple examples of teenagers who are speaking out and making a change! The topics range from mental illness to bullying to suicide. Teenagers are being digital activists on a daily basis without evaen realizing it. Think of the number of young people sharing GoFundMe pages, posts, and pictures that discuss tragedies and ask for change. These posts may be political, religious, or personal; these are all examples of people sharing their voice and being activists!
While looking through the finalists of the Shorty Awards, Free and Above really spoke to me. I looked through the site, and was so impressed by what I found. Tony Cox, the founder of the site, has gone on a mission to educate others on mental illness to eradicate the stigma placed on those with mental illnesses. The site not only provides definitions and statistics on different mental illnesses, but also highlights what it’s like to have these mental illnesses. Tony has also created a Twitter and blog page that provides quotes, tips, stories, and encouragements. In addition, the page has partnered with other websites whose goals are similar, and has a “Get Help” page with phone numbers to resources for those struggling with suicidal thoughts, sexual/physical/mental abuse, eating disorders, etc. Overall, the site had so many resources and so much information to help those in need.
With the increased access to technology today, it is easy to spread information and awareness to issues, causes, etc. to thousands of people within mere minutes. As teachers, we should use this to our advantage and show our students how to speak their mind and be activists in a responsible manner. We want our students to learn how to share their beliefs while still maintaining their status as digital citizens.