As many of the regular readers of my blog know, I have been interested in digital citizenship since I started podcasting back in 2005. Anyone who chooses to can participate online these days, with the costs and technical barriers to entry for blogging, podcasting, or participating in social media dropping lower every day. I see young kids playing on smartphones and tablets, and interacting with friends through basic age appropriate online games. Teens play games through Xbox live with friends from across the County, Country and World, without ever being in the same room. Adults reveal all sorts of things about themselves on Facebook- sometimes even things you might not say to your close friends if you were face to face.
When I was in school, we used to hear things like “Be Careful- if you do something wrong, it will end up on your permanent record.” Google is now our permanent record, and like the Miranda Rights, anything you say you can expect can and will be used against you at some point in the future in the Court of Public Opinion.
This can be stressful for some folks. When I was considering running for office, I had to decide whether or not everything I had ever put online (which is a lot) would be a benefit or burden. I had to decide whether I was willing to stand behind anything or everything I have ever said. Google is my permanent record.
Everything I write here on my blog is heartfelt. You may not agree with everything I say, and I would love to hear your opinions and exchange ideas, but know that what I write is what I feel, and as a result, I am willing to stand behind it all- now and in the future. I also maintain the belief that we can change our minds when we learn new things, and evolve over time- new data and information makes us more informed, not less. I’m also ok with being wrong. That’s being human.
Our school district recently issued an alert about a new social networking app that is allowing anonymous messages passed around to others through near-field communications- and that it has led to incidents of cyberbullying. I worry that we have to start teaching our kids at ever younger ages about the harm of bullying, but I think the more important lesson to impart is one of kindness. We need to keep instilling the values posted here, taken from a Facebook image shared by Edutopia- we need to ask ourselves, and ask our kids to think- True, Helpful, Inspiring, Necessary, Kind. So much of what we see these days may not measure up to these standards, and I’m willing to admit I make mistakes as well. But I really do try to start with kind, even when I make a critique.
Our reputations are our most valuable asset, and it’s really difficult to help young kids understand that concept, when the future and adulthood seem to be forever away. Heck, waiting for their favorite show to come on seems like a lifetime away, let alone college or becoming an adult. That’s why teaching values about kindness, at home and at school are so important. It’s why building communities is so important. If we treat each other with kindness (and hopefully respect), a good portion of the work is already done. The tone is less aggressive and more cooperative and that’s a great way to start any project or attempt to resolve a problem.
There’s nothing like running for office to emphasize how important reputation is, with everything you have done, and everything you choose to do. Stepping up in front of my community shines a light on my actions, and I need to make sure I conduct myself in a way I can be proud of both during the competitive phase of running for office and afterwards. While this is not the path that everyone chooses during the campaign season, and plenty of folks urge candidates to take harder shots at the opponent, or make the campaign a little more “dirty”, I hope I’m blending raising real issues, holding my opponent accountable, and being civil in our disagreements.
And if I’m not, I hope you will hold me accountable as well. After all, it’s now all part of my permanent record.