Medicine Hat News

Catholic school students given social media training

ANNA SMITH Local Journalism Initiative reporter

The Medicine Hat Catholic Board of Education gathered students for a presentation on Wednesday, aiming to teach them not to avoid social media, but to use it in a healthy and effective way.

Guest speaker Madison Cameron, who is a Youth Specialist at the Center for Trauma Informed Practice in Lethbridge, visited five schools within the division to connect with the students. The issue is very close to her heart, said Cameron, due to her time as an educational assistant.

“I worked as an educational assistant for two years at two different middle schools in the community that I grew up in,” said Cameron. “I supported many kids with challenges that they faced whether it started on social media and translated to school hallways, or vice versa.

“I just felt like there was a need to reach out to kids and remind them and re-inspire them that they don’t have to be what the world or social media tells them to be, but they can be whoever they want to be,” said Cameron.

She spoke at length to students, not to discourage them from using their devices or social media platforms, but to take a more measured look at the reality behind what they may see on screen and help recognize and regulate their emotions while using them.

“Social media is like a highlight tape,” said Cameron during the presentation. “Social media has come from individual’s highlights, where let’s say I’m on a family vacation. And I went to Florida. I’m at the beach. And I take a photo of the ocean and I post it to my Snapchat story or Instagram story.”

Cameron went on to explain that the picture does not reveal that she may have been wishing to be anywhere but in Florida moments before, as social media only captures a brief moment, not the reality of someone’s life.

The presentation discussed feelings of insecurity, fear of missing out, and how social currency such as likes or comments can falsely drive a sense of self worth.

“I actually don’t want to point the finger at kids and youth, and say they need to get off their phones and to not do this or not do that. Because I know that kids aren’t going to hear that message,” said Cameron. “All I want to do is empower kids to make the right decisions for themselves on their own. Not every kid is the same and not every kid is utilizing their devices for the same reason. And so if I can just empower them to really utilize them in a positive manner, that’s the goal.”

Cameron also gave an evening presentation to support parents, to help give them the tools to support their children as they navigate the digital world. Cameron commented that she used to give these presentations exclusively to junior high and high school students, but the ideas brought forward are just as necessary for elementary aged students.

“I’m not here to tell you guys if you do these things, that you’re never going to have any human experience and you’re never going to talk to a stranger because it’s not true,” said Cameron during her presentation. “I’m actually not even telling you guys that you need to do these things. But I do want to give you some guidelines that I think are really important.”

The only firm guideline that Cameron set was for students to identify an adult they trusted to speak to about their online experiences, be it a teacher, a parent, or another trusted adult in their life.

“Social media and technology is very much a part of our worlds. It is not going to disappear. It’s just going to continue to evolve,” said Cameron. “So if I can just share a message with them that makes them reconsider and think about how they use these things. And remind them that they are tools that we do get to use for good.”





Alberta Newspaper Group