I have been on the road frequently speaking at student and parent conferences. One of my favorite things about what I do, other than getting to meet parents and students, is learning new things. What do I mean by things? It can be anything really. Kids are hysterical and will teach you about most all “things” if you listen. What they like about school, what they don’t like, who their favorite influencers are, what their favorite games are, etc. I learn a lot about communities, a school’s history (I spoke at a school just this week celebrating 100 years!), and teachers are always a wealth of information.
As I was getting ready to speak to a group of middle school students, a principal introduced me and mentioned to the students that they were about to receive an “unearned education.” He then explained the difference between earned versus unearned education. If you see that a stove is hot and touch it, you get burned and learn not to touch it again.
This is earned education. When you are presented with something or learn something without having to earn it…in this case, they were receiving education about social media from me…that is unearned education. I thought this was brilliant, and it got me thinking. As parents, we have the awesome opportunity to take advantage of unearned education about our kids and social media safety. What does that mean? How can we do that? What does that even look like?
By nature, humans are reactive. Take social media education for our kids as an example. We tend only to want to get involved once something happens and we have to get involved. At that point, we have to learn how to navigate what has occurred and prevent anything from happening in the future. This becomes earned education, which is different from the education we want. It tends to come with issues. Someone may have gotten hurt because of a careless post, may be at risk because of contact with a predator, or may have a personal narrative to navigate because of inappropriate pictures or content released online. Once these situations occur, the earned education can be painful, like touching a hot stove.
But what if we become proactive and provide ourselves and our children with unearned education? What if we take action today to attend conferences and learn all we can about protecting our children online? What if we take some time to research and learn how to set restrictions, navigate social media apps, and do random device checks…before something happens?
It seems to me that unearned education is much less painful, and maybe one would argue that it is a bit more beneficial than earned education. What if we, for the month of December, decide to learn a bit about social media and device safety? Then, when the New Year rolls around, we can kick it off with a healthy digital start without suffering some of the pain of being forced into learning. And the REAL positive of this unearned education…no one has to get hurt to earn it.
Kristi Bush serves as a national education consultant and social media safety advocate. She is a licensed social worker with greater than 15 years of clinical practice and health care experience. She attended Troy and Auburn University where she studied social work and counseling. Kristi travels nationally and has spoken with thousands of children, parents, professionals and organizations about the benefits and threats associated with social media. You may reach Kristi through her website at www.knbcommunications.com.