Students, staff, parents get message in digital mindfulness

Embrace technology but be aware of the risks: this was the message from Chris Vollum, social media guru, who spoke to all students, plus some parents, this week.

For 15 years, the popular guest speaker has visited St. Andrew’s to tout the benefits of social media and warn of its pitfalls.

“I love social. I’m a big advocate and use it every day,” Mr. Vollum told all Upper School students in Ketchum Auditorium Tuesday, Jan. 17. But he noted that taking advantage of digital media requires minimizing the associated risks.

When he asked the teens if they follow a person or an account they consider toxic, students acknowledged they do as a hushed murmur spread through the auditorium.

Mr. Vollum confirmed that “likes” equal support, and even if you’re simply supporting a friendship, you shouldn’t like content you don’t personally support. People searching your accounts don’t know the context behind your support of inappropriate content, and friendships, trust, relationships, and reputations can be destroyed in the online environment.

However, there are ways to back away from content you don’t support, and this can be done with patience, empathy, kindness, and good character, which Mr. Vollum noted is plentiful at SAC.

He told the students that most social media anxiety comes from what people think their audience expects. Instead, the question to ask is: What do you want to be known for, and why? For example, he said even the things posted in chats or replies that can be seen as unfavourable will resurface, so the students were cautioned to delete anything that could be embarrassing or detrimental.

“Ensure your content and your associations support your values.”

Mr. Vollum provided a few tips on using social media to your advantage. One example he gave is to follow universities you’re interested in applying to and coaches and teams associated with these schools. “Become an asset by benefitting them,” he advised, suggesting things like re-posting, leaving positive comments, and not expecting anything in return.

He suggested spending 30 minutes a day engaged in positively acknowledging someone, sharing content (with approval), thanking someone, and seeking out accounts that support you.

Earlier in the morning, Mr. Vollum spoke to the Middle School. On Tuesday evening, we hosted a session for parents interested in learning more about the potential risks of social media apps.

Story by Julie Caspersen
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