I will preface this so as to make my stance clear; I am not a parent, nor have I raised a child. I have, however, developed a valuable perspective form speaking at 100+ youth assemblies.
At these speaking engagements, one of the subjects I touch on, is bullying. This is a problem that I faced throughout my time in school. I also talk about goal setting, an ability that I didn’t have due to my lack of confidence, due to bullying. I also broach the subject of appropriate social media use, which many adults struggle with, and also the resilience necessary to achieve goals.
I speak on depression and drug use, as well, but I’ll get into that at another time.
What I’d like to address now is the idea of technology being used as a means of punishment. You know what I’m talking about if you’ve ever heard or uttered statements like, “Put your phone away and be social.” This is something my coach, John Brown would often tell me.
My response: this ain’t a game I’m playing. There is a huge social and professional benefit in building a strong online presence. For those of you already shaking your head in disagreement, think back to when your parents refused to make the change from VHS.
“What’s wrong with going down to a packed Blockbuster on a Friday night to choose a movie to watch with. Your family? Is your family not good enough to choose a movie with?”
My response…Ummm…tradition stunts growth. We must forge ahead without dragging the baggage of the past. VHS tapes were at one time relevant and the most efficient way to watch a movie. As times change, we must too.
If I’m building an online platform organically through immediate engagement with my following, I cannot sit with my phone vibrating in my pocket for two hours while my coach enjoys the latter half of his life. The world is changing directions and you don’t want to be playing catch up.
It should be a legitimate fear of parents to have their children standing outside of a closed Blockbuster with a look of utter confusion on their faces as the clutch a faded blue and yellow plastic card in their hands…or whatever the future’s equivalent of this scenario is.
Remember when there was no need for a wireless receiver because there was nothing wrong with the corded, rotary phone? Remember when Super Nintendo was a waste of money because NES was good enough? Remember when one cell phone was good enough for the entire house and you were regulated to phone calls after 9pm (or 7pm if you had Sprint PCS)?
As we continue to live in a Capitalist world, we may not have to “keep up with the Joneses” but we must keep up with civilization. I say this with a slightly regrettable tone, as I witness how iPads have become the new babysitter.
Maybe its my old fashion ways (1990s) that make me cringe whenever I see a parent playing Candy Crush while their 3 year old’s brain becomes overly stimulated with colorful screens…but I digress.
As I completely embody my role as a role model, I struggle with being appealing to adults, while being relatable to students. It is a dangerous line that I must walk for a multitude of reasons.
As a struggling and burgeoning entrepreneur, I would be hard pressed to book a school assembly, if I post videos of a dirty standup comedy routine. Yet it would be completely acceptable for Dave Chappelle to lead a school assembly, and the school would find the funds for a large budget for the Dave Chappell’s.
I won’t be entirely hypocritical, I book 99% of my speaking engagements because of my boxing abilities, a NETFLIX documentary, and my social media following; not my speaking ability. I’m invited to return to schools because of my speaking ability.
If I was held to the same standards as a school principal, students would not take heed of my words; I wouldn’t be relatable to them. I pride myself on being a child with adult-like resources. My connection with teens is completely authentic. I almost have the ability to see through their eyes as teenagers. This is a connection that is lost with age, so, I’m acutely aware that I have this ability and how valuable that is in my industry.
As someone who is an adult, but relates to the youth, where does one draw the line between interactions and engagement?
Well, let’s put this in chronological context:
Eight years old or younger, watch them like a hawk! They are very impressionable. They may also interpret things that they don’t understand in a negative way.
I remember my grandmother making me stay home from school when Amistad, the movie about slave trade, was shown in my class. Her fear was that I would develop a hate for all white people. At that age, I didn’t understand her thought process, but I’m grateful for her today.
Age eight to twelve, I believe kids should be taught simple programs, such as Microsoft Office, video editing and photoshop. These are crucial to productive existence in the future. These may seem unimportant today, but this is exactly how I felt about the Mavis Beacon typing program when I was a child. Why must I learn to type? I’m not going to grow up to be a secretary, I’m a boy! Oh, how I was wrong.
Thirteen years olds should be allowed monitored social media use. I didn’t believe this before, but now, as I visit more and more schools, I’m becoming aware of all the ways teens pull the wool over our eyes.
To name a few: secret “Calculator” apps that you type in a decimal and your 4 digit password followed by another decimal. These allow kids to store questionable photos that they wouldn’t want their parents to know that they have.
They also utilize “Finstagram” accounts. These are shell accounts that students log into and can also be used to store photos that they wouldn’t want to be caught having. When a parent does a random check no their child’s phone and looks at his/her Instagram, they will only see picture after picture of harmless good child-like humor.
Another sneaky little app is CoverMe, it is an unencrypted platform where texts automatically delete.
The world is swiftly moving to an existence of technology and innovation. Holding a child back at the starting line will only make them run recklessly forward in an attempt to catch up. We’re all familiar with the sheltered Catholic school student who turned into a raging heathen in college!
Baby Boomers were enticed with the dream of owning a house with a white picket fence. This could be obtained by hard work for the men, and perfecting the art of the housewife for women. They bought the dream, but the dream and the times have changed.
Granted, allowing students to utilize technology and bestowing them with the knowledge of using it correctly and responsibly, is an entirely different story. This is why the pay me the Big (well…relatively affordable) Bucks!
A great portion of my social media presentation at school assemblies is asking students questions that they’ve never asked themselves. I do this through informative, yet fun exercises.
At the conclusion of my highly interactive presentation, I invite students to ask any questions they have via Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. I then record a YouTube video in my series called #AskAwesome where I answer all of their questions in detail.
I purposely address each question by giving a shout out to the student using their personal handle, and making a quick comment about their profile. This facilitates keeping an open dialogue of what I discussed during my presentation weeks after I leave.
Students often say, “I followed you, follow me back.” And to that, I always respond, “Sure, if you can tell me why.” They are normally dumbfounded. This is an example of a question that students aren’t aware enough to ask for themselves.
I like to casually ask, “Has anyone ever given their input on your conversation, that they were not a part of? And you gotta be like, ‘Who asked you?’” Students always respond in agreement with laughter.
I then inform them, “You did. You asked them for their input when you allowed them to follow you on social media.”
Then I share a few different experiences I’ve had when dealing with online trolls, and I give my advice on how to disengage with trolls, AND why it is important to do so.
I will be spending the majority of February visiting schools in The Carolina’s and Florida, but I’m also booking speaking engagements at high schools, middle schools, and elementary schools for assemblies and graduation speeches for January through May.
What do I discuss? I’m so glad you’ve asked! I customize each presentation around a school’s specific needs. I normally tailor the length of my presentations around the school’s existing bell schedule, averaging between 35-75 minutes. The only equipment I require is a projector/screen with audio.
I offer discounted rates when multiple schools within a district/general area schedule me during the same week.
Digital Awareness - The potential long term effects that a digital footprint can have on future college, team, and employers considerations.
Bullying - Cyber, physical, verbal, roasting, exclusionary, and unconscious bullying.
Personal/Career Goal-Setting & Resilience - Setting and achieving big goals and the resilience necessary to achieve said goals.
Depression and Suicide Prevention - How to identify a change in behavior in yourself and your peers, and how to seek help.