Growing Up in the Digital Age

Technology Tips

Growing Up in the Digital Age

By Chris Aviles     Dec 7, 2016

Growing Up in the Digital Age

This article is part of the guide: EdSurge 2017 Personal Statements.

What is the hardest part of being a teenager now? What’s the best part? What advice would you give younger siblings or friends (assuming they would listen to you)? (Coalition for College Access)

I’m 32. Like most, I would love to go back in time, knowing what I know now, and live my life over again. If I were a teenager now though, I wouldn’t say the same.

Growing up in the digital age is the hardest part of being a teenager. From social media to cyber bullies to anonymous networking apps and the ubiquitous camera phone, every mistake or embarrassing moment can be captured, shared and relived over and over again. Youthful indiscretions that were eventually forgotten about or unchronicled for people my age and older can now have an impact on getting into college, finding a job and beyond. Today’s teens live in a fishbowl, constantly fearing that their most embarrassing moment or greatest shame is just a Tweet, post, Google search away from resurfacing. It seems if you can make it out of college today without ruining your reputation or having it ruined for you, it’s a miracle.

To combat this new way of life, many parents, teachers and experts have set out to teach kids about digital citizenship—lessons that teach kids what appropriate technology use looks like and how to tackle issues that may arise when students go online (“netiquette,” if you will). When teaching digital citizenship, we often warn teens of all the dangers that could happen to them online, and how this can happen by, for example, sharing too much with digital strangers.

But there’s another side to this coin. While growing up in the digital age may be the hardest part about being a teenager today, it’s also one of the best. Teenagers today with an idea and a passion can do on their own what once took an entire company with a $1 million budget to get done. And the same camera phone, apps and social media that have destroyed so many reputations can also be harnessed for the power of good by helping students develop a positive online presence. I’ve seen this firsthand with my students: a few years ago, one of my students was able to get a story she wrote published on the literary magazine and website TeenInk. The article directed readers to my student’s personal website, where she kept other stories and her social media profiles. When it came time to apply for college, Pratt was impressed with her body of work, and she was accepted into the university’s writing program.

Knowing the power—both good and bad—that having an online identity can hold, my best advice to teenagers today is to develop a digital footprint that you are proud of. Students can start to do this by sharing their work, success stories and reflecting on their learning either with social media, blogging or a digital portfolio. Further, students should also remember their offline decisions influence their online reputations and vice versa. It’s not enough to have a digital portfolio if students don’t use proper netiquette. My hope is that when it comes time for college, not only will they have a digital portfolio to share, but a strong online presence that showcases their love for learning that will continue to grow throughout and even beyond college.

Chris Aviles is the Edtech Coach for Fair Haven, N.J. school district

Learn more about EdSurge operations, ethics and policies here. Learn more about EdSurge supporters here.

Next Up

EdSurge 2017 Personal Statements

More from EdSurge

Get our email newsletterSign me up
Keep up to date with our email newsletterSign me up