Today (5/6/11) is “Delete Day” at the Mary Louis Academy in Jamaica Estates, N.Y., a day the students themselves decided last fall to organize. And that is what’s meaningful about this “online safety” initiative: It’s their own. It started last October, when – as part of this Catholic girls school’s public-service education program – sophomores, juniors, and seniors participated in a “Take Action, Advocacy, Leadership One-Day Conference.” After giving a keynote about “safety, responsibility, respect, and reputation management within online and offline communities,” Alison Trachtman Hill of Critical Issues for Girls offered the student “service-learning teams” some “ideas and strategies to create youth-led change in their community” and a “Take Action” template for the teams to use, Hill writes in her blog. But I think the most important thing she did was this: “I spoke to them about their power and responsibility to change the culture at their school, because so often youth don’t feel like they have the power to make change, when the reality is that they are the only ones who can!!” she later told me (I totally agree – see this). The students decided they needed to “create a culture of inclusivity, dignity and love within their school community, using Gandhi’s quotation “My life is my message” as the theme, adding their own tagline: “Make yours a message that matters.” [I think “My life is my message”– applying our critical thinking to that as we use social media – is the very essence of new media literacy.]
Acting on that tagline, for Delete Day today, the organizers are staffing a room in the school where fellow students can go during lunch or a free period to delete messages that don’t matter (or are destructive), including mean gossip, wall comments, inappropriate photos, unknown “friends” and contacts, etc. [For more details, see coverage at the Huffington Post.]
Maybe this great idea will go viral. Already, upon hearing about Delete Day (before it happened!) in a risk-prevention group in which we all participate, New Zealand’s NetSafe.org.nz told us there will a national Delete Day in their country later this year. They told us they’ll be developing “a sort of virtual ‘Delete Day in a Box’ that a school could pick up and adapt for their context … ensuring the IT admin is on board so students can access otherwise blocked sites, developing student teams for different purposes, presentation templates for … staff or PTA prior to the event … possibilities for credit in some subject areas for student participants … draft press releases [for] before and after [for news reporters and for] including local businesses or appropriate agencies to sponsor [and] a national online collaborative space where students can share their strategies and successes.” NetSafe is considering piloting Delete Day with a single school “so we can create a short case study/video story or vlog that details one school’s experience to help publicize this great positive student initiative so others will join in.” Talk about inspiration!