Yesterday was my first time volunteering for Junior Achievement, a school program designed to teach kids about setting themselves up for economic success. My coordinator was more than happy to give me the more difficult crowd of 24 7th graders. Luckily, we were at a Catholic school, so the kids were pretty well behaved.
As a cryptologist, I often get asked to talk about social media and technology, so it was no surprise that the topics came up. I didn’t know what to expect 12 year olds to know, and quite a few things surprised me.
Everyone has an illegal email. I had one kid that was 13, the rest were 12. I made the assumption that 12 year olds didn’t have an email yet. Over half the class did, and I’m guessing a few were not 100% truthful. As a reminder, if you’re under 13, technically a child is not supposed to have an email unless a parent allows it. Google gives you a way to monitor email, but most parents aren’t aware of this. So please, be sure to ask your kid about their email address.
Kids are posting on social media. More than a few kids had a social media account of some kind (again, normally reserved for a 13 year old). When I asked if a friend had posted inappropriate pictures or other content, almost all hands went up. We had a really good discussion about how posting bad content links it to you and damages your personal brand, which could eventually make it harder to get jobs later on.
Professional emails. One of the lessons had a note about having a professional email (firstname.lastname@example.org) vs. a personal one (somesillyname@gmail). I thought that was fairly obvious, but it actually sparked a 25 minute discussion on how adults manage personal and professional emails, aliases and lives in general. I was blown away by the mature understanding 7th graders had once that concept was explained.
Middle school is tough for kids. It’s that time when kids start to really develop into their own, when they become really aware of differences, and when their body is maturing a bit faster than their mind. While it is sometimes really hard to talk to your kid during this time, my experience shows that they really need that. Seventh graders soaked up everything from proper handshakes to soft skills needed to keep a job. So if you have middle schoolers at home, or have a neighbor kid that sometimes hangs out at your house, be sure to talk to them about what you do. If you’re not giving them good skills, you can bet someone is filling the void with bad ones.