Sometimes teenagers know best

Teenage bad behaviour related to technology has been big news for the past few years. Parental concern for their child’s wellbeing has been significant, with good reason. Teenage misuse of technology spreads across all schools, all year levels and all platforms.

What constitutes misuse? There is plenty of media coverage of the big-ticket items such as image-based abuse, cyberbullying and illegal content. Then there is all the lesser known bad behaviour such as watching an R rated series on Netflix during lunch break, creating Snapchat smear campaigns about teachers and peers, starting nasty school meme accounts on Instagram, using phones to coordinate meetups in the toilets during class.

The size of the problem has hatched a whole industry of online experts and advisers. Most of what is online has been written by adults and is targeted at teachers or parents. There is plenty of superficial and patronising content that scrapes the surface of some of the big issues and the take-aways for students are nothing more than ‘don’t do this’ and ‘tell somebody when something happens’.

Yes, something needed to be done. Our school, like many others, has been pro-active. A school survey and a series of focus groups with students, staff and parents in 2017 made three things very clear.

Firstly, there was a serious gap in teenage knowledge and skills related to the online environment. Secondly, teenagers view the online world differently to adults and thirdly, a ‘quick-fix’ wasn’t going to work because there would always be new students.

In August 2017, I presented the findings of this research to the eLearning Committee, with a proposal on how we could do something purposeful to prepare our students for life in a digital world and also embed it into our school life permanently.

So, the Digital Access Pass was born by unanimous decision.  We wanted our program to be meaningful and for the student audience to connect with it, so students needed to be part of the process.

2018 – The original Digital Access Pass Team

I put together a small working party of Year 11 and Year 12s to brainstorm a way forward, and the Digital Access Pass team was born. 

The carefully planned scope and sequence developed by the eLearning Committee went out the window fairly quickly, once the team realised we were taking them seriously.  Apparently, teenagers ‘know stuff’ about the online environment that is beyond the knowledge horizon of adults.

Eighteen months later, the working party has over 40 students ranging from Years 9-12. They are actively engaged in design, development, graphics and illustration, videoing, proof reading and promotion of the Pass. They have built their own skills, tutor each other, and they see their work published to their school peers who value and engage with it. All of this in their own time.

Today we have a functional eLearning platform, 15 completed courses, and another 18 somewhere in the development pipeline. Over the last two years, I have faced some of the biggest challenges of my career coordinating this project. I have also become convinced that sometimes, teenagers are the best source of information about what works for teenagers.

The team has a mission to take their message to teenagers around the globe. Help them achieve this goal by following and sharing our social accounts.

Digital Access Pass website: Guest access enables you to view two of the courses, both of which are designed for our students.

DAP Instagram @digitalaccesspass
DAP Twitter @DigAccessPass

Listen to my interview on ABC Brisbane Radio. 

Watch this 2-minute snapshot of the Digital Access Pass