Focusing on digital literacy

Today the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) Social Media Panel called for careers advisors and schools to help pupils and school leavers understand how their social media activity could impact on their career.

This follows the resignation of Paris Brown (pictured) as Britain’s first youth police crime commissioner over comments made on Twitter.

Did you see this story? You can read about it via the BBC website and watch a video at the end of this post.

I am a member of the Social Media Panel, which produced industry leading guidance for professionals on social media (you can find this on my resources page) and the best-selling book Share This: The Social Media Handbook for PR Professionals. I wrote the chapter on using social media for internal communication.

There are plans afoot for the panel to produce guidance for schools and young people on social and digital media.It will include advice on the transition of using Twitter, Tumblr and Facebook to connect with friends and family to using social media for business, as well as highlighting to young people the lasting impact of comments made via the social web.

I think this is a brilliant idea and will be working as part of the panel to produce this information. Equipping young people with the knowledge to make smart choices and to highlight the longevity and potential impact of their communications is key. I think it’s not a question of age, as it’s useful for everyone to realise this!

This will support ongoing work by the CIPR which aims to develop a better understanding of public relations among young people in schools and ensuring that students, parents and teachers have an improved understanding of its meaning and value to the economy and society.

My fellow panel member Rob Brown FCIPR, and Founder of Rule 5 says: “Your digital footprint lives with you. This isn’t just a generational issue. People of all ages need to be digitally literate. In 140 characters you can slander or defame an individual or organisation or destroy your own reputation. Some of your history can be edited but much of it is there forever.”

Jane Wilson, CEO of the CIPR says: “Paris Brown’s comments made on Twitter were derogatory, misguided, and rightly criticised but her desire to take an active role in public life should be applauded, and it should be a matter of regret that her attempts to serve her community have ended in such a sorry way. Beyond the nature of the comments and their context, this is an issue of education, with young people, as well as adults, struggling to come to terms with a new age of accountability.”

What do young people think about using social media?

Jack WatsonRegular readers may remember I asked 15 year-old Jack Watson to write for my blog last year because I was keen to highlight how young people view and use social media.

Entrepreneurial Jack runs a successful web design and online retail business in his spare time, when not at school. He tweets at @futurepilot97 and in between juggling his school work, website and business interests, he took some time out to answer my questions. It was great to hear directly from the new generation where social media is part of business – or school – as usual.

Jack’s view on using social media is: “I love networking through social media and want to become involved in exciting, challenging, and rewarding opportunities. I’m creative, motivated and have a hardworking attitude with a strong ambition to be successful in life.

“I created a Facebook account on my 13th birthday. It was so exciting to be able to chat, look at pictures and even play games to earn points! The internet may connect you with the world, but until then I could only see what was happening in my local area, or school, and couldn’t connect with real people I knew. The amount of people I said ‘Hi’ to using chat was amazing. I’d hardly spoken to them, but because it had suddenly become easy, I was daring.

“I then ventured on to Twitter and followed the suggestions e.g. Piers Morgan and Simon Cowell. When I clicked follow, I wasn’t even sure what ‘following’ meant! I still have that first account on my phone but I locked it after hearing personal safety advice at school and reading things in the press.

“I was so careful on Facebook and locked it up properly so when the thought of ‘tweeting’ to strangers came about, I thought it was crazy. I had no followers, didn’t tweet and the only people I followed were Piers Morgan and Simon Cowell! I wasn’t impressed, and I think it was my lack of understanding and the fact hardly anyone from school was on Twitter, meant my first time on it was the last. I left it for a year or two and I’m not sure how I got back into it. However, I now use it extensively for my web design business.”

You can read his story in full here: A young ambassador’s view of social media.

What do you think of the Paris story? Do you have any suggestions for the guidance? You’re welcome to comment below or tweet me @AllthingsIC.


Below is a video by Channel 4 of the Paris Brown story (warning: contains flash photography and offensive language)


  1. Hel says:

    Great post – how impressive is Jack?!
    I have sympathy for Paris to some degree – I thank my lucky stars that social media wasn’t around to document my embarrassing antics when I was a teen (none of them prejudiced like the Paris tweets mind).
    It’s also worth remembering that adults who know their way around the digital world get it wrong all the time.
    Nevertheless, it’s time for schools to stop being quite so scared of social media – teachers need to understand basic principles of the digital networked world and help pupils increase their career/life prospects by understanding the importance of their online personas. There’s some good work happening already so things are looking up.
    Thanks for another top post Rachel!

  2. Thanks for commenting Helen. Yes indeed, Jack is super, I enjoy hearing his views, he’s a smart cookie.

    Absolutely, education is not a question of age, we all need guidance and help and I echo your thoughts about the role of schools and teachers in understanding the principles and encouraging and equipping pupils with the knowledge they need to make informed choices. Always keen to showcase good work, so if there’s something you think the panel or I should be aware of, do please let me know, Rachel.

  3. Advita says:

    Hi Rachel

    Fab post! I do feel for Paris, completely agree with her decision to step down but it’s unfortunate that every poor thought she had was documented. I agree with Hel and I am grateful that Social Media wasn’t around when I was her age. Schools do need to take note and make SM part of their curriculum – Social Media isn’t going to go away so the least they can do is teach the future generation the correct and safe way to use it.


Submit a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

How can we help?

All Things IC helps practitioners around the globe increase their knowledge of internal communication.

There’s a variety of ways we can support you including trainingconsultancy and mentoring to boost your skills and confidence.

Or visit the shop to see everything we offer.

Who has hired All Things IC?

Clients say working with All Things IC leaves them feeling inspired, motivated, full of ideas and ready to turn plans into action.

We’re proud to have been invited to work with, and advise, some of the world’s leading brands.

Get in touch...

Would you like to work with All Things IC? Do get in touch below. Please note we only accept guest post ideas from in-house IC pros who have read the blogging guidelines.

Asking for advertising, back links or pitching services? We do not offer these and will not reply. Thank you.