Honor Roll: Pierson Student Creates ‘Digital Citizenship’ Workshops

Charlotte Johnson has organized a series of Digital Citizenship workshops. Christine Sampson photo

Update — The Digital Citizenship workshop scheduled for Wednesday has been postponed to January. A new date will be announced soon.

If there’s one thing Charlotte Johnson knows forward and backward, it’s field hockey — as evidenced by her recent commitment to play the sport at Duke University. If there’s another thing the Pierson High School senior says she knows, it’s how to use social media in a responsible way, and on Wednesday she’ll share that knowledge with parents as part of her “Digital Citizenship” workshop series.

She said she was inspired to create the workshop series after attending a few meetings of the Pierson PTSA. She said she realized some parents were in need of insight into technology they weren’t familiar with and had questions they didn’t want to ask their kids. The workshops are Charlotte’s “creativity, activity, service” project as part of her participation in the International Baccalaureate diploma program, which is a challenging set of courses and requirements meant to prepare students for successful lives after high school.

“If you have the knowledge, you should be able to share it with other people who are less informed or curious,” Charlotte said in an interview. “The word ‘citizen’ is about a good presence in the community and sharing with others. … It’s about proactive discussion.”

Wednesday’s workshop will cover Snapchat, which is used by about 191 million people worldwide, according to the app’s statistics. The event takes place at 5 p.m. in the Pierson library. The event is free and open to all parents and guardians; registration is not required.

Charlotte’s first workshop, an introduction to social media, took place in October. Another one covering Instagram — used by about 104.7 million people in the United States — is planned for January. A final workshop wrapping up the general topic of responsible social media usage will be held in February or March.

During the workshops, Charlotte will offer research-based presentations along with firsthand experiences. Kids these days are “growing up and changing with the updates of phones, so it’s kind of been a staple in middle school and high school.”

“It started a new age of communication,” she said. “It’s part of social norms now.”

She said she got her start with it a little bit later than some of her friends because she got her own smartphone a couple of years after they did.

“It’s actually really special, because I’ll get to voice my opinion of what I think is appropriate for a high school or middle school student and hopefully positively impact the parents and students in the community,” she said. “I talk a lot to parents about how trust is really important when using a phone and social media. It’s really important to establish guidelines and trust your kids.”

Pierson assistant principal Michael Guinan, who runs the school’s International Baccalaureate program, praised Charlotte’s workshop series.

“It’s a great idea, a great service to the community,” he said. “It’s ‘creativity, activity, service’ at its best.”