Tweeting Change: Celebrating Social Media Day 2011
Today, June 30, is Social Media Day! It is time to reflect on and celebrate the role that social media plays in our lives. Social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have been making big waves on and offline during the past few years. Hundreds of millions of people around the world have been using these sites to stay connected to their friends and families and to follow entertainment figures, news organizations, businesses and NGOs in their daily activities. In some countries, like the United States, social networking sites now dominate people’s Internet use.
Youth around the world are using social media innovatively to engage with and improve their world. In North Africa and the Middle East, social media helped fuel the youth-driven social protests and revolutions that occurred during the last few months. Youth in Iran have embraced social media in their pro-democracy demonstrations. In Canada, young people used Facebook to encourage and remind their friends to vote in the 2011 federal election, and to organize vote mobs (voting drives) at universities. Social media sites also allow people to connect to and support the work of NGOs more dynamically than ever. UNICEF, a member of CPP's Global Reference Group, boasts 1,071,590 fans on Facebook and 452,489 followers on Twitter. Today is an era when people are hungering for information about things they care about and are able to readily access such information with ease.
CPP has been using social media to connect people to the work it has been doing in Brazil and Thailand. CPP is harnessing social media in order to protect children, share relevant news articles and websites concerned with children’s rights and educate the general public about ICT safety. In only a few short months, CPP has attracted 123 fans on Facebook and 30 followers on Twitter. CPP’s Facebook page, which has grown by 140% this month, connects users from Canada, Thailand, Brazil, the United States, the United Kingdom, Bolivia, Pakistan, Singapore and South Africa together over issues regarding ICT protection and prevention methods. The page also has 272 active weekly users (fans and non-fans who interact with the page) who follow CPP activities with great interest. Over the last week, CPP’s Twitter page gained 6 new followers, including reputable fellow Tweeters, such as the Vancouver Island Saanich Police. In the next few months, CPP hopes to see its number of fans and followers continue to increase. Each connection is valuable!
While CPP seeks to keep children and youth safe from online risks, it also encourages the positive use of ICT, including social media. Young Brazilians created a CPP online community on Orkut, a popular social networking site in Brazil, to raise awareness about online safety among children and adolescents using the site. CPP Brazil is now moderating the community and inviting children from Plan Brazil to join the group, supporting connections between concerned youth. Children and youth in Brazil and Thailand have created action plans to increase awareness about Internet safety, including safe social media use. Following the advice of children, CPP worked with Paramitas Institute in Brazil to create an online space-themed game that teaches kids how to avoid online risks and protect themselves from online threats. The game, which has received attention from the Brazilian media, incorporates social networking safety tips. While social media sites, and ICT in general, present risks, they are also part of the solution.
For NGOs with a global reach, social media sites are an indispensable tool in creating connections and networks for fostering positive change.