Students create podcasts to promote positive social media use

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BETTENDORF, Iowa (KWQC) -- Three students entering Pleasant Valley Junior High spent in Le Claire, Iowa their summer promoting positive social media use.

The idea started last school year after the elementary schools had students watch a Ted Talk by Paul Davis. He travels the U.S. and Canada talking to students and parents about online safety.

“Just, we thought it was a very important topic, and a lot of people who don't know about digital citizenship deserve to know about it,” said Leah Mendelin.

Now less than a year later, she has a podcast dedicated to that very topic.

“We decided that making a podcast and sharing it with other schools would be a great way to spread awareness about digital drama and things that could happen online,” the 12-year-old said.

The podcast is called “This I Believe.” At least four students contribute to the monthly show, including Elizabeth Hernandez.

Hernandez and Mendelin said online-bullying was a topic they handled in their very first podcast.

“We did an interview on a podcast and just hearing, like, what the victim was saying it kind of like, even though it wasn't even me, it was still kind of hitting me, 'This is real, this is actually happening to people, this is not OK,'” Hernandez said.

And the girls say that is the point of the podcast is to help their peers better understand both sides of social media.

“I'm trying to get across how much it hurts to be bullied,” Mendelin said.

“And also, like, how much it hurts themselves,” Hernadez added. “If you send one mean tweet, it can like ruin your future. People, like college people that like admit people into colleges they look online for this stuff, and if they see it, it could ruin your chances for a happy life.”

Another Pleasant Valley student podcast by Gretchen Highberger shows how social media can work to your advantage.

“Through Twitter, we've been able to connect with a publishing company who has decided to give us some pre-released copy books,” said the creator of “Books R Us” podcast.

She says it has been a great example of the positive side of social media.

“We’ve connected with authors and publishing companies through Twitter and other social medias and without those social media we wouldn't have had those opportunities,” Highberger said.

All three girls hope they can inspire their peers to become a positive digital citizen.

“We choose to do this,” Mendelin said. “We choose to give up our time to create this podcast to let people know that this is important to us and it should be important to them.”

Paul Davis will be visiting the school district August 30. He will be addressing the public at 6:30 p.m. in the Pleasant Valley High School theatre. That event is open to the public.

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