OPINION COLUMNS

Making a difference in 140 characters or less

By Brian Knox | Published Wednesday, October 10, 2012

An unknown entity is making a big impression on some students and staff at Northwest High School using social media.

This isn’t a case of cyberbullying, but rather the opposite.

Brian Knox

Brian Knox

Using a Twitter account by the name of “Northwest Sweet Talk” (@NWSweetTalk), someone is posting Tweets that are encouraging and positive in nature. Here’s a sample of a few recent Tweets that are specific to certain students:

“@karaisfabulous & @classykassidy are such great leaders for the senior class and Northwest HS. Thank y’all for all of your hard work:)”

“@curthomas is a talented musician and faithful young man! Plus he’s got a great personality & is extremely friendly! Keep it up curt!:)”

“Cody Saucedo has amazing artistic abilities and has really impressed his fellow Texans lately!”

“@Bayy_17 is always looking on the bright side and has a beautiful singing voice! You can’t help but smile when you are around her :)”

Some Tweets are aimed at school staff members:

“Our principal @JasonChildress2 is so awesome for dressing up for all the spirit days! Way to set an example Mr. Childress!! #ALLIN”

“@WadeLovesMath is a great and fun teacher!!:) she’s always got a way to better your day and get you to know your math at the same time!:)”

“Everyone take time to smile at your lunch ladies and janitors at lunch :) You never know how much it could change their day!”

And some Tweets are aimed at students in certain extracurricular areas:

“Way to represent our school well Academic Decathlon students!!”

“The Texan football players worked so hard tonight! We love having a team to cheer on to victory! Go Texans and congrats on the big win!”

“Newspaper staff did such an awesome job this six weeks!! Thank you for all your hard work and dedication :) We love the Texan Times!”

In just 140 characters (the limit set by Twitter), smiles are being put on faces, moods are being brightened and school spirit seems to be soaring.

So who is behind these random acts of kindness? Not even Principal Jason Childress knows.

In one Tweet, NWSweetTalk says it is a “group of people and it is expanding.” In another Tweet, NWSweetTalk says “If everyone finds out who is behind this account, the fun will be ruined :( Keep it a secret (if) you know already.”

And the great thing is, other students are catching on and sending out their own encouraging Tweets to others.

“I think it’s had a really positive effect,” Childress said.

The positivity this year extends beyond the Twitter-verse. It’s hard to miss the “All N” banners around the school. Childress, who is in his first year as principal at the school, explained that “All N” started back with football players during spring workouts.

“It means giving 100 percent,” Childress said. “I kind of adopted it when I came over and presented it to the staff, and it’s taken off.”

It has taken off indeed. Northwest Sweet Talk, as of Tuesday morning, had 453 followers.

It’s a refreshing change from the often-reported accounts of cyberbullying. In some extreme cases, teens have used social media to bully fellow students to the point where the victim commits suicide.

Technology is here to stay. A recent Pew Research Center study found that 95 percent of all teens ages 12 to 17 are now online, and 80 percent of those online teens are users of social media sites. The same study found that 88 percent of social-media using teens have seen someone be mean or cruel to another person on social networking sites, and 15 percent said they had experienced harassment themselves in the past 12 months.

I was at last week’s deployment of iPads to McCarroll Middle School students in Decatur. I heard about being “a good digital citizen.” It’s all about using technology appropriately, but it’s also about preparing students for a lifetime of using technology.

It’s clear that someone (or more likely an ever-growing group of people) at Northwest High School is taking good digital citizenship to a whole new level.

Now that’s something worth reTweeting.

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