I hosted an event the other night where I had a chance to interview former Mayor Rudy Giuliani and during our conversation, we stumbled upon the topic of media and the impact it has on today’s youth. He was shocked to hear that youth are consuming over 10 hours of media a day, second only to school and sleeping. I followed up that surprising stat with the passion for the organization I founded, I AM THAT GIRL, and our initiative to promote healthy media. If youth are really consuming such an enormous volume of media daily, then we should have higher expectations for the caliber of content we’re offering our future leaders.
While there are certainly negative connotations associated with technology and its way of distracting people from thinking for themselves, creatively contributing and pursing their passion, I believe that technology also has a profound ability to inspire, encourage and even educate. Recently, two kids have stolen my heart with their tech-savvy ability to use media as a vehicle to make the world, well, awesome. First up is Emily-Anne Rigal. She's the 17-year-old founder of WeStopHate, a nonprofit dedicated to raising teen self-esteem through online videos and social media. Emily has gotten so much attention that Lady Gaga made a video congratulating her on all the work she has done.
Another little boy who has stolen my heart appears in YouTube videos as "Kid President," which was created as an online pep talk from SoulPancake. Whether it's storytelling, motivating or offering life advice, there's a way to use media and technology as a vehicle to get the word out in a hugely positive way. Our ability to transcend borders, connect globally and build community online places technology in high regard. Whether it's individuals or companies like L'Oreal promoting STEM and reaffirming why girls in science, technology, engineering and math are cool; we need a collaborative effort to support people using media to make a difference.
I truly believe our voices matter, that when we disconnect from everything and think for ourselves, our thoughts are important. I believe we can make a real difference in this world. I also believe that if we don't start using media to shift our perception to one that is more contribution-minded, then we will fail to properly prepare a generation of future female leaders. My recent involvement with STEM got me excited at the possibility of what a world looks like when we have savvy, sophisticated and smart girls leading our country. Fortunately, there's a new campaign where girls can upload a video talking about why STEM is cool to them. We need more people using their voices to make a difference and this is exactly the kind of program that will help pave the way.
The former mayor's best advice was that in order to be a leader, one of the most important things required is eternal optimism. He and I both have that when we look out at a sea of girls, knowing those girls will one day grow up to be the women leading our country and our world to a better future. But between now and then, it's up to us to encourage them to find their voice and use their unique 21st Century tools to reach enormous audiences, while inspiring and encouraging those touched by their message. As long as the Emily-Annes of the world are out there leading the charge and taking advantage of media to inspire an entire generation, I feel pretty confident we're all going to be alright.
Image courtesy of Katelyngarlow.wordpress.com