Nationally acclaimed speaker Richard Guerry spoke to St. Joseph’s Academy students, faculty and staff during a September 12 assembly in the Academy Student Center. Guerry, the founder of the non-profit Institute for Responsible Online and Cellphone Communication (IROC2), discussed Public and Permanent: The Course to Digital Consciousness.
Guerry, a former internet marketing executive, travels the country as a “Digital Enlightenment ambassador,” speaking to audiences young and old in an attempt to create a global digital community free of negative and sometimes irreversible consequences resulting from poor digital judgement.
Calling today’s youth the first fully digital generation and the pioneers of its technology, Guerry likened them to early smokers who were unaware and uninformed about the dangers of nicotine and to the athletes of yesteryear. “When I played lacrosse as a kid, if someone got knocked out cold but a teammate could help him back to his feet, he stayed in the game,” he said. “Now, everyone is acutely aware of the dangers of concussions.”
Today’s digital “forefathers” will make the mistakes that future generations will learn from, Guerry said. Developing a digital consciousness entails education about the power of digital technologies and using common sense and positive judgment while utilizing them. “The Golden Rule of the 21st century is that digital activity is public and permanent,” he said. “Just as we learn that playing with fire can burn, we must learn that the more we fool around with this powerful tool, the more our risk goes up.”
We love digital tools and technologies because they provide instant knowledge, instant communication and instant permanence, Guerry said. “But we have to be smart in their use,” he said. “We have to develop skills to be amazing users of technology.”
Guerry talked about cyber cruelty, interactive sharing, gaming and social privacy. “Passwords and privacy settings are not absolute protection,” he said. “No matter how hard you work to keep something private, you’re putting it on a tool that’s built for communication.”
The IROC2 rule of thumb is developing a digital consciousness to ensure digital users never create a self-inflicted challenge in the rapidly evolving digital world. He stressed that each newer and better app, device and phone makes it easier and faster to communicate, but as speed goes up, privacy goes down. “You can’t have your cake and eat it, too,” he said.
Guerry stressed that technology should be used “to show the world how amazing you are.” Public and permanent is not internet safety tips, he said. Rather, it’s about developing a digital consciousness to thrive in a technology-steeped world. “Use these tools with wisdom,” he said. “Harness their power, like we harnessed fire.”
Mindy Brodhead Averitt
Photos by Erin Albarado and Jennifer M. Fontaine