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Expert: Social media builds brave, passionate kids

Renowned author and speaker Angela Maiers addressed several groups in Barrington last week to help parents and schools foster brave, passionate and engaged kids. | Photo submitted
“Their education is not just happening in school,” renowned author and speaker Angela Maiers told Barrington parents last week. “Being adaptable is crucial." | Bridget O'Shea/Sun-Times Media
“The most passionate human beings I know are 5 year olds,” renowned author and speaker Angela Maiers told Barrington parents last week. “They are born brave, but then they lose their bravery.” | Bridget O'Shea/Sun-Times Media
Renowned author and speaker Angela Maiers addressed several groups in Barrington last week to help parents and schools foster brave, passionate and engaged kids. | Photo submitted

While some parents might object to the amount of time their children spend on social media outlets, renowned author and speaker Angela Maiers told Barrington parents last week that she sees this trend in a different light.

Maiers, author of “Habitudes: Teaching Habits and Attitudes for 21st Century Learning,” told a rapt audience Nov. 6 at Barrington High School that kids often use social media to express and cultivate their passions. Maiers said she believes passion, above all else, is the most marketable quality that many employers are seeking.

Parenting an engaged citizen, she added, has changed drastically over the last 15 years.

“Their education is not just happening in school,” she explained. “Being adaptable is crucial.”

Maiers, who studied neuroscience before going into teaching, identified qualities that are crucial for preparing kids for a workforce that is almost unrecognizable from the working world of several decades ago. For example, she said, gone are the days of the 10-page resume. She explained that job seekers can market themselves on the ultra-concise Twitter outlet.

“Your kids are going to have to go into the world and sell themselves, and their future could lie in 140 characters,” she said.

Maiers encouraged parents to foster their children’s imagination, curiosity, self-awareness, perseverance, courage, adaptability and passion. Maiers said these “habitudes” are best when instilled at a young age.

“The most passionate human beings I know are 5 year olds,” said Maiers, explaining that children at that age are fierce and competitive about their interests, whether it be dinosaurs, robots or ballet. “They are born brave, but then they lose their bravery.”

Maiers said she has observed a decline in passion and confidence as kids move from elementary school to high school. She encouraged parents to support their children’s interests throughout their development, even if it’s skateboarding.

Maiers, who also studies children and their use of the Internet, told parents that the more time anyone spends establishing a web presence, the more marketable they will be in the future. It also provides access to more information and can help children connect with others that share similar interests.

The Internet and social media, she said, can help people develop a feeling of importance when they see their posts are read by others.

“Beyond food and shelter and safety, human beings need to know that they matter,” she said. “It gives kids a different perspective when they are asked to think beyond themselves.”

She also noted that the life-span of a career path is much shorter today. Since people tend not to stay at the same company for decades anymore, she said parents should not to try and shelter their children from adversity.

“They need to believe that they are capable of handling whatever comes their way,” she said.

Maiers also suggested that parents encourage their kids to build a “dream team” of people — living or not — who have made a significant impact on the world, for their kids to emulate.

Barrington resident Mike Mitchell said the presentation gave him a new perspective on how to use the web to help his kids build confidence.

“It’s going to have a strong impact on kids in using their creativity,” he said.

Barrington parent Lisa Kowalski, who works as a team manager, said she could even use this information in her workplace.

“I’m thinking of ways to not only apply this to my third-grader, but also to my work,” she said.

Maiers also planned meetings with the District 220 School Board and elementary school staff members to discuss implementing her ideas into classrooms.

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