Q&A: Empowering Students To Be A Part of the Digital Wellness Solution - (Article)

Dec 07, 2020

Frances Booth, Senior Conference Producer, Ascend Global Media in conversation with Kim Karr, Executive Director & Co-Founder and Malorie Bournazian, Intern Lead, #ICANHELP

Lovely to chat with you both, Kim and Malorie. It would be great to kick things off with a short introduction from you both? 
 
Kim: Hi, I’m Kim Karr the Executive Director & Co-Founder at #ICANHELP. Our core mission is to promote digital safety whilst celebrating youth innovation. We aim to bridge that gap between students, schools, and companies when it comes to digital wellness. 
 
Malorie: And I’m Malorie, currently I’m a Junior at The University of Nevada, Las Vegas studying Media Studies. I’ve been working with the program for 3 years now. For me, it’s all about allowing students to feel the support to be empowered to be changemakers - a lot of this comes from the mentors, teachers, and adult support who back the initiative.  
 
We’re all responsible for our digital wellness, what are our roles for making a difference?
Malorie:
We’re all responsible for taking care of our digital wellness as a part of being a good digital citizen. Whatever level of an online presence you have, to take care of yourself that presence needs to be a good one. 
Our role is to ensure that we empower students to use social media safely along with raising awareness and education of mental health. In doing so, we’ve created a digital wellness curriculum to support students to have a conversation about how to look after themselves whilst online. Some of the tips we offer are easy, quick fixes, such as taking a break from social media, or certain apps that you use a lot that you know impact your mental health. Another tip is stacking all your phones into a corner whilst having conversations with friends allowing you critical peer to peer interaction.  
It’s not just about cutting down the time we spend on social media but also about focusing on the positive impact we can have whilst using certain apps or platforms. If we all use social media for good and wisely, then we’ll have a much safer online community. 
Kim: Another vital part to the initiative is effectively bridging that gap between schools and companies. Tech companies get such a negative press when it comes to safety online, but the solution doesn’t just sit with them. 
Bringing students together with companies, such as Twitter who we’ve worked with in the past, allows students to feel empowered to be part of that solution. More so at a time where we’re seeing mental health cases skyrocket, we need to allow the youth communities to be involved in not just their digital wellness but the wellness of others. 
What is the #Work2BeWell initiative all about and what is it looking to achieve? 
 
Kim: In Partnership with Providence Health and Wellbeing Trust we’re created an Emotional First Aid Kit. Ultimately, we want to support individuals to go back to the basics when they’re feeling depressed, anxious, or overwhelmed. For example, what are the songs that help you, changing your phone screensaver or simply looking through your pictures can have a huge impact. 
We’re now in the middle of Election season whilst navigating The Black Lives Matter Movement and a global pandemic, many more people are feeling overwhelmed so turning off and backing away is incredibly important at times like this. Simply getting that knowledge out there is our main ambition to allow individuals to know that they’re feeling a certain way for a reason and how to cope with it.  Malorie is happy to share a little bit about her story to overcome and manage the feeling of being overwhelmed.
 
Malorie: Absolutely, I’ve always been someone who has struggled with their mental health, it's never been great. 
When COVID hit, it was incredibly difficult for me because I'm so reliant on routine, a set schedule, and those things around me that ground me. I went home from college to take care of my mom, my amazing single parent, who had stage 4 breast cancer who we sadly lost this summer. 
Again, I was uprooted, having to move. Relying on that emotional first aid kit to identify what allowed me to feel the most comfortable and grounded helped and still helps me daily. For me, it’s as simple as having something to touch helps my anxiety. We created a template on ‘what grounds you’ that we shared on our Instagram story to encourage others to share what supports them. We had such a great response and it was fantastic to hear what others find as a grounding mechanism for them. 
 
What resources are on offer through training or peer to peer education in the workforce to support Digital4Good? 
Kim:
The big one right now is focusing on trainer models, we love companies to work with us in hosting sessions to teach students the digital wellness curriculum. Celebrating is also so important and we’ve got Digital4Good coming up which we’re growing this year by the number of award categories. It’s just so impressive what students are doing to promote mental health right now.   

Malorie: Digital4Good is normally held at a tech company with a physical audience, naturally that isn’t possible this year. We’re going to be doing virtual shark tank pitches with tech companies, allowing students to gain feedback on their pitch, how to expand their reach, etc. We’re encouraging companies who would typically attend in a physical capacity to join us or even host a watch party at their companies to support youth innovation.  
 

ABOUT THE AUTHORS

 

After 13 years of teaching, Kim now gives students a voice by speaking full time and working side by side with the student interns and volunteers. In fact she is a co-founder of the non-profit called #ICANHELP. Kim shows students and adults to use technology and social media for good. #ICANHELP, an effective, outcome-based program, has received recognition from Aaron Judge of the New York Yankees and major tech companies like Google, Twitter + Facebook. #ICANHELP celebrates youth innovation, empowers digital changemakers and promotes digital safety.  Kim has presented the #ICANHELP program to over 450,000 students, and has been instrumental in taking down a thousand negative social media sites. 

Malorie was a 2018 Digital4Good Winner, part of the 2019 student internship program, and is now #ICANHELP’s Lead Intern! She is a junior at University of Nevada, Las Vegas and is working towards a degree in Journalism and Media Studies. Mal believes in the power of social media and wants to help inspire students to find their purpose through their passions! She is #ICANHELP’s biggest cheerleader and we are so lucky to have her on our team! She constantly works to foster the #ICANHELP family and challenges us to dream big! 
 


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