Why primary students are being taught about their 'personal brand'

Photo: Shutterstock
Photo: Shutterstock 

"It can take years to build your reputation but one simple action to damage it."

It's a truth that most adults understand. But unfortunately, for many people, it's a lesson that has been learned the hard way and sometimes way too late.

Now at least one primary school is trying to get in first - to educate students about their "personal brand" before they have had time to build it - or destroy it. 

Nicole Reane, InsideOut PR
Nicole Reane, InsideOut PR Photo: Supplied

The world-first trial program was delivered at Holy Cross Catholic Primary at Kincumber on the NSW Central Coast this month, taking Year 6 students through concepts that are usually not studied until university.  

PR expert Nicole Reaney designed the course after observing increasing negative media coverage surrounding technology and its use by children. 

The founder of  InsideOut PR, and mother of two young sons, said she felt there was no point in continuing a negative conversation about technology "because it's not going to go away".

"We've seen some children that have been able to form successful side hustles as a result of tapping into technology so I thought there's an opportunity here," Ms Reaney explains. "Rather than make technology the bad guy let's ensure we empower children to understand more about themselves and how they wish to be portrayed and conveyed and how that leads to future opportunities."

But while having a "personal brand" might seem like an adult concept, Ms Reaney says she uses real-world examples, relevant to the kids' lives to illustrate the potential long-term impact of internet use.

"Kids know what a Boost Juice logo is," she says, "so it's giving them the concept that they are also a personal brand and what that means. It's how people remember you. It's what they think and feel about you and what they might say about you."

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As most social networks don't allow children under 13, Ms Reaney is quick to reassure that the program, which she hopes to roll out nationally, is not suggesting kids rush to create a Facebook or Instagram account.

"We don't promote technology use in this, we're not advocating technology," she says, adding: "I do see it as the sex ed of this generation. It's not about whether they're actioning it now, it's about prevention." 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Principal of Holy Cross Catholic Primary Craig McNee explains that the program is about being proactive. "We have to teach our children to treat everyone with respect and to make those right moral choices," he says. "The culmination of the whole thing is that positive approach to ourselves. That we only put things out there that are positive and in a safe way."

As well as a focus on safety and personal brand, Mr McNee adds that the material also covers how students interact with others. "Bullying used to be at school and on the bus," he says. "Now it can be 24 hours. We're trying to help kids understand how what they say can affect people long term and themselves too, and that what they put out there is there forever."

Digital and parenting expert Martine Oglethorpe of The Modern Parent agrees that getting kids to think about how they are represented online is an important part of teaching them the skills and behaviours for a life immersed in a digital world.

"We need to teach kids that their values in real life should transfer to the online world and vice versa," she says. "The photos, videos and memes they share, the updates they post, the articles they circulate, should all be an authentic representation of how they want to be viewed."

But rather than a personal brand per se, which she feels intimates some sort of commercial exchange, Ms Oglethorpe prefers to view it as teaching kids about portraying the very best version of themselves online, and helping them maintain that control over how the world sees them.

"It is also important we look at online behaviours as something that may affect their lives in some way even at a young age," she says. "Maybe they want to be school captain, or captain of a football team. If they are going to be in a group chat that shows the chat to be unkind or disrespectful to others this may prevent them from getting those positions if these chats are shared with others.

"We also want kids to know that it is highly likely they will make some mistakes online and so whilst we don't want these mistakes to be catastrophic we also want them to know that they may make some small mistakes that hopefully they can learn from but won't define who they are."

Any parents or schools interested in finding out more about the program can register their interest here: info@insideoutpr.com.au