There’s no doubt that the Internet can be a powerful tool for communicating. The digital world creates new challenges and opportunities for social interaction because it amplifies kindness and negativity. The constant connection to each other provides comfort but also creates anxiety. The anonymity afforded to us by the internet fuels crushes and compliments while also being damaging to self and others.
The online world can be tricky to navigate. Not only do fine lines exist between joking and harassment but it’s difficult for kids to remember how to respond to appropriately. Even though we have these conversations with our kids about being nice to others, their brains are still developing. They’re at an age where they’re very much in the moment.
Even though their ability to think beyond the present is limited, we can instil the importance of responding with kindness and empathy. Treating others how you want to be treated is essential for building healthy relationships and cultivating respect. This helps reduce feelings of isolation that can lead to bullying, depression, academic struggles, and other problems.
As parents, we are powerful forces in helping our kids take the high road by applying the concept of “treat others as you’d want to be treated.” Besides modelling the behaviours we expect, there are other things we can do to encourage kindness and empathy, including relying on Be Internet Awesome resources from Google. These free resources are designed to encourage tweens to interact positively and assist in building internal confidence that helps them address negativity when it arises.
Designed for ages 7-12, Be Internet Awesome is Google’s free multifaceted program designed to teach kids the fundamentals of digital citizenship and safety so they can explore the online world with confidence. It’s a helpful resource that provides talking points for family discussions and activities that help you create a strong foundation for your kids’ safe, successful use of the Internet.
Throughout the month of October, I’m working with Be Internet Awesome to help you start conversations with your family about ways they can take simple actions to be kind. This week I’m focusing on how Be Internet Awesome teaches kids the importance of treating others how you’d like to be treated, both online and in real life and how to help them reinforce kindness in the digital world.
It’s never easy when your child comes to you with hurt feelings, regardless of how old they get, but you can use these questions to have a productive conversation that will help reinforce lessons in kindness and the importance of treating others like you’d like to be treated. These conversation starters, inspired by the It’s Cool to Be Kind lesson in the Be Internet Awesome classroom curriculum, can be used at home to reinforce this message when your tween comes to you, sharing frustration over a mean moment experienced online.
HOW WOULD YOU FEEL IF SOMEONE BEHAVED THAT WAY TO YOU IN PERSON?
Whether online or in real life, behind every avatar and username there’s a real person with real feelings. It’s easy for kids to forget this when they hid behind a digital representation of themselves in the online world but always important to remember the importance of treating others as they want to be treated. Remembering that online behaviours in virtual settings have real-life consequences that are powerful especially when a negative interaction leaves behind hurt feelings and fractured friendships.
HOW MIGHT YOU BEHAVE THE NEXT TIME THAT HAPPENS TO YOU?
Often times it feels more natural for kids to want to retaliate and exhibit negative behaviours when they feel they’ve been wronged online. Rather than telling them not to be negative online, a more effective strategy for bullying would be to addresses the underlying causes of negative behaviours. Use the negative experience and turn it into a teachable moment, encouraging your child to think about what they might do differently. This encourages kids to act positively and be the better person the next time a similar situation may arise.
WHAT ROLE DID YOU PLAY IN THE SITUATION?
For kids to understand why others behave in such mean ways, it’s important to understand how bullying happens. When mean behaviour happens, there are often four types of people involved:
- The aggressor, or person(s) doing the bullying
- The target, the person being bullied
- The bystanders, witnesses who see what is going on
- The upstanders, witnesses who see what’s going on and try to positively intervene
Knowing the different roles that individuals play in the situation helps tweens better understand how bullying occurs and gives them the ability to be an upstander, rather than a bystander. Bystanders can turn into upstanders by:
- Finding a way to be kind and supporting the person being targeted
- Calling out the mean behaviour in a comment or reply. It’s important that kids focus on calling out the behaviour rather than the individual if they feel safe doing so
- Not helping the aggressor. Spreading bad behaviour by sharing the mean post or comment makes the situation worse.
- Getting a bunch of friends to create a pile-on of kindness. By posting lots of kind things comments about the person being targeted, your child is setting an example rather than retaliating
- Report the harassment using the service’s online or built in-app tools
HOW MIGHT YOU BE ABLE TO HELP NEXT TIME?
If kids find themselves being bystanders when harassment or bullying happens, let them know they have the power to intervene and report cruel behaviour. Sometimes bystanders don’t try to stop the bullying or help the target, but when they do, they’re being an upstander. Your tween can choose to be an upstander by deciding not to support mean behaviour and standing up for kindness and positivity. Some options for online bullying and bad behaviour include:
- Not responding
- Blocking the person
- Reporting the person to a parent, teacher, sibling, or someone else they trust
- Use the reporting tools in the app or service to report the harassing post, comment, or photo
WHAT ARE SOME WAYS YOU COULD TURN THE SITUATION AROUND?
A little positivity can go a long way in real-life situations but also in the online world because it keeps negativity from spreading and turning into cruelty and harm. Talk about what your child might have been able to do in this situation to make the situation better and how they can help in the future. Encourage them to set the standard for kindness. Leading by example empowers kids to be an upstander. They should know that they have the power to set the standards for behaviour when interacting with peers in virtual and real-world situations.
DO YOU THINK YOU SHOULD HAVE ASKED AN ADULT FOR HELP?
Sometimes kids get in over their heads in situations but don’t want to involve the adults in their lives for fear they’ll get in trouble but knowing when to involve adults is important. Some situations do require adult intervention so reassure your tween that they can always come to you for help. Make a personal pledge that if your tween comes to you, you’ll always listen before jumping to conclusions and assigning blame.
If you would like to know more about how you can help your child in varies ways,
check out ZACHDEV – TECH PARENTING ebook today!