Helping Teens Combat Online Hate
In 2017 we heard a lot about digital resilience, but do we understand what it is?
Helping our teens be ready for online hate and digital discourse offline can better prepare them when they are faced with it. Reality is that incivility exists – sadly this is a human behavior that we don’t have control over, but we can choose how we handle it.
Today our kids consider their digital life as important as their lives offline, so it’s important to give them as much knowledge and encouragement to know they are not alone when they are faced with cyber-hate.
Cyberbullying is not only impacting our teen’s emotionally – it causes them to miss school, become withdrawn, drop out of sports or other activities they once enjoyed, failing when they were once good students, changing peer groups or becoming isolated and more. Teens can experience a higher level of stress and anxiety when they are struggling with online bullying.
The most troubling outcome of cyberbullying and online harassment is the rise in bullycide. Too many young lives have already been taken — parents need to educate themselves to better protect their kids offline to handle online issues.
5 ways to build digital resilience
- Prepare them for the ugly side of the Internet or possibly being upset by what people say. Remind them it could be inappropriate content that slips through filters. Being forewarned is being forearmed.
- Show them how to block individuals, flag and report abusive content, and when to report incidents. Emphasize the importance of telling someone “in real life.”
- Show your teen how easily digital pictures can be manipulated. The realization that not everything is what it seems is a useful first step – understanding that life is not as perfect as it may seem virtually. Teens may be familiar with the digital world but less familiar with the motivations for creating ‘fake’ images.
- Help them to think through the possible consequences of what they post online. Remind them that there is no rewind, once it’s posted it’s nearly impossible to take back. Fifteen minutes of humor is not worth a lifetime of humiliation.
- Encourage your teen to socialize in person with their friends. Communicating solely behind a screen can be isolating. Socializing in person builds more face-to-face contact in helping your child have empathy and compassion towards people.
As we know communication is key with your teenager, yet can also be challenging. Have you considered book chats? My latest book, Shame Nation: Choosing Kindness and Compassion in an Age of Cruelty and Trolling (Sourcebooks, October 2017) was written for both teens and parents and perfect for discussions on digital wisdom, cyberbullying and making good cyber-decisions.
Together we can start curbing this culture of cruelty and bring it to a civil nation.