I consider myself a pretty internet-savvy adult. I use it for work and for play. I even consult others on how to use social media for business promotion. Then I read Galit Breen’s book Kindness Wins. I felt pretty smug when I picked up the book, like I was going to read some common-sense strategies that any internet-savvy person would conclude for themselves. Boy was I wrong.
I am no stranger to cruel comments. Something about the anonymity of the internet just inspires fighting. I get that. I’ve seen that. I’ve tried to keep myself in check when it comes to my own responses to that.
What I didn’t know, hit me right in the face. In Kindness Wins, Breen showed me that I didn’t know how teens were using social media. Yes, they post a ton of selfies and yes they engage with their friends. However, there’s a big part of their social interaction that is tied to belonging. Belonging is #3 on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.
The need to belong is felt most strongly at preteen through high school. In the preteen years kids start to shift from their family’s influence being the most important to the influence of their friends holding the most weight. What Breen Shows us in her book is how this feeling of belonging transfers from face-to-face interactions at school, the notorious lunch table, and social gatherings, over to social media.
I was shocked to learn about how adolescents use pictures and tagging to include or exclude people from certain friend circles. The judgement in these posts are harsh. Much harsher, I think, because over the internet children are not faced with the emotional reactions of those who are left out. Without having to contend with the real and emotional consequences kids can lose their kindness filter. This is where parents come in.
In Kindness Wins, Breen walks the reader through many scenarios with real life examples
to share with children. She also encourages the parent to self check their own behavior and to talk with their peers about internet kindness. We don’t have to be a nasty culture of anonymous bullying. It starts with us. Dr. Catherine Steiner-Adair tells us in her book The Big Disconnect that by middle school, children need to know how to use technology appropriately. And it’s up to us, as parents, to teach children that appropriateness. With Breen’s Book we can do that with purpose. Kindness Wins is not only informative, but it also acts as a hands-on workbook for parents with real tips and examples we can apply to our conversations now. Buy it HERE
Breen is right. Kindness does matter. In the end, it’s all that matters. I love that Breen helps each of us take responsibility in the parts that we play. After all, we can only control our own behavior. Let’s start today.
For More about Galit Breen you can find her on TheseLittleWaves.Com