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Thanksgiving: A Great Time to Teach Online Kindness

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Thanksgiving is the time of year when everyone focuses on being thankful for the blessings that they’ve been given. It’s also the true beginning of the holiday season, when kindness is more common than ever before. When your kids were young, you might have looked for chances to count their blessings, list the things that they’re thankful for, or bestow blessings on others. This Thanksgiving, try focusing on something else: online kindness.

Cyberbullying Is Still On the Rise

Kids can be cruel, especially when they feel the need to fit in and are afraid that they aren’t. When they’re protected by the anonymity of a screen, it can be difficult for teens and tweens to understand the real-life consequences associated with simple comments. From roasting, when a group of kids get together to say as many bad things as possible about a single individual, to outright bullying that is specifically intended to be unkind, cyberbullying is becoming increasingly common. Teach your kids to be different! Take the chance this season to discuss:

  • How they would feel if they were the victims of cyberbullying
  • Why their behavior needs to be different–even if friends and peers are joining in
  • Why roasting isn’t a joke

Encouraging Kindness

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The opposite of bullying is kindness–and learning to behave kindly, especially online, can be a process for many kids. This Thanksgiving, try encouraging your child to find opportunities to be kind online. This could include:

  • Finding something nice to say about someone, especially someone that they would normally be unkind to.
  • Taking the opportunity to stop online bullying, including calling out the offenders, instead of joining in.
  • Befriending and engaging in conversation someone your child might not ordinarily talk to.
  • Starting an online wave of kindness: say something nice to someone, then encourage them to take it the next step further and be kind to someone else. Compliment someone you wouldn’t ordinarily compliment and challenge them to spread that wave of kindness.
  • Be encouraging to a friend or classmate that they know is having a hard time, from sending an encouraging text to posting an encouraging message on their wall.

Online Etiquette

Many teens and tweens fail to realize just how difficult it can be to interpret things that are typed, rather than said aloud. While they might obsess for hours over what a friend “really meant” by a text, they might have more trouble understanding why their words have been misinterpreted. For this reason, understanding appropriate online etiquette should also include a discussion of a few basic principles.

  • If a post makes your child feel uncomfortable or they think there’s another way it could be taken, they should avoid it.
  • If a post is cruel to anyone, including both broad groups of people and specific individuals, it shouldn’t be shared.
  • No one should be singled out or subjected to stereotyping.
  • While sensitive discussions can be undertaken online, it’s important that all participants are on the same page and that these discussions are held sensitively.
  • Kindness is always preferable to a snarky or sarcastic answer–even if it’s the answer that would be given aloud.

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It’s time to take back the internet and start encouraging kindness again–and your teens and tweens can be at the front of the movement! Talk to your child regularly about how they should behave online, including the types of behavior that could potentially be hurtful to others. Even the best-intentioned teen can occasionally make a mistake with their posts. If you teach yours to be mindful, you’ll be able to decrease the odds that they’ll be the one hurting another child. Need more tips for keeping your child and others safe online? Visit Netsanity online today and follow us on social media! We all hope that you have a wonderful Thanksgiving online and off!

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