I’m ready for my social media feeds to be filled with smiling babies, holiday photos, opinions on television shows and mom tips. I’m all about a good intellectual conversation, but this election and the media circus has turned that into an impossibility. I teach in a social media graduate school program, and this election has made ME want to turn off my accounts!
We’ve all read post after post about/against the candidates, memes, facts/things that are not so factual, compilation videos and more, but I want to know what does our online world (heck our offline reality too) look like going forward? I took a quick, informal survey on my own feed to see what other parents had to say how they explain to their children the kind of hate speech we’ve heard throughout this election process. To sum it up, basically one side said actions are more important than words, the other, said words are more important than actions. But as a parent, does one really outweigh the other? Both are hurtful and are a form of bullying.
And here we are now, where all of a sudden, my news feeds have become home to cyberbullying from otherwise mature adults I’ve worked with, grown up with, or hung out with. Whether it’s comments calling people delusional, saying you’re stupid for your thoughts, or being indignant that someone has a different idea than someone else, the way we are talking to one another is not OK. As parents it’s not OK, as business owners it’s not OK, as AMERICANS, it’s not OK.
As parents, how can we talk to our kids about cyberbullying when many of the adults are doing it? How do we become United again? Going forward, here’s some general tips on navigating a hot, push-button social topic:
- Remember, there’s no tone or voice online, so context is all you have to go on. Say it clearly, spell things out, and before posting, read it out loud to see if something could be taken out of context. Even a misplaced laughing emoji, LOL, etc. can negate what you’re trying to say.
- Don’t make it personal by cutting down someone else’s thoughts/ideals. State your opinion and move on.
- Do not use descriptors when talking to someone, even if it’s a pronoun like “girl,” “babe,” “dude.” These can be seen as derogatory.
- Sometimes cheering on your own “team” rather than trying to take the other one down is a better approach.
- If you share something and don’t include a brief comment/caption, the perception may be that you are in agreement with your shared post. If you’re looking for opinions or validation, a simple comment of “Thoughts on this? “Opinions?” can help make your intentions clear.
- Go to the original source for information (official websites, reputable news sources). There are many clickbait websites out there just trying to make money off your shares.
- Don’t create or share memes that are in poor taste. They may be funny to you, but a friend or colleague could find them disrespectful.
- Don’t like something? Unfollow or scroll on by.
- Remember, your time is precious. I’d rather be engaging with my kids in real time than debating with someone who I know is just looking for a rise.
I don’t know what November 9, or even in January once a new President is sworn, will look like online, but I’m hoping it looks a lot more friendly than it does now.
What steps are you taking to explain cyberbullying or negative social media to your kids?