“My religion is kindness”
- Dalai Lama
It seems so simple. Just be kind to each other. Mean comments online have far reaching effects and can be devastating for our kids. What starts off as something meant to be funny or joking, can quickly escalate into something embarrassing or hurtful. Our children’s fragile self-esteem can be shattered after one disparaging remark or one unassuming photo. With so many kids fuelling their confidence through their online personas and relying upon hearts and likes for self preservation, it is not a surprise that self esteem is falling. In a recent UK study, researchers found that just 33% of 14 and 15 year old girls felt good about themselves. The girls in the study ranked ‘the way you looked’ as their top concern. Researchers suggested that the decline in girls’ self esteem was linked to their online activity.
With the ability to share messages and pictures now, cyberbullying, hurtful comments and the pressure to “act” a certain way online is a new dimension our kids have to navigate. These online pressures spill into real life for them. As parents, we didn’t have this online world to navigate growing up. The mean words ended at the school yard or in a note we could tear up and throw away. They didn’t follow us home and spread to all our safe places.
In David Irvine’s book ‘Caring is Everything’, he states “you can’t always control how you feel about people, but you can control how you behave toward them.”
My family and I are vacationing in Hawaii and we often go for walks along the ocean in the evening looking for shells and watching for whales and turtles. One night as we were approaching our condo, we were greeted with the unpleasant aroma of cigarette smoke. Two gentlemen were sitting on the rocks by our path having a smoke and enjoying a drink. We were immediately put off that their smelly habit was intruding on our glorious walk in the fresh outdoor ocean spray filled air. My immediate thoughts were not of kindness at all and I was tempted to make a snarky remark about their stinky habit. But, as my husband pointed out a few minutes later, for them, having a smoke and a drink by the ocean with a good friend is likely a treat and makes them just as happy as it makes me to walk along the rocks every night watching for turtles. Albeit very different from my idea of an enjoyable time, who am I to criticize their choices or make unkind remarks?
A good lesson for our kids… just because they don’t like someone they don’t need to share that with their online world. Our kids don’t have to be friends with everyone they meet, but they can be kind to everyone. A mean message, an embarrassing photo or a hurtful post can be prevented if we just take a moment and pause. Maybe just let it go or choose not to engage or maybe just choose to be kind.
Kindness. It seems so simple.