A different sort of back-to-school tip: Kindness
Kindness and mindfulness, really. Those two approaches to the Internet as well as life are both attractive and protective. “Attractive to others, maybe, but protective?” your kids might ask. Yes. Because aggressive behavior online more than doubles the aggressor’s risk of being victimized, researchers have found (see Archives of Pediatrics). Mindfulness covers both alertness and critical thinking – about what’s going out via connected devices as much as what’s coming in, whether to/from peers, advertisers, or strangers, as well as about how much and how we’re involved in it all. Hemanshu Nigam, a dad and MySpace and News Corp’s chief security officer, wrote about the kindness part this week, zooming in some important “how-tos” for social networkers: how to “post with respect, comment with kindness, and update with empathy.” Help your kids remember how protective – of them, their friends, and their online experience – this approach is.
As for how we approach the online experience (as well as online friends), the other day I wrote about the 24/7 connection to friends and the drama that both the collective and the constant connection (texting, updating, commenting, chatting, etc.) seem to generate and perpetuate (see No. 2 in this post). If the scene is important to them (and it probably is) and they feel the need to stay very engaged, then here’s one way to think about it from youth adviser Annie Fox, which also picks up on the kindness issue: “Don’t Add to the Garbage.” MIT sociologist Sherry Turkle wrote: “Tethered life is complex; it is helpful to measure our thrilling new networks against what they may be doing to us as people” (see her article “Can You Hear Me Now?” in Forbes last year.