Growing up in a very public, magnified, transparent and often unforgiving world, may prove to be one of the greatest challenges for some young people today. Whilst we like to hope that everyone is coming together for a better internet and that everyone is doing their part to be respectful and responsible online….we also know, that unfortunately, this is not always going to be the case. So our kids will need to ensure they have a healthy resilience to get through those challenges, and to lift themselves up, when this world threatens to push them down.
Here is a snapshot of what the world may look like for a young person today:
- They may have their ideas and views and beliefs trounced on by others in a public forum.
- They may be judged purely on their looks and the sexiness of their pout.
- They may be groomed by a potential suitor who is really a paedophile looking for an easy target.
- They may misinterpret communication or fail to use the right emoji leading to a friendship drama of monumental proportion.
- They may send that nude photo because they believed the boy who said he wouldn’t show his mates.
- They may experience people trying to rip apart everything they say or do in order to advance their own standing.
- They will encounter people who truly believe that the best way forward for themselves is to bring others down around them.
- They may witness the vulnerabilities of others played out in negative and damning behaviour.
- They may make mistakes and these mistakes may well be on show to a grossly magnified audience
- They may feel the weight of comparison, scrolling the feeds of those with more friends and followers, more money, fancier holidays, better clothes and fitter bodies.
- They may feel the devastation at being the only person not invited to a party, and then endure the live streaming of said party via the social networks of all those who are there.
- They may find themselves excluded from a group chat and subsequent social events
So there can be a fair bit to contend with online today. And generally speaking those kids that do the best, and who find themselves most resilient, are those who have a good sense of who they are in the real world. Those who do not have to rely on the likes and followers for their self esteem. They have plenty of people, connections and role models to keep them uplifted and inspired and belonging. Their capabilities and achievements are a reminder that they have much to revel in and work hard at. They have enough good stuff to focus on, that it drowns out the bad. They are able to look at this world for what it is. To understand the nuances of living a life online and rise above those things they know may be there to bring them down.
We need to get across in our teaching to kids that…..
It’s a world where we cannot control the actions of others, but we can can control our responses.
We can block and report and challenge bad behaviour.
We can abort conversations that will not be helpful, positive and become judgemental or aggressive.
We can ignore those not worth listening to or engaging with.
We can build our sense of self worth in the real world that translates to our online experiences.
We can build connections in real life that we can turn to when things go wrong online
We can look to our strengths and achievements that give us positive focus
We can find those that lift us up, inspire and motivate us, not leave us feeling less than worthy.
Resilience is not something we can cultivate overnight. But gaining resilience in a digital world will be a lot easier if they have an understanding of how this world works and the different ways it can effect us as individuals. As parents, ongoing nurturing of their real life connections and capabilities as well as a healthy perspective of what it means to grow up in a digital world, will certainly go a long way to helping them develop the resilience they will need.