Safer Internet Day 2019 on Tuesday February 5th is a global day dedicated to providing a better internet experience for all. The theme of this year is “Together for a better internet”. To do this, we require commitment from all areas of government, schools, tech companies, app and gaming creators and social networks themselves. But we also need to take it upon ourselves as individuals, teachers, parents, families and young people to do our part for a better internet.
The focus of this year’s commitment is on the 4 R’s of Respect, Responsibility, Reasoning and Resilience.
These areas are obviously things that I cover regularly in my work with schools, families and corporations, and so I will take a closer look at some of these concepts here, starting today with Respect.
Respect ourselves and Respect others
Obviously we would consider it a ‘no brainer’ to continue the ethos of ‘do unto others as you would have done to you’, as we spend increasing amounts of time connecting in online spaces. It seems we should all have read the memes now about being kind, to stop bullying and to be mindful of others. So why do we need to talk about this? Well….. just spend a few moments on any social network and you will see way too many examples of disrespect by internet users both of themselves and of others. And it can range from the insensitive, the poor judgement, the bold and brazen comments to the downright horrific and heinous.
So here are some of the things we need to be teaching and indeed role modelling and mentoring when it comes to showing Respect online.
The usual ……
Don’t offend others by posting offensive stuff.
Remember the digital footprint you leave behind so be sure it is showing you in the light you wish to be seen.
Don’t be mean
Don’t abuse others
And the slightly more nuanced behaviours…….
Stay on point
When someone is talking about apples, you don’t have to point out everything they haven’t said about oranges. In other words…. We often have 280 or so characters we use for a Twitter comment, or a relatively short Facebook update where we may want to make a quick observation. People can make a such a statement on something without having to cover every single angle and permeation that you need to dissect and question. Sure if something is particularly offensive, then call them out. But if it’s just picking apart a comment to have yourself heard and use someone else’s post for your soapbox……then please refrain, find your own platform and show them, their views and their updates a little respect by staying on point.
Take things for face value
Look at the intention of something before adding your 2 cents. For example. Here is a meme created by Netsanity.
It’s a humorous meme. Meant to highlight the advanced skills of kids today and how they can easily navigate their way around the seemingly intricate skills of a smartphone but tend to struggle when asked to perform some slightly less skilled labours of household chores. This was a post that went viral as parents worldwide related to the meme and for the majority had a laugh as they no doubt recalled their kids refusal to pick up a mop or broom. And indeed it is enjoyed by the parents at my talks when I share this as a final slide for a bit of a laugh. But.There are always those who want to see it for something more than it is. Both Netsanity and myself when I shared it received comments and emails of abuse that this meme was dangerously inciting parents to put deadly chemicals in the hands of 2 year olds and thus is completely irresponsible. Seriously? (That is the softer version of what goes through my head when I read these sorts of comments) People. Look at something for what it is. It is a bit of fun. Nowhere does it say put dangerous chemicals in the hands and mouths of babies. Use your common sense.
The Online world is a melting pot of experience, beliefs and circumstance… respect that.
When we believe in something, we must remember that not everyone holds the same beliefs. Not everyone’s experiences are similar to our own. We can certainly argue a point of view, espouse our reasons for believing something or protect our values as we see fit. But our role is not to change the way everyone else thinks. When you have an argument or viewpoint you want to share with others, do so by sticking to your reasons and your beliefs, but don’t feel your role is to change the whole worlds way of thinking with your tweets or comments.
The minute an argument turns personal…abort.
This is a skill I teach to students (and indeed their parents). The minute someone turns their arguments away from the issue and to the personal…then let it go. When they start making personal jibes then they have lost sight of the issue and are wanting to engage in argument for arguments sake. Don’t disrespect yourself by engaging in personal ‘tit for tat’. Be able to recognise when a conversation is no longer respectful, and leave it alone. This can sometimes be tricky and not always evident at the time or in the heat of the moment. When I role play certain conversations with students and have them recognise when and how to abort a conversation, it becomes a really effective way of alerting them to these future situations and conversations that are not going to contribute in a helpful way.
Know who is worth engaging with
Similarly, we need to be able to recognise those people that won’t serve us well. Learn the skills to know who is worth engaging with. If someone is not supporting, entertaining, enlightening, challenging or engaging with you in a meaningful way…..then leave them be. Respect yourself enough to know those that are worth the effort, and those that are not.
Know when to sleep on it
We can certainly get upset, agitated or offended by what people say online. We may want to lash out a response. Tell them they are wrong. Tell them they are crazy, stupid, and downright ridiculous. But in those moments, it’s always good to sleep on it. It’s amazing how differently we can look at things 12 hours later. Usually we come to realise the tirade wasn’t going to be worth it, the person wasn’t worth engaging with and the emotion isn’t quite so intense when we take a little breather.
When we engage with others online we open ourselves up to a world of respect and a world of disrespect. Thankfully we have a lot of say in what we accept as respectful and that which we don’t. Make sure you are making the decisions, and teaching your kids to make the decisions, that ensures respect to themselves and to others, remains a priority.