Many parents worry that cyberbullying, trolls, and rude behavior have taken over the internet. While it may seem that the online world has worn away our empathy, many studies show that kids and teens develop strong, supportive online bonds both with known friends and those they've met online. And there are plenty of examples in which an outpouring of empathy has swept through pop culture, the internet, and other mass media. The jury is still out on whether that trend will continue.
The bottom line is that kids have access to a wide variety of powerful tools they can choose to use for good. Here's how you can use media to teach kids empathy:
Movies, TV, and Books:
- Seek out books with diverse characters and backgrounds.
- Encourage kids to express their feelings after watching TV shows and movies.
- Encourage siblings to respect each other's feelings about shows.
- Seek out movies and TV shows that promote empathy.
Social Media, Apps, Games, and Websites:
- Look for games and apps that switch among characters' perspectives.
- Choose games and apps that rely on and reward collaboration among players.
- Start teaching positive online communication as soon as your kids start using the internet.
- Encourage kids to find positive online environments that are warm and welcoming.
- Ask kids how they would feel if they were cyberbullied.
- Encourage your kid to stand up for people who are victimized online.
- Train kids to think through the impact their posts might have on others.
- Join in hashtag campaigns that support people.