I’m thrilled to join up with Google for their #ItsCooltoBeKind campaign. These 6 ways to teach kids kindness online and beyond will give you the tools for making friendliness and understanding a priority in the next generation.
I am a part of the Forward Influence Network, and this post was sponsored by Google. All ideas and opinions are my own. Thank you, Google, for making this campaign a priority. It is so important!
6 Ways to Teach Kids Kindness Online and Beyond
Teaching kindness is a priority for me. It’s something I speak about with my kids nearly every day. When I was approached to be a part of the #ItsCoolToBeKind campaign, it was a no-brainer. Encourage people to teach and spread kindness? Yes, please. Sign me up.
This world has much ugly. The conflict and cruel behavior online and beyond needs to be combatted. Kindness does not always come naturally. People can be egocentric.
Leading psychologist, Piaget, discovered that the preoperational stage lasts from age 2-7. During this stage, egocentrism runs rampant. Children have the inability to see a situation from another person’s point of view.
While this naturally shifts as children get older, we all know that selfishness often remains dominant over self-sacrifice, thinking of others and empathy.
In observing human nature, I believe that kindness must be taught. My purpose today is to promote kindness by equipping parents or mentors to teach kids way to be kind.
Show and Teach Empathy
John Medina, author of “Brain Rules for Baby,” says empathy is one of the top two predictors of social competency. Empathy is defined as “the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.”
How do we create empathetic kids so they can not only be socially competent but also so they can be one who lives out kindness and thus makes a positive impact on our world?
The best way to create empathy is to show it. Show it to your children. Model it in your interaction with others.
Another way to develop empathy is to ask questions like:
- How would you feel if you were sitting by yourself at lunch?
- What would it feel like if someone wasn’t willing to share with you?
- How would you feel if you did not have a group of friends to go to the homecoming dance with?
- What would your feelings be if you had no one to play with you at recess?
Asking these kinds of questions helps children get outside of themselves, look for others that might be hurting, relate to their emotions and hopefully take action to help.
Teach Kids About Bullying
Bullying remains an issue. Hurting people hurt. Kids that are “different” or seem harder to love often become a target for bullying. Sometimes people bully because of jealousy.
There has to be much education about how we are all different. We were all created with different challenges and born into different environments. Having compassion and understanding for others becomes part of the equation to combat bullying.
Sometimes knowledge of the facts is also the key. Here’s what we know about bullying:
- Cyberbullying is the #1 online safety concern in the classroom among teachers.
- 28% of students have experienced bullying personally.
- 71% of students have witnessed bullying directly.
- Only 20-30% of students notify adults about bulling.
- Over 50% of parents are concerned about their child being bullied.
Wow! Those are some challenging statistics.
October is National Bullying Prevention Month. We want to encourage everyone to “Be Internet Awesome” by sprinkling positive messages and spreading kindness on social media platforms. Let’s be bold in this campaign. Be a catalyst of a new normal for effective and positive communication online.
What kids often dismiss with bullying is, “If I’m not participating, it’s not my issue.” False. This has to become everyone’s issue. 71% of student witness bullying, but how many of them are strong enough to stand up against the cruelty and stand for the individual being impacted?
We need to teach our kids that being a bystander is not enough. Kids need to become the “upstanders” – the ones who are willing to stick their own necks out for those being treated poorly online, in the school halls and beyond.
One person can make the difference for a hurting individual by standing up, reporting to an adults, counteracting the bullying with kindness, gathering other friends to promote that it’s not cool to be mean and inviting outsiders into a circle of friendship.
Do not ignore bullying because it isn’t happening to you or your child. Help kids become aware and be strong advocates for kindness.
Educate Kids About Online Kindness Including the Pros and Cons of Social Media Usage
Many find social media usage terrifying for their teens. There is good reason. Social media usage, especially in girls, seems to be correlated with higher rates of depression, anxiety and suicide.
Helping kids develop a lifestyle of kindness needs to permeate in every area of their lives, including online usage.
Social media can be very self-centered. It’s a time to get the attention one craves. Those “likes” and “follows” are hits of dopamine to the brain.
What if we were able to flip this by helping our kids and teens become more aware of others online? What if we were to challenge them to do random acts of kindness online?
Being kind online is simple. Ask your social media user to follow the kids that might be in need of friends. Encourage kids to leave positive comments on people’s pictures, comments or videos. Challenge kids to stand-up against any cyberbullying they see. Help kids learn to report negative online behaviors.
There’s a fabulous online resource Google has put together. This is the “Be Internet Awesome Family Guide.” It provides more tools, tips and education about how to be effective instruments for creating an online world that builds into humanity rather than brings it down. It’s a free multifaceted program designed to teach kids the fundamentals of digital citizenship and safety.
Online use and social media isn’t going anywhere. We can ban it and we can try and hide from it. I’m definitely a proponent of waiting until kids show a certain level of maturity and responsibility.
I’m an even bigger proponent of educating them and giving them the tools to make positive decisions in their online life. Communication and education can combat many concerns about online usage. Equip your kids to make the right choices with their social media uses.
Do Acts of Kindness as a Family
Modeling is such a crucial component of parenting. Look for ways to be kind as a family.
Set aside an hour on a Saturday to go out and do or teach about random acts of kindness. Want some ideas?
- Take flowers to someone at the bus stop.
- Help your kids spread kindness online with this great tool – Kind Kingdom.
- Pay for the person behind you in the coffee line.
- Bake cookies for your neighbors.
- Invite someone new over for a meal or a game night.
- Give a stranger a compliment.
- Pay for someone’s meal at a restaurant.
- Volunteer to watch someone’s children so that another mom can get things done. Think especially of moms with newborns.
- Write an encouraging card for someone.
- Go online with the purpose of saying 10 nice things to 10 different people on their social media accounts.
- Think of someone who might be hurting or lonely and send them a text message, a fun GIF or encouraging words.
If you are anything like me, your parenting may error on the side of more talking and teaching rather than listening. I’m working on changing that, especially as my children mature.
A great way to help your kids learn to be kind is by asking the right questions.
There are specific questions that help focus on kindness. I’m a stickler for asking intentional questions of everyone in my carpool before and after school. Here are some ideas:
- Who might need a friend today?
- Who can you ask to sit by you at lunch?
- Is there a kid at school that needs you to ask them to be a part of your games at recess?
- Are there any younger kids that you could be an advocate for?
- Who did you show kindness to today?
- What is one nice thing you did for someone today?
- Who can we invite over that might not get invited to playdates very often?
- What was a positive online interaction you have had recently?
- Is there anyone you know who is being bullied?
- Why is it sometimes hard to stand up for kids that are left out?
These are just some questions to get you started. Some kids will engage in this kind of conversation on a deeper level. Continue to ask questions and let questions spark other questions. Try and listen more than you talk.
Join Me in the “It’s Cool to be Kind Challenge” Online
Google wants online usage to develop communities that are kind. I want that too. Do you?
If you said yes, please join me in a simple kindness challenge. The goal is to do random acts of kindness online. Once you are done, challenge 3+ fellow parents, families or friends online to another act of kindness online within 48 hours. It’s simple!
Take five minutes to find people to lift up. You can do that, right?
- Compliment someone’s video, photo or post.
- Try and reach out and say something kind to someone not in your closest group of friends – brainstorm someone who might really need kind words right now.
- Stand-up if you know someone is being cyber-bullied.
- Send a positive message to a friend or acquaintance.
- Share this post so that others can see and embrace the challenge. You can share a link to this post (most helpful) or copy and past this line: I challenge you to be part of the #BeInternet Awesome #ItsCoolToBeKind campaign. Simply do three random acts of kindness online and then tag three friends challenging them to do the same. @meaningfulmama @
I work with the youth group at our church. I’m going to be tagging and challenging my senior girls to this challenge. This can grow exponentially if we get enough people on board. Please join me!
Want to learn more about this campaign? Visit these websites:
- Facebook: https://facebook.com/GoogleforEducation
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/google/
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/GoogleforEdu
- Website: g.co/BeInternetAwesome (English) ; g.co/segenialeninternet (Spanish)
Make sure to include these hashtags so that others can see and participate in the kindness spread: Hashtag: #BeInternetAwesome #ItsCoolToBeKind