Parenting these days can be very reactionary. We have lots of pressure and little time and often many feelings of not being enough, constantly striving, competing with others and overall disconnection. We have big reactions or, perhaps we might say, our big reactions have us. But what if we practiced more aware parenting? What if we become more in touch with our own senses, our mental state, our bodies and our relationship to ourselves and to others and how our awareness could affect our parenting and our lives? When we become aware and reflective of our reactions and what is indeed feeding these reactions, we can become more receptive, calm, balanced, compassionate and positive in the way we parent our kids and more balanced in our own wellbeing. And imagine what we can teach our kids—by showing awareness and practicing awareness, we can then teach them to the do the same in their own lives. Is there a way to cultivate this awareness? Is there a way to teach our kids to practice awareness as children and teenagers? For these questions and more, we turn to our guest today, Dr. Dan Siegel.
Devorah Heitner, PhD is the author of Screenwise: Helping Kids Thrive (and Survive) in Their Digital World and the founder of Raising Digital Natives. She passionately believes in the power of mentoring kids in creating a positive tech culture and she is delighted to be raising her own digital native. She’s also super cool and actually has an article out about some things to consider if your child wants to be a youtube star in the Washington Post—and we’re going to dig right and flesh out the information so we know how to have this discussion about fame, social media and what to look out for if your child brings the idea of putting videos up on social media to your attention—best to be prepared, right?
Good Morning America brought me into the studio to talk to Lara Spencer this morning (video) about Iggy Azalea, her departure from social media, and what her experience with haters might tell us about cyberbullying. Let’s discuss!
Should people just give up on social media if they’re having these kinds of problems?
Whether social media is for you or not is a very personal decision.
If you are a celebrity with millions of fans or a non-celebrity, you may encounter the occasional troll who aims to provoke you. It can be stressful and upsetting. So if these interactions are influencing how you feel about yourself or how you go about your day to day life, the internet may not be a healthy space for you. If, however, you feel that interacting with your fans or those who know you and love you is worthwhile and outweighs the cons, continue on but know that if you are dealing with an actual cyberbullying situation (i.e. sexually explicit messaging, hate crime language, threats), you must document it and report it.
How can you avoid online haters?
You have several choices. You can:
(1) Shut off or limit personal interaction with social media, as we see in Iggy Azalea’s circumstance. Celebrities are always going to be targeted because you are talking about millions of fans and some who feel entitled to criticize and demean at will. Non-celebrities can typically be more choosy about their online interactions.
(3) Switch to social media that allows you to create your own cyber bubble made up of people you know and love and who love you. Switching to this type of social media will often help you to avoid internet trolls.
(3) Join whatever social media sites you want—but if and when encountering a cyberbully, don’t retaliate. Nothing creates more online haters than engaging with online haters. Block the cyberbullies if possible, document the messages, screen shot what was sent and report to the authorities, website and/or internet service provider.
By one statistic, over half of teens have been bullied online – and about the same number have engaged in cyber bullying. It can be so hurtful — what should parents tell their children should this happen to them?
When I’m presenting to parent and teacher audiences, this is one of the most typical questions to come up. If a child comes to you and tells you that s/he feels he is being targeted online, first say: “I’m sorry this is happening to you”—validate their feelings right away. Tell them “thank you for coming to me”—because it’s hard to admit that you are being bullied and you don’t know how to handle it. Then be sure to tell them that you are “with them every step of the way “and you and the child will “figure out what to do together.” You don’t need to know all the answers, but we want to ensure that our children don’t feel alone. You don’t want to take over for your child, but rather partner with them in finding the solutions. Teens often voice frustration with parents or teachers who brush off the issue, tell them to just “get new friends” or start out helping and then refrain from following up. We don’t want to make things worse.
And don’t forget—every child and teen needs to be taught how to interact on line. There should be an expectation of respect and strong character. As the cyber life is a huge part of a teen’s actual life, make sure you teach your child to use respect and kindness both off and online.
It’s worth repeating one more time, cyberbullying in the form of threats, sexually explicit messaging, stalking aren’t just scary, they’re crimes. They need to be documented, screen-shot and reported.
How much do YOU “unlike” like?
I was recently on Good Morning America talking to Robin Roberts about how social media has become a constant part of the teen world. Teens are learning that the number of likes they receive is equivalent to how likable, popular and worthy that they are. While it shouldn’t be about quantity, but rather quality, given that many of these likes come from people these kids barely even know, when it comes to social media, it’s a numbers game—the more likes you receive, the better these teens feel.
Welcome to the 100 club— the exclusive club invented for those teens who’ve received 100 or more likes on a social media photo or post. Getting the most likes is the new extreme sport. The need for likes and getting an “in” to the 100 club makes a competitive sport out of social media- where the trophy is the privilege of saying you are in an exclusive club—which is not attainable for all.
Teens are at a time in life when they want to fit in and feel the approval of peers, getting likes is an immediate, albeit flawed way, of finding out “am I worthy, am I popular and am I likeable?” Getting likes fits our immediate push-button culture and the need for immediate feedback and gratification even if it’s from people that our kids don’t know well. Not getting the likes, the positive feedback, can feel like a slap in the face and a blow to the self esteem—not good enough. You see the number of likes, but so does everyone else. It’s easy for them to wonder; am I like-able enough?
When presenting to teens and parents on this topic, here are two of the takeaways I provide:
First, break the like habit. Ask your teen, what are you hoping for when you post that photo? If the sole reason to post is to garner likes, you may have a slippery slope as it’s a self esteem trap. Make sure your teen is getting out and about, face to face with 3D people- through sports, drama club, martial arts, dance, cheer so they can get away from the likes, set meaningful goals and feel significant achievement.
Second, send a clear message to your teens that it’s who you are– not your number of likes that make you worthy. Social media can be a self esteem trap. Teens may believe it all comes down to numbers when it’s really about quality of connections with your true supporters, how you feel about yourself and the gifts you contribute to the world.
A final word:
Don’t forget– the example we set is also vital to our children. Many adults will go through their days, heads down and eyes buried into their phones, looking at how their posts fair on their social media pages. It’s easy to get caught into the same trap at their children. We must keep it all in perspective while acknowledging that everyone likes to get a pat on the back or a high five– even if it’s virtual.
Just for fun:
After my segment on Good Morning America, I ran into Taylor Swift in the elevator! What a fun, happy treat. I posted the selfie of us and you know what? I received the most likes I ever got. Ironic given the segment topic!
Here’s to you!