Behind the computer screen, it can seem easy for anyone to simply type whatever is on his or her mind.
There are no buts, ands or questions about it. With a few strokes of a keyboard, we can leave comments that damage or uplift people close to us and throughout the world. The sad part is that we have become so numb to what we say, because we feel that the computer can hide it all. We believe it can hide the impact of the negativity we are putting into the world.
The reality is, every single word we say has an impact on someone’s life. It can make or break someone’s life. I wholeheartedly believe that the younger we teach teens the importance of how and when to comment, the more likely we will live in a civil world – a world in which people will gain humanity and perspective as to how their thoughts and words can impact someone’s life.
On that note, here are five truths we all should embrace when it comes to teaching our teens how and when to comment:
- Put the situation in perspective. We have to help teens understand the true impact of their words. The moments they start going online and using apps are the moments we should start conversations about interacting with others. Yes, they are young, but the sooner we teach this the better.
- See things through their eyes, then help them see things through our eyes. Teens today are much different than teens 20 years ago, so we have to understand things from their perspective and on their level. We must know what’s happening in their world and their feelings toward it.
- Make teachable moments. When comes to their understanding of how to be civil online, we have to break it down to their level and discuss things that have happened or are happening in order for them to understand. Teach them to choose their words.
- Constantly discuss what’s happening in their online world. Then, ask them how it is making them feel. This will aid the discussion of when it wouldn’t be OK to comment on something and what the right choice of words is.
- Relate those online moments back to reality. The only way they will grow and become who we hope for them to be, is to help them understand how those comments they write online, really do impact those in the real world. Their words don’t just live online, but in the minds and hearts of those they are directly impacting.
By embracing these truths, not only will we have more humane teenagers, but we will also have a more positive society. We each play a role in the condition of our world and what’s happening online: Let’s begin by really helping our teens realize this. Let’s also help them positively change the world by deeply thinking about their words and actions, each time they comment online.
Photo courtesy of Flickr.com.
Ashley M. Williams is the founder and CEO of RIZZARR, a social publishing platform for Millennials. She has a background in journalism. Ashley worked as a Multimedia Journalist for USA TODAY Network's Nation Now where she hosted and produced a show for the network called Long Story, Short. Prior to working at USA TODAY, Ashley worked at WBAL Radio and NBC News. Before joining NBC News, Ashley worked in South Africa as a digital reporter and producer for Cue Television as well as a print reporter intern for Grocott's Mail Newspaper. After working in South Africa, she was granted a columnist position with Africa.com. Her columns sparked a series for the site called, My Journey, My Africa, which allowed readers to post stories about their experiences in Africa. Ashley has received many honors, including the 2011 Student Journalist of the Year Award from the National Association of Black Journalists; the Pat Tobin Scholarship from the Black Journalists Association of Southern California; a Hearst Journalism Award Nomination. She graduated with honors from the University of Southern California, earning a B.A. in broadcast and digital journalism as well as minors in international relations and Spanish. She is spokesperson for the National Eating Disorders Association and a member of the National Association of Professional Women.