Good Digital Parenting
Blog | June 6, 2016

The Art of Commenting

Founder, Parents' Universal Resource Experts, Inc

We are living in a world of social media where teens and tweens will hold on with bated breath for that next digital word to be typed or the “like” to be clicked – especially waiting for a comment on a picture or video they just uploaded on a platform like Instagram, Snapchat or Facebook.

Comments matter in today's digitally driven culture!  We are so absorbed into who's posting what, when and how, that sometimes we forget that there's a live person that's behind the image.

A person is literally reading the comment (not to mention counting the “likes”), which means your comments count and they need to be written with care.

Let's discuss comments in general for a moment first. It was a few years ago, major sites like Huffington Post decided to put an end to people who wanted to post anonymously and Popular Science and Motherboard did away with comments all together. Why? Because adults couldn't behave themselves online with a keyboard.

Just because we have the privilege to leave a comment doesn't give us a right to abuse it. The art of leaving a comment not only can benefit the readers, it can potentially add value to you as a commenter. People will read your comments, depending on your remarks, and look forward to reading more and possibly learn from you and vice versa.

Remember, everyone is reading your responses; it's a great opportunity to make an impression on others.

It goes back to the old cliché many of us were taught by our grandparents and parents: "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say it at all." We need to take this advice into our digital world.

There isn't anything wrong with making constructive comments if you feel differently about a topic, however intentionally causing harm or knowing you will inflict pain upon someone should never be a reason to leave a comment. That is when you should simply move on. 

Are teens mature enough to know when to click away?

In Dr. Michele Borba's new book, UnSelfie: Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in Our All-About-Me World she reveals that in the past 30 years there has been a drop in empathy in teens by 40 percent while they have increased in narcissism by 58 percent. 

In UnSelfie, Borba discusses teaching perspective talking to our children and teens. This is can be a great offline conversation about online behavior, particularly when it's appropriate to leave a comment and how to comment when something is making you feel uncomfortable.

"Your teen cares about what you think, they will also watch your behavior online,” Borba said. “It's imperative that parents today are conscious of their own posts and comments. It's not just about them, they have an audience that looks up to them."

We have to start early with our children, and especially with teens, to help them navigate not only etiquette offline, but also their social netiquette skills online.

Borba correlates this perfectly in UnSelfie by helping our teens see things from someone else's perspective, and this is how we can relate it to determining when and if you should comment. Her book is filled with dozens of age-by-age strategies based on science to enhance empathy. To get started in enhancing your teen's perspective, Borba created a four-step method she calls C.A.R.E.

C = Call Attention to Uncaring. Did you notice that there was an ugly comment on someone's post? Was it your teen? Talk about it.

A = Assess How Uncaring Affects Others. Was your teen a victim of  a cruel comment, were you? Discuss how this made you feel?

R = Repair the Hurt and Require Reparation. Did your teen write a comment that hurt someone (even if he or she didn't meant to)? Immediately delete that comment, apologize and contact the person personally. 

E = Express Disappointment and Stress Caring Expectations. We're all human and we're going to make mistakes. It's what we learn from them that counts. Be a caring and kind role model to your teen. They will remember that.

As Borba reminds us, we all can be empathy builders. With empathy and compassion, it's difficult to leave cruel comments.

It's not always about when or how to leave a comment, but remember a comment is  reflection of who you are too. And nurturing our children’s empathy may well be the best antidote to bullying.

Image courtesy of Flickr.com