Harassment and bullying online have become a frequent headline as we live in an age where people are engaging more and more using online social media platforms. My children are currently too young to be able to have their own social media accounts and they are definitely too immature and naive to be able to understand the reality of what behaviours these social media platforms drive. However I was having a conversation recently with a parent who gave me an insight into just how young these children are who are constantly utilising some of these platforms and the impact it can have on them.
What saddens me about all of this is that most of the content posted on these mediums is relatively harmless, but it is the behaviours that social media drives that is alarming. Most of these young kids who are posting updates are only doing it to see how many likes and/or comments they receive from their friends – who is liking them and who isn’t. Unfortunately, when they are not getting these likes or comments, there is feeling that they are not part of the ‘in group’ or one of the ‘cool kids’.
Isn’t it a sad picture that in order for our children to justify their worthiness or to feel like they fit in they have to seek approval from others?
The problem is that even if you try to set boundaries around what your children have access to, they start to find themselves excluded from some social circles as they aren’t part of the online engagement that most of their friends are.
As an adult, I am mature enough to know that there are always going to be people you get along with and those you don’t. But I am still very conscious of my own behaviours around people I know I don’t gel with, because they can be manipulative and you tend to feed those approval based behaviours yourself where you find yourself doing or saying things you would not normally do, only to please them. I don’t want to put myself in this position, and I definitely do not want my children to observe these conversations or behaviours. If they see their role models condoning these behaviours, in their minds it becomes acceptable to also act in this manner.
As a parent, I know there is only so much I can control within my children’s lives and I want them to grow up in an environment where they feel valued, loved and have the opportunities to pursue what they are passionate about. I hope that I can continue to teach them to make good decisions, know their boundaries and their limitations. I know I don’t want them growing up to think their value is dependent on how many likes they get on a post by other children in their social circles or to be driven by external validation. That is, self-worth being measured by what others think of them. I would hope that their confidence and self-worth would come from within and from those that love them unconditionally.
Both online and offline bullying and harassment is obviously a massive issue and something that I’m not going to resolve in a blog post. There are always going to be those who will support you and those who don’t. I think part of the challenge is to learn that you don’t have to live your life pleasing others. What I hope to be able to do is to educate my children so that they learn to be resilient and that they can be whoever they want to be and they don’t need others approval to achieve it.
As far as I can see it, you either like me, or you don’t and I’m ok with that. The challenge is to guide our children towards confidence and self-worth coming from within.