*I am joining in the #1000Speak campaign, with our movement focused on “Building from Bullying”. I thought this was the perfect topic and resource to provide in this mission, as hundreds of bloggers unite once again to make a difference.*
Times have changed. The world has stretched far beyond our back yards and playgrounds where a bully might linger with harsh words and cruel attacks. Now there are countless examples of how people have been impacted by such haters, Online. It scares me.
I can protect myself as best I can, and do my part to defend the victims that fall prey in their innocence as I spend much of my time online. I can be aware of how each and every time I share or post a part of me, my words, my pictures- there is a risk I take in offering myself up to the miserable people that lurk ready and waiting to take me down, cut me apart, taunt me or haunt me with their pain spewed into vicious venom. It can happen. It does. To me, and to precious friends of mine too many times.
It’s a harsh world out there… and the truth of the matter is this: Our world has become connected with as much as a click from one side of this planet to the next. The reach is limitless, and therefore the pool of people is not our safe zone of friends and family- rather it’s a deep sea of strangers and stalkers and bullies who use the online world as their vengeance.
I must also share the power of the virtual world for good. I have seen and experienced compassion and connections that take my breath away. I truly thank God for this new expansion of my own world to touch the souls of many. I have been witness to countless lives being impacted in such a way that their paths have turned and their hearts have been transformed because of an online experience. I would like to believe that more good comes of this new world-wide community than bad. I can testify to the beauty in building relationships and spreading valuable messages across the land, as I have seen hope rise and wounds heal.
It’s amazing, really.
But what happens when our tweens and teens become submerged online? With their impulsive choices and innocent intentions- they dive into the pool naïve of what swims in those elusive waters. They truly don’t understand the weight of their consequences in much of their life, as they are developmentally limited in their processing until well after their teen years. We see the plight of this age group plunge into the virtual world, without any education or training or preparation in how to navigate it responsibly. It’s a downright free-for-all. Our kids use social media, with no guidelines or policies put in place. It’s a world of no rules and no regulations.
This terrifies me.
As a parent, I must face the inevitable that my kids will be diving into this same dangerous online world some day, and how will I equip them in doing so? As much as I want to shut down every accessible door they can use, the reality is that this is how our world now operates. Technology is speeding forward fast and it will only keep the momentum. This IS our world.
Leave it to one of my favorite writers to create a book about this very thing. Galit Breen is someone who is passionate about this subject for many reasons, as her writing career lands her in the throes of the virtual world every day. Through her experience, she has been the victim of attacks on a particular article she wrote and this sparked her beautiful purpose to write a book about preparing our kids for the online world. She’s just the kind of soul to take those lemons and make lemonade. She realized the need for a resource like this, as she was teaching her daughter about the impact of her own online presence. It’s up to the parents to teach our kids how to behave online and in doing so, we can protect and nurture a powerful presence for their engagement and benefit in connecting through social media.
Galit believes that we need to teach our kids the same manners of kindness in the online world, just as we guide them through the same values in the real world. Brilliant, yes?
Here’s a snippet of my dear friend’s perspective about her book and her inspiration:
1. Why did you write this book?
I had a post go viral this fall about comments I received about my weight on an article I wrote about marriage. Not too long after that, my daughter and her friends began using social media platforms like Instagram. When I looked through some of the kids’ profiles, I realized there’s a lot of kindness terrain to cover. After my experience with unkind comments and fat shaming, I knew I wanted to do something about cyberbyulling. This book is my “something.” This is a guide for parents, teachers, youth groups, etc. to use for teaching our kids how to be kind online. I think this can and should be taught. I used my work in social media to inform what needs to be taught and I used my background in teaching (I have an MA in education and I was a classroom and reading teacher for 10 years) to guide the how-to portion of the book.
4. Who is this book for? Can kids read it?
Kids can definitely read it; you have my own tweens’ seal of approval for that. I wrote this book for parents in the trenches of raising tweens and teens, older kids who are teetering on knowing more than we do about maneuvering online. Parenting is hard. When our kids were little, we figured out that sharing our experiences, challenges, goals, and wins with each other was a huge relief and help. Now that our kids are a little bit older, we need just as much help but our support system is dwindling because parenting them feels more private, more their story to tell then ours. But there’s so much to be said about joining forces with our parenting peers and helping each other out. So this book is meant to be read and discussed by parents, friends, teachers, coaches, youth group and club leaders. It’s also meant to be read by–and discussed with–kids. Parents and kids, mother daughter book clubs, scouts, teams, classrooms. Reading this book is a step toward online kindness winning. But the conversations your reading will springboard are the leaps. Kids can, and should, read it.
2. What’s the book’s format?
The book can be read in one gulp or in sections. Each chapter in Kindness Wins covers one habit to directly teach kids about how to be kind online. Each section is written in a simple, parent-to-parent over coffee style and concludes with one resource for further reading, two discussion starters (one to have with peers and one to have with kids), and three bulleted takeaways. At the end of the book there are two Kindness Wins contracts–one for peers and one for kids.
Every parent of tweens and teens needs to get this book and read it with their child. I truly can’t think of a better way to shift the trajectory of the online world for our youth. I’m so glad Galit wrote this in time for me to prepare and educate my own kids about the online world before they are exposed and saturated by the virtual abyss. This will surely be a must read for both of my kids and me. BRAVO to my dear friend, for gifting us with her heart, her experience, and her powerful mission to change the terrain of the technology- with kindness.
Kindness Wins covers ten habits to directly teach kids as they’re learning how to be kind online. Each section is written in Breen’s trademark parent-to-parent-over-coffee style and concludes with resources for further reading, discussion starters, and bulleted takeaways. She concludes the book with two contracts―one to share with peers and one to share with kids. Just like we needed to teach our children how to walk, swim, and throw a ball, we need to teach them how to maneuver kindly online. This book will help you do just that.
Galit Breen was a classroom and reading teacher for ten years. She has a master’s degree in education and a bachelor’s degree in human development. In 2009, she launched a career as a freelance writer entrenched in social media. Since then, her work has been featured in various online magazines including Brain, Child, The Huffington Post, TIME, and xoJane. Breen lives in Minnesota with her husband, three children, and a ridiculously spoiled miniature golden doodle. You can learn more about Galit by visiting TheseLittleWaves.com.