Wednesdays @ WeHaKee: Be Kind Online
At WeHaKee, we have frequently discussed the challenges to youth development in the wake of overprotective parenting, advocating instead for the need to provide girls and young women the space to experience freedom and explore healthy risk taking in order to achieve one’s full potential. We firmly believe that an experience like a summer at WeHaKee Camp for Girls provides girls with a plethora of opportunities to do just that!
However, we also know that protecting our children is not inherently negative and remains a prime responsibility of being a parent. But, the power and convenience of today’s technology has complicated that responsibility immensely. Powerful tablets and smart phones have made gathering and sharing information remarkably easily and quick. Yet it also has a darkside – an unsafe aspect that can be threatening and damaging to our children… and completely unseen by caring and loving parents.
Recently a friend of mine faced this issue tragically head on when he learned of the death of his 12 year old granddaughter. Without any warning or apparent clues to her parents of what she was dealing with, this vibrant, intelligent, positive and cheerful girl felt the need to end her hidden misery by ending her life. The pain and agony of this kind of loss is simply unimaginable.
In the aftermath of this tragedy, her parents learned that online bullying had play a key role in her decision to take her own life. Because the bullying was covertly occurring out of parental sight & hearing across the internet, signs of her personal social challenges were not present. As a result, the parents of this child have courageously channelled their grief and taken up the cause to help other parents deal with online bullying by creating the group KIC, which represents ‘Kindness is Contagious’ (read more at Teen’s Suicide Puts Family on Mission for Kindness).
In the lights of the increased awareness of cyberbullying, many have made drastic moves to ban and significantly control the use of technology by children and youth. But this is not proving to be an effective response. When one avenue for cyberbullying is blocked, this behavior is easily rerouted using alternate methods and sites. A different vision to counter the effects of online harassment has emerged – digital citizenship. According to Define The Line, “…digital citizenship is premised on encouraging and developing learning opportunities for youth to develop their online proficiency, engagement and creativity, rather than focusing exclusively on the ways in which digital media can be used detrimentally.”
“Digital citizenship is premised on encouraging
and developing learning opportunities
for youth to develop their online proficiency,
engagement and creativity, rather than focusing
exclusively on the ways in which
digital media can be used detrimentally.” Define The Line
One of our favorite sources for innovative approaches to learning, Mind/Shift posted an article exploring the concept of digital citizenship and its ability to help keep kids safe online (read more at Empowering Kids Online: An Important Strategy to Keep Them Safe). By taking a proactive perspective, digital citizenship works to emphasize the positive elements of digital media and how our children and youth can learn to be responsible members of the digital community. And like so many other ways to positively influence the behaviors of our children and youth, one of the most effective ways to promote digital citizenship is through role modelling of positive digital media behavior by parents and teachers.
Role modelling positive behaviors and providing consistent opportunities for our children to practice becoming responsible digital citizens will go much further to not only combat & reduce cyberbullying, it will help redefine the communities we are creating digitally. Thanks for joining us today and enjoy the remainder of your week!