Teaching Your Child To be Kind Online


Believe me when I say that it is not difficult to say things from behind a computer screen. Most of us are willing to say whatever we want behind the safety of our keyboards, and we’d never, ever say the kind of things that we say online in person – we don’t have the courage. Anonymity is dangerous – and it’s what makes things like cyberbullying so dangerous, but so easy. As a writer, I get hundreds of emails and comments every single day from people providing me with their opinions. Many are perfectly nice, even if they disagree with me – and I respect that. Just because you don’t agree with someone does not mean you have to forgo your manners and basic etiquette. But every day I get a handful of death threats, people calling my kids names because they don’t like me, and people telling me horrible things that they seem to have deduced about me from a few words online. It’s fine – I have thick skin and I don’t bother myself with what others say. I’m a confident woman and I don’t have time for that kind of negativity. But my guess is that 99% of those people would never, ever approach me in the store or at school picking up my kids and say the things they write to me (Hey, you suck and I hate you and I hope a bus runs you over on the way home and kills you because you are so stupid and ridiculous – no, really, those are things people say).

That’s why we have to teach our kids the importance of being kind online. It might not be difficult for me to ignore people, but kids haven’t quite developed a thick skin or a sense of self-worth and confidence just yet. They don’t quite understand that it is impossible to make everyone like them, so let’s help our kids grow up to be kind and compassionate and to provide only constructive criticism rather than hatred and bullying remarks.

Don’t Write it if You Wouldn’t Say It

Here’s something I always keep in mind when I respond to someone online and something I will encourage my kids to do in many, many years when they are finally allowed to use the internet – if I wouldn’t say it to someone in real life, I wouldn’t say it online. It’s that simple. I might think someone is awful, but I’d never tell them that in real life. I’d just forgo a relationship with that person and move on. The same should apply online.

Think it Through

Never write anything when you are angry. Well, you can write it. But wait 24 hours before you send it. It’s a good way to calm down, get your feelings out and not offend or hurt anyone in the process.

Is it Constructive?

Here’s one that I have a difficult time with, especially in the past week. I have a job; it requires me to write things that I might not normally write. And while I have no issue being sarcastic and self-deprecating, I sometimes have to write things that aren’t really my cup of tea, but it’s my job. People don’t always understand that just because I write it doesn’t mean it’s how I PERSONALLY feel or that it’s not something I would ever go around teaching my kids to do. When I’m being personal online, I like to be constructive. And kids should practice the same.

Is it Kind?

There are not enough kind people in the world; not that I’m always kind or nice myself. But there really just are not enough kind people, and that means we need to practice kindness. If it’s not kind or helpful, don’t write it.

How Would Your Kids Feel?

Ask this; if your kids were to receive a message or note from someone saying what they want to say, how would they feel? Now they have a nice idea of what they might make someone else feel like, and that might make them think twice.

Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images


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