I was giving one of my Ask The Expert Party's Sunday afternoon, and one of the parens asked me about teens and empathy. I answered that humans are pre-wired for empathy. They have done some really interesting research with babies and young children that supports this idea. But unless this natural empathy is reinforced continuously throughout a child's life, it can get lost in the shuffle. Teens are by nature, during Adolescence, narcissistic. Me me me me!!! As they deal with the chaos of their body changing, their brain changing, their relationships changing and trying to figure out a personal identity they often don't have the space to think so much about others. And technology does not help. In the olden days, when you and I were teens, you pretty much said what you thought about someone to their face if you had balls, or you talked behind their back to your best friend, and that was that. But whichever way it went down, somewhere along the line you saw and felt how your nasty comments about someone made them feel. You saw their hurt and and felt bad and usually guilty. A lesson in empathy! In today's world of technology, it is really easy to bad mouth someone on twitter or instagram and feel completely removed from the pain that has been inflicted on the object of their wrath. Just look towards our president as a model for that.
Unfortunately your teens are full of drama, and with technology they have a delivery system for sharing their anger, their frustration, their jealousy in a form that allows them to hide from the consequences of hurting someone elses feelings. Hence, fewer lessons in empathy!!
So take a cue Jimmy Kimmel's playbook. When you see mean posts and mean tweets when you are monitoring your teen's tech tools,not just ones they might have posted, but their also their friend's posts, rather than just getting mad and lecturing, do a mean tweet read. Let them hear how the language sounds, how it feels to be the target of that language, sans lecture! They don't have to be their tweets or posts, you'll find plenty in the public domain., that are mean. Teaching empathy to teens is not about lecturing them about it, it's by letting them experience how words can sound and how they can hurt!
My fantasy is that you copy and paste these safety rules and post them in your teen's room, on the refrigerator, in the family room, in the basement, wherever your teens do their social networking business as a constant reminder of what is smart,kind and empathic use of social networking!
- DOES THIS POST INTENTIONALLY HURT SOMEBODY'S FEELINGS
- CAN THIS POST BE MISINTERPRETED BY SOMEBODY
- DOES THIS POST GIVE OUT TOO MUCH INFORMATION
- CAN ANY POST OF A PHOTO OR VIDEO COME BACK TO HAUNT ME
an this post be misinterpreted by anyone?
Does this post intentionally hurt someone’s feelings?
Does this post give out too much information?
Can any photos or video’s posted of me come back and shoot me in the foot?