In Children’s Mental Health Week, the message ‘Spread A Little Kindness’ is already, well, spreading, which can only be a good thing. We can only hope that there will now be a surge of kindness following in the wake of this message.
But now, in a week when Children’s Mental Health is highlighted, I propose adapting their message for those young people already accessing social media (and it’s often much younger than we imagine) by suggesting that we all ‘Spread A Little CyberKindness’.
In a time when trolling and cyber-bullying is a sad reality, it would seem appropriate to encourage children and teenagers to think about what they are posting on the internet. To remind them that, despite the ‘unreal’ feel of the internet, most of the photos and comments are posted by and read by real people with real feelings.
Most of us have learned an important lesson – that each time we visit the internet, we leave a trail of ‘digital footprints’ which can be extremely difficult to erase. Some have learned a very hard lesson indeed, with photos and videos from young and foolish times coming back to haunt them later in life.
We are familiar by now with shows such as X-Factor, where the presenter stands with the participant (usually on their exit from the show), pointing to a huge screen and saying, ‘Let’s take a look at your journey.’
Let’s imagine for a moment that we are stood on that stage and the presenter is saying ‘Let’s take a look at your journey through social media’ and then everyone (remembering that the internet audience is far greater than that of Wembley) looking at every photo and every comment you have ever posted. Maybe that’s already making you cringe a little?
From their very first posting, your children are creating a ‘portfolio’ on the internet. So, in the hopes of making some of them think before they press that button, encourage them to ask the question, ‘How is this going to make the other person feel?’
The answer should be one of the following: happy, proud, reassured, supported, helped, loved, liked.
With the aim of spreading some CyberKindness around the internet, here are some good reasons to post kind comments:
Someone you know has written a great story or poem or song or comment.
Someone you know has made a positive effort in what they’ve done.
Someone has achieved something exceptional and wants to tell everyone about it.
Someone is reaching out for support.
Someone has posted a great picture or photo.
Politeness applies in addition to kindness, as much on social media as in the ‘real’ world, so ask permission before posting pictures of others and if you have unthinkingly posted a photo or comment, then removing it is the polite thing to do.
Finally, remember the old expression ‘If you can’t think of anything nice to say, say nothing.’