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Kids’ behaviour online is terrible… but have you ever posted something on your local community page that people didn’t like?

Continuing the theme of talking through technology and young people, this post is poking at some of the issues we see with how we socialise through technology. As I said in a previous post, young people do not distinguish between the online and offline world, so when we talk about “chatting with your friends”, that to them means: in person, via text, sending photos, liking posts, gaming together.

There has long been a stereotype that young people’s conduct online can be pretty poor. But as the lead-in suggested, adults don’t always do it great either. Take the example of when I posted on my local community page that my partner’s car was broken into and to be careful. Someone asked if it was unlocked – it was. Cue a flood of comments that could best be described as hurtful, mean, arrogant and unnecessary. So as with all that I write about technology, let’s also make sure we model what we expect of our kids.

As to what you can be doing to support your kids socialising online:

– Accept that digital communication is important to your kids. Rather than disregarding the whole thing because it is problematic, help establish ways to manage the less ideal stuff and preserve the good

– Regularly and thoughtfully remind them about how they need to be mindful of how online communication is different and can be misinterpreted. One way I do this is to ask young people to read a message out to me. And then ask them why they used that voice and the fact that it could just as easily be read in a different voice (angry, sad, happy)

– Set appropriate boundaries re: when you are available to chat online and when it is time to switch off. A lot of teenagers really struggle with “missing” messages. One suggestion I often make is when messaging with friends, let them know you’re switching off for a few hours while you have dinner and do your homework

– Hold them accountable for inappropriate conduct online. This doesn’t mean public shaming or rubbing their face in it, but seeing the impact their digital words can have on someone can help to make the impact a reality

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At ConnectEd Counselling and Consultancy, we believe that all families, and the communities they belong to, benefit from a little extra care and support. Whether the problems are big or small, we want to make sure everyone has the chance to feel connected – to themselves, to others and to their community. We offer counselling services to young people and families and have immediate availability. If you need some support, get in touch here:

(Written by: Dr Matt O’Connor)

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