Kids and Internet Rage
Building on the previous post on hostility in cyberspace, today we examine kids and internet rage. How does all this anger and incivility impact our children? What can parents do to protect their kids?
Naturally, we want to shield young internet users from verbal attacks and ugly behaviour, but we also want to raise kids who can withstand a bit of adversity and bounce back in its aftermath. Perhaps most importantly, we want our children to possess a decency that naturally extends beyond Real Life into cyberspace.
The previous post gave a real life example of how people can be abused and hurt on the internet. In that case, the victim was an adult woman with a high profile. As a professional journalist, she had the obligatory thick skin that comes from a writing career. She also had access to an acceptable forum for redress and reliable support mechanisms, but she was still negatively affected by one troll’s nasty attack.
Rage, Trolls & Kids
Rage situations often play out differently for young people. Kids generally lack the maturity to handle difficult situations on their own, and their emotionally- charged responses can inflame situations. Many young people don’t turn to their available support mechanisms—their parents and carers—because they fear an over-reaction. To avoid a knee-jerk, OTT response, kids put up with online abuse, ugly behaviour, and intimidation.
Constant exposure to such abuse can lead to some awful results. Some kids grow anxious and depressed while others absorb rage-fuelled words and actions and begin to exhibit (copy) the behaviours themselves. Either way, it’s a not a good scenario.
Helping Young People Avoid Rage
Here are a few tips on things you can do about kids and internet rage.
- Model decency and respect IRL ((in real life) and online. It’s always been important, but in an age when standards are crumbling, our kids need good parental modelling more than ever. When you witness people behaving badly, road rage or examples of internet rage, talk about it; teach kids what’s wrong and right, and talk about better responses.
- Model appropriate anger. If your anger is a problem, get help.
- Demonstrate resilience. Show your kids how you pick yourself up after adversity and disappointment. Talk about the battlers in your life who have demonstrated bounce-back-ability.
- Model assertiveness and allow your children to practise assertiveness on you. Respect goes two ways. Be sure your kids know this. It’s good for them to a) know that they can express their feelings respectfully and b) expect to be respected.
- Keep communication open and calm. If your kids find themselves in strife online, they need to know they can come to you and that you won’t over-react. The fear of most kids is that their parents will declare an all-out technology ban, so they keep their online problems to themselves. As tempting as it might be to shut down and take the whole family off the grid, don’t! Help your teens by problem-solving together. Comfort them. And don’t over-react.
- Remind them that hurting people hurt others. The sweary-fairy, the ranting maniac, even the ill-mannered troll—they do what they do because they are sad, lonely, damaged and hurting. (See last week’s post for more).
If you catch your child misbehaving online—being mean, rude, cruel or downright dastardly, deal with it as you would IRL. Set an appropriate, timely consequence. Be clear on expectations. Give them an opportunity to earn back your trust and their privileges. It may be appropriate to work towards an apology. (There’s no point forcing this if their heart isn’t in it.)
Above all, help kids understand the way the other person/player feels. Anonymity deceives people in all kinds of ways, but most of all by making the user believe s/he is untraceable and that s/he is dealing with “just data” rather than real people.
Empathy is a critical life skill in this age.
Gaming Kids Need Extra Training
Gaming has its own set of challenges. Game play often requires increased screentime, so moderating time and learning to shut down without a fight should be addressed by parents sooner rather than later. Way before puberty. But the other thing to remember is that gaming can be rife with bad behaviour and foul language. Emotional arousal is built-in to many games. Without explicit training on how to handle themselves and others who are out of line, young players will copy the most vocal player’s example. The internet is no place to learn deportment.
More on Gaming Rage and Kids Next Week!
Next week, an adult gamer and educator shares to help us understand the nature of gaming and how kids get into strife.