If you do nothing else today, let your kid know that something creative they did was awesome. And don’t just say it, show it. Be expressive and genuinely impressed with what they’ve done. Don’t critique it. Don’t offer how it could be better. Just let them know that their effort to try something new or take a creative risk was incredible. Because the very fact that they had the courage to share their work was indeed quite amazing.
For those who haven’t yet caught up, your children are able to put themselves out their for all the world to see more easily than ever in the history of kid-dom. They may write a poem, sing a song, do a back flip, dye their hair or share their opinion on Taylor Swift’s new album. They then have the ability to share this with the world with the simple click of a button; opening themselves up to every troll on the internet who is sitting at home in their underwear looking for things and people to make fun of.
I’m not even going to get into the ill-advised photo that goes viral. Or a video someone takes of someone else doing something stupid and then posts without the person’s knowledge. That’s an entirely different subject. No, I’m talking about kids innocently utilizing social media for feedback, and expecting or at least hoping for something positive or at the very least constructive.
All too often what they get instead is a comment from some idiot, hiding behind a fake profile, poking fun at people who have the guts to actually put themselves out there. All it takes is one negative comment on a new video post or instagram photo to induce extreme embarrassment and cause a kid to recoil into an insecure ball of shame curled up in the closet.
If you haven’t already done so, first talk to your kids about the fact that once they post something, it’s there for ALL the world to see, so make sure it’s something they genuinely feel good about. I made my stand up comedy debut in front of about fifty people and still wake up with cold sweats over over how bad it was. I can’t imagine what it would be like if it had happened in front of 100,000,000 people (and trust me I keep waiting for the tape of it to emerge on YouTube). But that’s the potential the internet provides. Mind you, chances are your kid’s video is going to max out at 45 hits, especially if it’s something innocent and unassuming. But they need to remember that when you post something on-line, you’re leaving yourself vulnerable and somewhere down the road you’re going to get a dislike or negative comment. As adults we get it (though it still sucks), but to a young kid who expects everyone to love what they do it can be a hard lesson.
So be your kid’s first “like.” Let your kid know that they’re amazing and what they do is amazing. Let them know that not everyone is going to like what they do. And that it doesn’t matter. They need to keep searching for the audience who gets them and loves what they do. Teach them to be able to brush aside the negativity, accept any and all criticism, acknowledge when they may need to take some of it to heart and adjust, but to NEVER let it stop them from moving forward. The truth is you can post just about anything and get both good and bad responses. And isn’t that the truth every day?
We can curse the internet and the volume of things our children are now exposed to, or we can embrace it and take every opportunity to use it as a life lesson for our kids. But it takes effort. It takes monitoring. It takes observing. It takes listening, watching, talking, discussing and caring. It’s going to take your time, but what better way to spend your time than learning about your kids and teaching them the realities of the world, people and the very society they’re so eager to interact with. What better way to teach them to deal with adversity, and develop a thick skin. Two attributes that will do them well in a world filled with so many unassuming trolls.