Those of us raising teenagers now didn't grow up with social media. Heck, the vast majority of us didn't even grow up with the internet. But we know how ubiquitous social media, with all of its psychological pitfalls, has become in our own lives, so it's not a big stretch to imagine the incredible impact it can have on our kids during their most self-conscious phase.
Sharing our lives on social media often means sharing the highlights. That's not bad in and of itself, but when all people are seeing is everyone else's highlight reels, it's easy to fall into unhealthy comparisons. As parents, we need to remind our teens not to do that—but we also need to remind them that other people will do that, which is why kindness, empathy, and inclusiveness are so important.
Writer and mother of three teen daughters, Whitney Fleming, shared a beautiful post on Facebook explaining what we need to teach our teenagers about empathy in the age of social media, and how we ourselves can serve as an example.
"Somewhere out there is a girl who didn't get invited to the Homecoming dance.
Somewhere out there is a boy who didn't make a team.
Somewhere out there is a kid who doesn't want to go to school because they are relentlessly teased.
Somewhere out there is a teenager who is abused.
Somewhere out there is a student who can't pass a class and feels like they can't keep up with their peers.
Somewhere out there is a child who can't find a place in this strange high school world.
And as we put up our photos of all the wonderful things happening for our kids, we have to remind them how someone else is feeling crushed, someone feels like a failure, someone is losing hope.
We have to remind our kids that with every celebration they experience, another kid is feeling left out, rejected, hurt.
We have to remind them to be kind, to be inclusive, to be respectful of those who don't have much of a highlight reel.
High school should not be the pinnacle of our lives, and there are so many experiences that are overhyped. We all bloom at different times. A lot of kids develop resiliency in high school that carries them for the rest of their lives.
And we should celebrate our kids whenever we can and share their triumphs and joys.
But let's remind them that not everyone gets to experience high school in the same way. Let's remind them that they are a part of something bigger. Let's spend an equal amount of time teaching them to walk in someone else's shoes as we do posting about their achievements.
And while they may not remember twenty years from now who they took to the prom, someone else may remember a kind gesture that carried them through a tough time.
Somewhere out there is a teen who wishes they were someone else.
Let's raise kids willing to do something about it."
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