We can help our kids see that, whether they’re online or offline, sharing and socializing mindfully makes everything go better. Here’s how.

By Anne Collier

As long as there has been a “we” we’ve had the human drama running in the background of our lives – sometimes in the foreground and even raging in our heads. Social media mirror it, sometimes mass-distribute it, and definitely help keep the drama on the screens of our consciousness 24/7. That goes for the social drama at school that can be overwhelming right when our children are exploring who they are and where they fit into peer groups and social situations. For generations, thinkers and teachers have advised us to develop an awareness, a mindfulness, of it, which I think is key to our children’s – really humanity’s – safety both online and offline. Physical safety, yes, but also emotional safety. When we can observe how the drama affects us, see it as something separate from us, we can get some protective emotional distance from it, some perspective, which can lessen its impact on us. Mindfulness also adds a richness to our interactions or social experiences. It’s not just increased awareness, writes Lori Deschene in Tricycle.com, it’s “about relating meaningfully to other people and ourselves.”

To that end, Lori offers “10 Mindful Ways to Use Social Media.” Each one could be the subject of a meaty, memorable dinner-table discussion that would feed your children for a lifetime (as well as protect them online right now). Just look at the first one – “Know your intentions” – and consider how protective this would be: “Doug Firebaugh of SocialMediaBlogster.com has identified seven psychological needs we may be looking to meet when we log on: acknowledgment, attention, approval, appreciation, acclaim, assurance, and inclusion. Before you post, ask yourself: Am I looking to be seen or validated? Is there something more constructive I could do to meet that need?” I’m sure most of us start teaching our children to think about why they act in certain ways in certain situations well before they’re teens, but now we just need to help them apply that critical thinking to their online environments too – since the research shows that aggressive behavior online more than doubles the aggressor’s risk online (I link to that research here). But look at a few other examples of Lori’s social-media mindfulness: “Be your authentic self,” “Experience now, share later,” and “Offer random tweets of kindness” (I’ll let her provide the details).