When I think back to middle school, I can’t help but remember the notes passed in study hall or in between classes. Do you like Katie? Circle one: YES or NO. Remember those? They weren’t always about boys, of course. Sometimes they were about friends. Do you think Katie is nice? Circle one: YES NO I DON’T KNOW. This social hierarchy thing? That’s been around forever. We act like it’s a new development, but this has been happening for years.
What IS a new development is taking the notes (nice ones and not-so-nice ones) and attaching them to something like an Instagram – in the secret code of tweendom (you know, letters that you have to decode – which really means just ask a tween to tell you what in the world “#lmirl” means.)
While many tweens use social media to connect with others, some do make mistakes. And some intentionally bully others online. That embarrassing note passed in study hall years ago is much worse today because now it’s posted online for others to see. With a simple screenshot, that note can continue to be posted over and over again. That note that you tore up on your worst day in middle school has the potential to stick around forever in the life of a tween today. Let that sink in for a minute.
Helping tweens and teens navigate the bumpy road of social media is tricky. On the one hand, you can’t just bury your head in the sand and hope that your kid never makes a bad choice. Kids make mistakes – it happens. Even though they think they know everything…they do need support and guidance. On the other hand, they need independence. They need to have friendships on their own terms. They don’t need you hovering and “liking” their every move.
What’s a parent to do?
Allow me to introduce you to Galit Breen! In her new book, “Kindness Wins“, Breen covers all things social media and guides parents through the process – a road she recently began traveling with her own girls. Breen knows how to weave a story, and her personal anecdotes will capture your heart and help you feel understood. Not all parents talk openly about the struggles of raising adolescents, and that can feel isolating. Breen breaks it down and shares her stories in this empowering parenting guide with a simple message: Kindness always wins.
Also? Breen is no stranger to online bullying. She knows firsthand the pain of a hurtful comment or two. Instead of allowing online bullying to tear apart her soul, however, she turned it around and did something about it. How’s that for inspiring?
If kindness wins, accountability rules. The need for this mantra is never clearer than when scrolling through posts and comments left online.
Approximately four out of ten kids (42 percent) have experienced cyberbullying. When we were young, our bullies weren’t usually strangers. They were the kids who passed mean notes about us in class, the ones who didn’t let us sit at their table during lunch, and the ones who tripped us in the hallway or embarrassed us in gym class. Cyberbullying isn’t all that different from the playground bullying of our youth and nightmares. But with social media, our bullies have nonstop access to us–and our kids. In fact, we’re often “friends” with our bullies online.
When freelance writer Galit Breen’s kids hinted that they’d like to post, tweet, and share photos on Instagram, Breen took a look at social media as a mom and as a teacher and quickly realized that there’s a ridiculous amount of kindness terrain to teach and explain to kids―and some adults―before letting them loose online. So she took to her pen and wrote a how-to book for parents who are tackling this issue with their kids.
Kindness Wins covers ten habits to directly teach kids as they’re learning how to be kind online. Each section is written in Breen’s trademark parent-to-parent-over-coffee style and concludes with resources for further reading, discussion starters, and bulleted takeaways. She concludes the book with two contracts―one to share with peers and one to share with kids. Just like we needed to teach our children how to walk, swim, and throw a ball, we need to teach them how to maneuver kindly online. This book will help you do just that.
Galit Breen was a classroom and reading teacher for ten years. She has a master’s degree in education and a bachelor’s degree in human development. In 2009, she launched a career as a freelance writer entrenched in social media. Since then, her work has been featured in various online magazines including Brain, Child, The Huffington Post, TIME, and xoJane. Breen lives in Minnesota with her husband, three children, and a ridiculously spoiled miniature golden doodle. You can learn more about Galit by visiting TheseLittleWaves.com.
1. Why did you write this book?
I had a post go viral this fall about coments I received about my weight on an article I wrote about marriage. Not too long after that, my daughter and her friends began using social media platforms like Instagram. When I looked through some of the kids’ profiles, I realized there’s a lot of kindness terrain to cover. After my experience with unkind comments and fat shaming, I knew I wanted to do something about cyberbullying. This book is my “something.” This is a guide for parents, teachers, youth groups, etc. to use for teaching our kids how to be kind online. I think this can and should be taught. I used my work in social media to inform what needs to be taught and I used my background in teaching (I have an MA in education and I was a classroom and reading teacher for 10 years) to guide the how-to portion of the book.
2. What’s the book’s format?
The book can be read in one gulp or in sections. Each chapter in Kindness Wins covers one habit to directly teach kids about how to be kind online. Each section is written in a simple, parent-to-parent over coffee style and concludes with one resource for further reading, two discussion starters (one to have with peers and one to have with kids), and three bulleted takeaways. At the end of the book there are two Kindness Wins contracts–one for peers and one for kids.
3. What do your kids think about the book?
My kids are my biggest cheerleaders. My tween girls were two of my early readers and they gave me so very much feedback and things to (re)consider. They questioned and redirected my thinking. It was wonderful. Everything that’s right and relevant about the advice I give in this book might just be due to them! And my young son heartily approves of my cover colors. Thank goodness for that.
4. Who is this book for? Can kids read it?
Kids can definitely read it; you have my own tweens’ seal of approval for that. I wrote this book for parents in the trenches of raising tweens and teens, older kids who are teetering on knowing more than we do about maneuvering online. Parenting is hard. When our kids were little, we figured out that sharing our experiences, challenges, goals, and wins with each other was a huge relief and help. Now that our kids are a little bit older, we need just as much help but our support system is dwindling because parenting them feels more private, more their story to tell then ours. But there’s so much to be said about joining forces with our parenting peers and helping each other out. So this book is meant to be read and discussed by parents, friends, teachers, coaches, youth group and club leaders. It’s also meant to be read by–and discussed with–kids. Parents and kids, mother daughter book clubs, scouts, teams, classrooms. Reading this book is a step toward online kindness winning. But the conversations your reading will springboard are the leaps. Kids can, and should, read it.
5. What’s your favorite part of the book?
My favorite parts of the book are where my girls gave me feedback and took my social media examples from good to great. I also found quotes from authors and celebrities to begin each with. I love these so very much because it feels justright to have people from so many walks of life–kids to parents to celebrities–touting the same kindness wins message. At the end of the book I also include our favorite peanut butter cookie recipe–so you can make the cookies to have while you engage in the tricky conversations the book encourages you to. This specific recipe connects to the book, I swear, you’ll have to find out how inside, though! And it makes me feel like a good Minnesotan to not show up to the conversation empty handed!
Buy the book here!
Find Galit Breen here.
This book is a great resource for parents – but it also belongs in the hands of teachers and school administrators. If we want to raise kind kids, we all need to be on the same page.
Disclaimer: I am ridiculously proud to call Galit a friend (a really, really good one) and she did send me the book to read before it went to press, but that doesn’t change my opinion of this book in AT ALL. Raising adolescents is complicated, and this book helps parents navigate these tricky but very necessary conversations. It also brings us all together for a common goal: Kindness. Who in this world can argue with that? Are you still here? Go out and get a copy of “Kindness Wins”!