This month we will be focusing on the effects of digital drama, cyberbullying, and hate speech both on children themselves and their larger communities. We will explore the roles people play and how individual actions -- negative and positive, intentional and unintentional -- can affect our peers and their broader communities. Students are encouraged to take the active role of upstander and build positive, supportive online communities, and we will look at how to cultivate empathy, compassion, and courage to combat negative interactions online.
A Spectrum of Behavior
We will examine different types of unkind language to develop an understanding of what distinguishes unkindness from cyberbullying, digital drama, and hate speech, including how each issue affects others and the required responses for each.
While these types of language have meaningful differences, they also overlap, and your kids will need support to distinguish among them. The difference between cyberbullying and hate speech, for example, is not just the specific words that are used but the context in which they are used, the relationship between the people involved, the frequency of use, and potentially many other factors.
A Safe Space
Kids need to be exposed to the important, but sensitive, topic of hate speech. Through direct engagement with specific examples of hate speech, we can all develop an understanding of what distinguishes it from other kinds of hurtful language and explore productive ways to respond to it.
Because hate speech is intended to elicit strong emotional reactions from those who hear it, students are likely to find examples uncomfortable. This is an important but challenging part of examining and confronting this type of language when it appears. For these discussions to be effective and for kids to feel safe, attention should be paid to setting appropriate expectations.