How I’m Implementing My “Be Nice!” Commenting Policy With My Children

Stick with me on this one, if you don’t mind. It’s longer and more serious than my usual blog entry but I do have a point! I promise! It’s at the end along with a cute picture of Nikki’s outfit yesterday which is HYSTERICAL. But you have to read the entry to see the picture! (Let’s both pretend the scroll button doesn’t work the way it actually does, okay?)

It is no secret that I am – just about – the least controversial blogger around. Even though I have very controversial beliefs (You know…like the KRAZEE notion that people should be able to marry someone they love, INSANE!) I still avoid in writing in any way that creates any sort of firestorm. I don’t tolerate even the slightest bit of cruelty in my comments and I really don’t even like to snarkily blog about celebrities. I may have my moments of weakness, but overall? I like this place on the internet to just be…well…nice.

However – If you’ve been unfortunate enough to ever read the comment section at a news site, or YouTube, you know that there are completely irrationally cruel people online in not-so-nice areas of the internet. They leave mean comments about ugly kids on parent’s home videos. They leave harsh and judgemental insults about do-gooders in the online version of your local paper. THEY ARE EVERYWHERE. We had an awesome hairstylist in Huntsville who did an AWESOME hairstyle on someone (RAINBOW HAIR!) and the commenters decided she must have Daddy Issues. YES, They did.

Anil Dash wrote a brilliant piece about how if you manage a website, you need to factor in the cost of policing your community, or else don’t have one. I loved the piece because it echoed what I’ve been saying for awhile. We need to do our part to control and/or eliminate the negative energy on the web where we can.

How many times have you seen a website say “We’re not responsible for the content of our comments.”? I know that when you webmasters put that up on your sites, you’re trying to address your legal obligation. Well, let me tell you about your moral obligation: Hell yes, you are responsible. You absolutely are. When people are saying ruinously cruel things about each other, and you’re the person who made it possible, it’s 100% your fault. If you aren’t willing to be a grown-up about that, then that’s okay, but you’re not ready to have a web business. Businesses that run cruise ships have to buy life preservers. Companies that sell alcohol have to keep it away from kids. And people who make communities on the web have to moderate them.

He goes on to give excellent pointers on how to control your community. And here’s the thing – this is not taking away someone’s freedom of speech. They can speak whatever they want on their own domain. That’s kinda always been my point as well. There are plenty of hate-filled websites out there. It is up to you on your website to try to curb the hatred (if you so desire). If I tell you that using homophobic or racist slurs gets you banned from my home, then that is not me infringing on your freedom of speech. It is me simply saying, “You are not allowed to be a douche on property I pay for. Go be a douche on your own property.”

Yesterday, Loralee brought up another good facet to this discussion: How responsible are we for what our commenters or readers do elsewhere because of something we may have said? I say we are not responsible for anything other people do, unless we knowingly encouraged them. Then, I think, part of the responsibility does lie with us.

I am not a big-name blogger, but I have had the random negative blog entry written about me. I knew I could have mentioned it on my blog and my commenters would have come to my rescue. BUT – what if someone in that group turned ugly on their site? How would that make me feel? Not good. Now, sometimes the temptation is too strong if the source is too evil, I understand that. And sometimes I’ve given in to the temptation to rile the masses because it makes me feel better INSTANTLY. But I then feel crappy later. So, in general, I do believe that it is up to each of us controlling a space on the web to think about those things before we rally the troops in our defense.

Does this mean we all need to get along? NO. Encourage discourse without vitriol. It can be done. People can disagree, even argue, without resulting to irrelevant and cruel insults. Conversations can be politely ended at, “We will agree to disagree,” and no one’s children have to be insulted in the process.

Will we make mistakes? Sure we will. I know I have. But I would like to think that if we each took responsibility for our space and our actions on the web and did our best to encourage rational, intellectual, – and even kind discussions – it would be a better place out here.

Now…if you have no problem with the growing trend of vitriol online? Then I guess none of this relates to you. But, I do have a problem with it. I have a problem with the growing trend of vitriol everywhere, to be honest with you. Signs that say “GOD HATES FAGS” at funerals of dead children make my sould cringe; and websites dedicated to badmouthing people just for the sake of BADMOUTHING PEOPLE make my heart hurt.

If you haven’t seen any of this in action, read Katie’s heartfelt words about how painful it is to read comments about her son’s drug related death in the online version of her local paper.

I wish so much that all those people saying those awful things about my boy over in the Knoxville News Sentinel online newspaper comments this week could have known Henry as a real person, and not as some kind of abstraction as part of the news cycle. He never, ever would have said ugly, pointlessly cruel things like that about someone he didn’t know…or someone he did know. He really wouldn’t have. He just wasn’t like that. You can ask ANYONE who knew Henry in any context and they will tell you how remarkably kind he was. He might have been addicted to drugs, but he was never mean-spirited or ugly toward others.

HERE IS FINALLY MY POINT OF THIS RAMBLING ENTRY

All of this comes down to a very important lesson for parents: We HAVE to adjust the way we teach kindness at home. Hopefully, we all talk to our children about not being MEAN. We don’t make fun of kids in our class because they don’t have nice clothes. We don’t laugh at obese people in public. We don’t point at the handicapped and giggle. I hope these are the general lessons and examples we give our children that are examples of BAD BEHAVIOR.

Now, we need to provide other examples. We need to teach them about the responsibility of anonymity. That just because they can’t get discovered or caught being mean, doesn’t make it okay. We need to take time to explain to them that words hurt, no matter what their source. That even though you may think it’s funny to post a mean comment on someone’s parenting video, that the parent and child on the other end have feelings too. Making someone sad for the sake of a laugh is not proper behavior. We need to add caveats to the lessons we teach our kids that bring in example of the internet. And we need to do this before they have the power at their fingertips.

Kids are going to do mean things. I did. One year I helped create a club called “The We Hate So-in-So Club” with so-in-so being the name of the new (and VERY pretty) girl that started our class. We were very welcoming, don’t you think? And then, on the other side of the coin, I was once put on some sort of Sluttiest Girl list as “Kim ‘The Whore’ Moore”. That was awesome. Kids are probably going to do mean crap even if you beat them senseless about being kind. But the thing is, now there’s the internet. They can be mean to MANY MORE PEOPLE at a time now. Not just the periodic dork in school or new kid. Now they can be mean to huge groups of people in just a few hours.

Let me tell you from experience, kids these days don’t think about their actions online in the BIG PICTURE because it’s all still very “new.” (And kids – in general – are very self-involved.) I mean “new” in the sense that social networking has had a big boom in the last few years. None of the kids leaving these nasty comments online have had the privilege of seeing their own children insulted online. That seems to be the wake-up call for most of us about how mean the internet is. Someone trashes us and we get upset, but they trash our kids? WATCH OUT, BECAUSE NOW I’M TAKING OUT MY ANGRY EYES.

But you know what? If we all waited until we had kids to stop being mean online, then it’s too late to save the internet. Instead, let’s teach kids before they get online that – just because the internet allows them to hide – doesn’t mean their words don’t hurt.

And also, teach them that their Facebook pages or Tumblr pages are their spots to police. They need to understand that if they let friends trash someone else on their Facebook page and that someone finds it – EVEN IF THEY DIDN’T SAY A WORD – they are still responsible.

Our parents didn’t talk to us about this because it didn’t exist as a problem. We need to teach our children. The internet does not give you a free-pass to be a bully. You still need to be KIND. You can argue and disagree without resorting to cruel insults that hit below the belt. Teach them about respect. And teach them the power of IGNORING people who aren’t as enlightened as they are. I’ve seen the back-and-forths turn SO UGLY…and So out of control. We need to tell our kids very specific examples: Someone is probably going to try to start a fight with you. If you give in, you lose control of the situation. If you ignore them? The situation ends WITH YOU HOLDING THE POWER.

Because you know what? There are plenty of parents teaching the opposite. Plenty of households where hate is encouraged and cruelty is praised. Where children are taught that people different are lesser and deserve whatever they get – just because they are different. We can’t do anything about those people or their children. The ugly and the evil is going to be put on the internet in many places by those people.

I consider it MY JOB to do everything I can NOT to add to it. Think about how your day gets ruined because of ONE negative encounter. And that – even if you had three or four positive encounters follow that one – the negative encounter still taints all of those. Now, bring that to the subject of cruelty online and it expands exponentially. Not only does one vicious comment hang with the subject of the attack, but it probably fuels other fires that spread the evil across many circles of people. I refuse to add to that and I want to do my best to make sure my children don’t ever do that either.

Now…does this mean I’m coddling my children and trying to make a world full of rainbows and unicorns? Maybe. But in reality, I know there are cruel things I can’t control. And neither can they. I know evil will continue to exist just like those Real Housewives shows that I JUST DON’T UNDERSTAND THE APPEAL OF. I am not naive. I do not paint a picture of happiness globally and group hugs at every intersection. Instead, I say there is Plenty Of Mean in the world. PLENTY. I have been victim of it and they will be too. There is no need for us to add any more. I do believe that the more positive energy we put out in the universe – the more that will return back to us. It won’t protect us from negativity, but it will give us light with the anger and hate tends to cover us in darkness.

In my opinion, my moral obligation with my blog is to make sure I do not encourage, nor allow, cruel negativity for the sake of meanness and meanness alone. My moral obligation as a parent is to raise my children to believe the same.

Edited to add this video recommended by Lisa, which cutely sums up what I try to explain to my kids.

No. It's not tacky day.

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52 Responses

  1. Sarah says:

    This is phenomenal. I loved every word. The part where you mention teaching your kids that their Facebook, etc, is their responsibility to police made me catch my breath. Of course! HOW BRILLIANT! I love that. It’s so clear and wonderful and true. Go, you! xo

  2. Therese says:

    1. very well said and a great point. I see this as an extension of “personal responsibility” in general. It seems there are more ways today (on AND off-line) for people to eschew personal responsibility. I appreciate your honesty and good example in trying to encourage responsibility!
    2. Your daughter has an awesome sense of style!

  3. Melanie says:

    Well said, Kim. Well said!!!!!

  4. Swistle says:

    Good points, and thought-provoking. I had a comments section on my blog get wayyyyy out of hand awhile back, and I had no idea what to do about it. Looking back, I could see where I could have nipped it in the bud about 2 comments into it. That’s what I try to do now.

    The hardest part for me is when things get started by another blogger I consider a friend. It’s super-easy to delete something mean or “starting something”-ish by a stranger, or by someone anonymous, or by someone I slightly recognize but don’t know; it’s very very very hard to delete a comment by someone I think of as a friend, knowing they’ll see that I deleted it and might want to know why I did it.

    • zoot says:

      EEK. Never thought about that. Because that would complicate my other policy of “Not making people mad at me.” For future reference, I’m going to blame a “virus”. What? Your comment was deleted? NOT ME.

  5. cagey says:

    Admittedly, I watch the Real Housewives of New York, Miami and Beverly Hills ( the only of the franchise that I watch). But I do consider them all to be willing adults who know what they are doing. And I mostly watch because I love to see how the Other Half lives.

    I rarely even read comments on “public, generic” sites any longer because of the nastiness involved. And I don’t even understand why sites such as CNN even ALLOW comments because the comments on their stories are completely and utterly USELESS.

    Anyway, great post Kim. I really appreciate these sorts of posts from you since you are “ahead” of me in the parenting game. With your experiences, I Hope that I can learn how to better navigate these topics with my own kids.

    I have SO much to learn and consider, it is overwhelming.

    • zoot says:

      HA! Cagey – I know nothing about that show other than I caught five minutes of one episode where women hit other women and every since them I’m all, “Why are people still watching this show when they could INSTEAD watch AWESOME and INTELLECTUAL shows like The Nine Lives Of Chloe King?”

      ;)

      • cagey says:

        In my weak defense, the ones I watch don’t include the hitting and table throwing. I think that is the New Jersey edition. Hee.

        Although, you do make a good point about one’s choice in viewing. There are some shows that are simply too negative for me and I have to back away. I have a weakness for watching lavish lifestyles. Sigh.

  6. Jill says:

    Amen!

    I also did not enjoy when the word “snark” started popping up on blogs as a “cool” thing.

  7. Cheryl says:

    Every time I see one of those comment threads run amok, I think how pained my grandmother would be. She was always the picture of niceness and was one of the strongest women I ever met. She got her wishes known by never lowering her standards to other people, rather she raised up others to her admittedly high standards. I think, however, that it’s an uphill battle. I just heard on the radio on the way in this morning that there was a study done asking if you could completely get away with it, would you punch a colleague in the mouth. 70% of respondents said yes. I don’t know how to fight that.

    • zoot says:

      I don’t think we can fight it. You’re right – It really is just awful. I just hope that be creating communities of kindness, there’s at least a place where we can surround ourselves with kindred spirits. Online and Off. I think that’s why I was so antisocial for so long, I had a hard time finding communities of people who I felt encouraged the spread of POSITIVE energy instead of negative. I just wanted to stay in my “nice” bubble in my own home :) In last few years I’ve been lucky enough to stumble upon a few. I just have to hold onto the hope that those communities are out there, online and off, waiting for people like your Grandmother and you and I to join them ;)

  8. Jane says:

    Terrific post, Kim! My 5 year old has recently been teased at camp, by kids who he has known since he was 8 weeks old and considered his friends. I think they’re little cretins, but he thinks they are his friends, so…We’ve had to have lots of discussions about treating people with kindness and respect, about sticking up for people who are getting hurt by others even when it’s hard, about empathy. It breaks my heart to see him upset, but I hope that I am doing everything I can on my end to help him be a better person. I still have HORRIBLE feelings of guilt over a particular classmate who was relentlessly teased in high school. While I wasn’t one of the teasers, I certainly didn’t step in and risk my own status to stand up for her. God, what a shitty feeling.

    I am going to copy this section, “Now, we need to provide other examples. We need to teach them about the responsibility of anonymity. That just because they can’t get discovered or caught being mean, doesn’t make it okay. We need to take time to explain to them that words hurt, no matter what their source. That even though you may think it’s funny to post a mean comment on someone’s parenting video, that the parent and child on the other end have feelings too. Making someone sad for the sake of a laugh is not proper behavior. We need to add caveats to the lessons we teach our kids that bring in example of the internet. And we need to do this before they have the power at their fingertips.” and post it on my FB page for today.

    Boy do I wish I could meet you in person–you are terrific!

    • zoot says:

      Jane – I dealt with a lot of bullying as a Parent when E was younger and I’ll tell you what seemed to help him the most (I hope) was me relaying my own stories of being picked on. Somehow, I think it made him feel better to know that I lived through it and came out kinda unscarred.

      And I still feel TERRIBLE guilt over the “We Hate So-in-So” club! :)

  9. Kim says:

    I really, really like this post. If you don’t mind, i think I’m going to share it on my G+ and my facebook (when I get home.) I have a few friends that I think need to be reminded of this.. Is that all right?

  10. Sarah Lena says:

    My heart hurts when I see hate happen online. As a victim of an “online campaign” that went on FOR YEARS, I know how taxing it can be. You start to jump at the thought of opening your email.

    But I think what you’re really doing good about is teaching your kids. We’ve had troubles with bullies in a horrible, horrible way this year and there is just no way for US to combat it from OUR perpsective. We teach tolerance, love, and acceptance. (And the Oxford comma.) What other houses teach? We cannot affect, nor can we anticipate.

    • zoot says:

      *snort* Re: Oxford Comma

      I felt solace with the bullying as a parent in hoping that the lesson, “This is why we don’t pick on people” helps to make my kids “kinder” since they’ve been on the receiving end. It’s about the only silver lining I could ever find. :( I think it’s been the hardest thing as a parent, to deal with bullying. Which may be why I’m so sensitive to the subject of being nice ;)

  11. Sandy says:

    A time when I thought comments got out of hand was the flash flood we had here in AR at the state park (I believe it was last year). On the yahoo page, people were talking about AR and its people horribly. All but a couple of the victims was from out of state so the things they were saying was way out of line. I thought how sad is this the way people are talking when families lost loved ones in the tragedy! I even made a facebook post mentioning it.

  12. Melissa says:

    I try SO very hard not to click on comments on news articles. The things people say… I can’t believe there are people out there that would believe those things, much less take the time to put them out there for other people to see them.

    Not long ago, a niece had a post on her Facebook page go haywire and a FB “friend” (someone she didn’t even actually know) started calling her cousin’s boyfriend horrible names, racist slurs, ugh. She didn’t say anything, so many of our family members were also her FB friends and no one spoke up! I was appalled. I said something, but it had gone on for so long before I saw it. It was just upsetting to me that so many adults – her aunts and uncles and grandparents would let that go. It was definitely a chance for us to have a teachable moment with our 13yo son.

    Anyway, I’m rambling, sorry! Good post! =)

  13. Rachael says:

    I don’t have a blog, but I worry about my (six year old!) son’s future interactions online. I don’t ever want him to be a victim of bullying–or the instigator–whether online or at school/camp/soccer, etc. At the same time, I feel woefully unprepared to deal with cyber stuff as compared to in-person interaction.

    Great post!

  14. Roberta says:

    This is so awesome, and so wise. I get a little tired when I think about all the online arenas that I am going to have to teach my girl to interact in. I do know that I want to teach her to be respectful and kind of everyone, everywhere, no matter what. Also? Nice Toy Story reference – “angry eyes” – heh! Great post.

  15. Cara says:

    The other thing about the internet? It never goes away. If you google my name (assuming I had given you my last name), the first thing that comes up is an article done regarding my former employer. (At least, that used to be true. I haven’t tried it in quite some time.) I was interviewed, quoted completely out of context, and generally made to look like a fool by a reporter with a pre-set agenda who writes for a local law quality weekly that no one reads except to find out what is happening that weekend. I have never met anyone who actually read the article in person. This isn’t the sort of paper that gets microfiched and archived. Before the internet, that story would be long gone and really hard to dig up. Now? Not so much. I know people ‘google’ each other all the time, particularly in the business world. How awesome that the painful things people write about you on the internet (or upload to the internet) are right there to color those assessments.

  16. MrsDragon says:

    I love NIkki’s outfit. I totally “goes”! : )

    I live in an internet bubble of my own making. I don’t read the comments on news sites, I don’t wander into the general twitter stream. I let my friends curate who I get introduced to. As a result, I have lots of great intelligent conversations and fun times without the mean spirited humor, bullying, or downright nastiness that can crop up at a second’s notice. It’
    s sad in that I’m sure I am missing out on thoughtful arguments and different perspectives, but I’m just not willing to lose so much emotional energy to the murk surrounding them. It’s not a perfect filter, but it’s a pretty good one and I am much happier in my own little corner. : )

  17. Jana Frerichs says:

    Girl… once again, SAID SO BEAUTIFULLY! You rock!!!

  18. Brenda says:

    This is one of the main reasons I read your blog–you never make fun of people and have a positive community. There are blogs that I used to read and dropped because of them getting out of control.
    I used to read the comment section of our local newspaper and would mention stuff said to one of my friends. She finally told me one day “you didn’t grow up here haven’t known these people all your life. I have and the things you are repeating are hurting me.” It was a big blow to me and made me realize that 1) not everything said in these posts are true and 2) what is being said can be hurtful to others. I stopped reading it that day.

  19. Clarabella says:

    Exceptional post!

  20. Janelle says:

    Here, here! This is part of why I’m afraid to start a blog. I’m afraid my sarcasm and strong opinions may start a fire. My personal Internet rule now is: Make fun of no one but yourself. If you catch me or my kids breaking this rule, please call us on it. We (My kids and I) talk a lot about how meanness comes from insecurity and not being taught any better, but that is no excuse to accept it and to try to do our small part to teach people that meanness is not ok with us.
    Keep spreading the good, my friend.

  21. Lisa says:

    Wonderful post, Kim. I assume you’ve seen this link, but just in case…

    http://laughingsquid.com/a-real-person-a-lot-like-you-an-animation-about-internet-etiquette/

    <3 you!

  22. Kathleen says:

    Hmmm… as a parent of a 2.5 yo, a lot to think about for the future, but as a social citizen, yes, the negativity of comments sections is amazing and anything that can keep it reasonable has to help. On a much lighter note, I couldn’t help but think of the Glee “Night of Neglect” episode, which just replayed, where they try to make some light of how ridiculous this all has gotten. (if you’re still watching glee?)

  23. Karen says:

    Fabulous. We will be having this conversation and I will be reading this stuff to my kids very soon.

    And Kim, everything you just said made me think of this: “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” Romans 12:18. I’ve been using this with my kids, but your words make it real. Thanks!

  24. EmilysHollow says:

    I love everything about this post. My son is just a year old, and JS and I already talking about this. How do we teach him to be kind, even when not face to face with the people he’s “talking” to? How do we teach him it’s not OK, even in a forum with a fake name, to tease someone to get approval or laughter from his peers?

    Comments on news stories or political blogs (that I read, but will never write) make me so sad. People turn mean and ugly SO FAST. Would you ever say things like “that girl got attacked because of how she dressed” when looking a 14 year old kid in the eye? I certainly hope not. So why post it online?

    Would you ever tell someone grieving the loss of ANYTHING (friendship, pet, parent) that they’re being selfish and that the REAL tragedy is Situation X? Then WHY SAY IT ONLINE? It’s mind boggling.

    I love your blog and your positive vibe and good energy. It’s so refreshing.

  25. B says:

    Thank you for this. I’ve been experiencing some of what you’re talking about here in my day to day (not online necessarily) and it’s just nice to know I’m not alone in expecting the NICE.

  26. Alison C says:

    You rock! That is all. Xxx

  27. Amira says:

    Brava! What a refreshing post to read!

    I’m been a mostly quiet reader of yours some time, but I have to tell you that I absolutely love what you have to say and the truths you convey. Fantastic blog, for reals.

    This post really hits home with me because I’ve been on both ends of the spectrum, albeit before the time of The Internet. It truly sucks to be on either end of that spectrum even if you don’t realize how hurtful you were until years later.

    I do agree 10000% and more that it starts at home. Creating a positive environment at home is foundation for interactions outside of the home via internet or not. If you can’t be civil and nice to your own family, the people you most likely take for granted the most, then how so to others. Now amplify that through the anonymity of the internet!

    Again, great post. Totally a fan of your work :)

  28. Teal says:

    “Be the change that you want to see” -Gandhi
    I try to work a little more tolerancy and acceptance into my girls and my students. It is hard when students want to be accepted and feel that they should go along with unkind people just so they won’t be alone. We had such a small group growing up that either you fit in or you felt left out. One benefit of the really big schools ( 2800 high school students) that I have taught in is that most all kids are able to find a group that they fit in with. No one has to feel alone. It is hard for the kids who want to be in the cheerleader/football crowd and aren’t accepted.

    • zoot says:

      Teal – I have that Gandhi quote engraved on a ring I wear every day! PERFECT.

      I agree about the large schools. E has found the perfect niche for himself in the theater program. In our school? I don’t know if he would have found a good peer group.

  29. Melissa says:

    I love you so much, Zoot. This is exactly what I’ve been thinking about that hatefulness out there, but 100000% more eloquent. Thanks.

  30. Heather says:

    I hope you don’t laugh at obese people in private either ;) You are good people, Kim, and I appreciate how you encourage your kids = and the rest of us! – to be kinder every day.

  31. I’m a newbie…I’ve followed you on Twitter for awhile, but just headed over to this blog post. This really made my afternoon. I’m glad I can ignore most of the meanness that goes on, but wish there was a lot more niceness to balance it out. And it starts at home.

  32. norm says:

    Splendid post, thanks so much. Also for the link to Anil Dash’s great article as well. I wish the newspapers would pay attention.

  33. ingrid says:

    Kim, that was a wonderful post. I know every now and then you post about questioning your role as a Mom, and are you doing the right thing or a good job. I think this post is poof positive that you are a great Mom. If all the Mom’s took the time to teach this to their kids, I think the world would be a much better place. Thanks for posting a beautiful way to start the day.

  34. Karen says:

    What a stupid, sorry-ass post… kidding!!! I just couldn’t resist.

    In fact, your post strikes a chord with me ever since I began my new experiment last week after reading a tweet from (OMG, I’m admitting this in a public forum)- Yoko Ono. I just glanced at it briefly, so of course I’ll misquote, but the first line was something like, Try to go a day without saying anything negative about anyone. Then try to go 3 days. Then a week. You get the gist. I stopped reading from laughing so hard at the first part, just knowing how miserable I’d fail at such an experiment. Which of course made me have to try. Every day since, my sweet husband lets me rant then smiles and says, Start Over. Damn! It’s amazing how difficult this is for me. Not a negative word about anyone. Not even while you’re driving! And oh the humiliation of being defeated by the suggestion of a Stupid Frakkin’ Hippie! Sorry. Sigh. Start Over.

    Anyhow, my point is, I totally agree with you on the encouraging discourse without vitriol thing, and about the importance of teaching our kids to be nice, both on line and in real life. I’ve never made a mean comment online, (well, except for that first sentence, but that was a joke!) (and maybe because you have the honor of being the first blog I have ever submitted a comment to)( assuming I can figure out how to submit this), but I do tend to let it rip in real life, even if in the privacy of my own home or in my own head. So now the new family project is catching each other’s negative comments and discussing a way to rephrase them to make the same point but in a more positive way. A somewhat frustrating endeavor when you are married to a lawyer. I hate lawy…..I mean, I wish I had the verbal mastery of a lawyer. ;)

    On a separate but somewhat related note, have you heard of Togetherville? It’s Facebook for kids, and full disclosure, was founded by a friend of ours. I know there are a lot of opinions out there about kids and social networking, but, if you’re as into FB as I am, and have a child always looking over your shoulder just dying to be a FB grown-up like you are, I will say the site was founded on the very basis of teaching your young ones internet etiquette. Just thought it may be a nice way to help you implement your “Be Nice” commenting policy with your kids later on.

    As always, your words are food for thought.

    • Zoot says:

      Karen – I’m trying to repost this “reply” thing again, since you told me this morning you didn’t get the notice the first time, see if it works now! It’s the same comment I submitted last time, but I added something new at the end :)

      ***************
      I’m so excited you commented on my blog! I always feel better when real-world friends read my blog and still continue to be friends with me. :)

      I am not a nice person in my own home. I mean, I go OFF a lot, because some times I have to let it out. But I trust my family not to hold it against me. I also have a friend I’ve known for 17 years and I call her sometimes to vent because I think she won’t judge me :)

      I haven’t heard of “Togetherville” – I’ll look into it…
      **************

      Edited to add this comment I should have said this morning at breakfast – I checked out when you mentioned it and it looks awesome. I will definitely let Ny access FB through that when she shows an interest!

  35. Holly says:

    Very well said. My own kids are too young now for the internet, but I always hear the high school students I teach talking about all the drama on facebook. And they love every minute of it. I made a sign for my classrom that simply says, “Be Kind.” Wouldn’t it be nice if everyone could just remember to be kind in real life and online?

    I love reading your posts. So many times I come away with new ideas or feel inspired by something you have written.

  36. Misti says:

    This is seriously one of the best and most well written posts I’ve ever read. Thank you.

  37. yueqing says:

    Katie’s voice on the comments about her son really strikes a cord.- “He might have been addicted to drugs, but he was never mean-spirited or ugly toward others.” I think someone like that is more likeable than someone who is small- hearted and mean, but not into drugs in their lives. Katie’s son seems like a really decent person.

  38. Zaftig Chick says:

    It’s funny that you mentioned Real Housewives, as I was thinking of them from the start of your post. I’m a reformed Housewives watcher, having kicked the habit just this year because I realized how unhealthy it is to watch people willingly engage in pointless and largely manufactured conflict. There’s plenty of that in the world already and unfortunately it’s more real and more rampant than just being on a reality show. I totally agree with you and the Anil Dash piece that there isn’t enough done to moderate bad behavior, whether that be parenting or moderating a web forum. I think that internet anonymity and the behavior that’s generated from that has become a yet another social problem that we all are grappling with.

  39. angie says:

    I have to share this story because it goes along with this topic. It was a HUGE teaching moment and also broke my heart into a million little pieces as well as made me wonder how I had gone wrong as a mother.

    On the last day of this past school year, my 9 year old daughter was finishing up the 4th grade. There had been a boy in another class who liked her for most of the year. My daughter is quite shy, embarrasses easily and unfortunately, despite my efforts to teach her otherwise, she has quite the follower sort of personality.

    I was not able to attend honor day ceremonies on the last day so my oldest daughter, who is 20, went in my place. She texted me and said the boy had given my younger daughter flowers. Que the ‘awwws’.

    I got home from work and looked around and saw no flowers. I asked her where they were and she said, “I gave them back.” What??? My heart sunk to my toes. I asked her why and she said, “Because I didn’t want them.” By this time I am frantically searching my brain for the boy’s last name, address, phone number, parents’ names, anything to help me contact his mother so I and my daughter could apologize.

    Long story short, I found out one of her friends gave them back to the boy. After many tears and talking I kind of figured out that basically, her “friends” didn’t think the boy was cute, this embarrassed my daughter because, of course she wants to fit in, so she gave them back.

    We discussed kindness, peer pressure etc. My heart still breaks for that little boy. I only hope that he has forgotten all about it and that my daughter won’t have a reputation of being a mean girl, when really she isn’t.

    This parenting thing is HARD!

  40. Wow! This is amazing! It’s so true that people don’t really think that the computer is full of people that “are just like you” as the video says. I think that there is too much cruelty in the world, but especially through the internet. The place to start is definitely in the home! If we can teach our kids what it means to be nice, really nice- not the “I like your shirt” nice- and teach them that kindness is such an important part of character, then we could solve lots of problems….

    Unfortunately parenting doesn’t come with a guidebook. I know we all try, but it really is hard sometimes! How do you know that your kids are actually taking what you say and applying it in their lives, especially when your kids are teenagers?

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