For some reason, people love to share offensive content, especially hate speech or discrimination, through the Internet.
Every social media platform you use, every online group, every chat room is a battleground for discrimination and hate speech.
But why should parents care? Our children are perfect, right? Well, although our little ones are perfect to us, some users may offend them online.
Children are most vulnerable to these attacks, and that’s why parents and caregivers must be present. Also, children themselves can offend and discriminate against others. The classic tale of cyber bullying!
So, in this article, we’ll go over ways to address online hate speech or offensive content with your children.
Understanding the Impact of Online Hate Speech
Studies show that about 46% of teenagers have been exposed to offensive content and cyberbullying.
And we all know what are the consequences of bullying. Your child will isolate and develop social anxiety, sadness, and depression.
Children can even start having suicidal thoughts because of their low self-esteem and high level of self-criticism.
Hate speech also affects communities because sad people make sad communities. And who wants to live in a depressed community?
Another effect that hate speech has on children is the phenomenon of mimicry. Children can copy the aggressive behavior to protect themselves from others in the users.
It’s kind of like a virus. Hate speech gets passed on from person to person. Nowadays, many social media groups are strictly dedicated to criticizing and offending others.
Recognizing Online Hate Speech and Offensive Content
As with every other bad thing, hate speech comes in many shapes and forms. In the following paragraphs, we’ll discuss the types of hate speech and how to battle them.
· Racist and Xenophobic Content
Racism is discrimination based on race. And when you think about it, it may just be the most prevalent form of hate speech.
Studies show that about 71% of black people, 52% of Hispanics, and 30% of white people have encountered racist comments.
And these stats are just for America! Racism is widely spread all around the world, especially among young people. On the other hand, there is also xenophobic discrimination based on the country where people live in.
Racism and xenophobia are closely connected, and it’s hard to distinguish them from one another, just as it is hard to make them an extinct form of hate speech.
· Homophobic and Transphobic Content
Homophobia and transphobia are discrimination based on gender, manifested through offensive and aggressive comments.
As the years go by, the prevalence of this type of hate speech is much bigger among all age groups.
This form of offensive content is spread on social media platforms, most commonly on Twitter or Instagram.
· Misogynistic and Sexist Content
Misogyny and sexism are forms of discrimination based on sex, especially targeted towards women.
This type of hate speech is also very prevalent among younger children, especially males who think they develop an alpha-male status if they disrespect women.
Sexism can also be manifested through social media platforms, chat rooms, or online groups.
· Religious or Cultural Intolerance
This discrimination is based on culture and religion, and we can most commonly see it on social media.
Social media platforms have become places where people criticize others’ values instead of accepting them.
That’s why our children must develop a positive online presence and be responsible digital citizens.
The Role of Parents in Addressing Online Hate Speech
Parents are the ones that should safely guide children into the waters of social media. As parents and caregivers, you must ensure your children belong to safe online communities.
That’s why your online presence is also very important. Along the way, you can educate children about hate speech and how to deal with it.
And if you’re ever in doubt about your children’s online actions, you can use parental control apps to monitor their behavior.
With apps like Qustodio, mSpy, Net Nanny, and others, you can have a detailed overview of your children’s online behavior.
You can say that’s stalking, but legally, children can’t hide anything from their parents. Still, don’t invade their privacy too much.
By this, I mean don’t read their messages with friends. Instead, just check if everything is all right and their online behavior is responsible and positive.
Empowering Children to Respond to Online Hate Speech
You should encourage children to stand up for themselves and respond to online trolls and haters. But don’t promote conflict and arguing.
Instead, tell your children to be calm and collected. A polite way to respond to online hate speech is by using the report and block features on social media platforms.
With just a click of a button, all the problems go away. Isn’t that a better solution than fighting?
Promoting Positive Online Experiences
Teach your children to be kind and polite to everyone in real life, but in the digital world too. Encourage your children to be part of positive and supportive groups and discourage them from supporting groups fueled by hate.
And most crucially, set strict family values that your children can later use to protect themselves online.
You can expect your children to behave in a normal manner online only if you set healthy habits at home.
Teaching Critical Thinking and Media Literacy Skills
On another note, your children must also develop suitable critical thinking and media literacy skills. Educate your children to analyze, evaluate, and verify the information they come across.
When children develop this critical mindset, they’ll think of the consequences of their actions and make fewer mistakes. Also, they’ll know when and how to avoid inappropriate content and to whom they can report it.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What should I do if my child encounters hate speech online?
Block and report the user that promotes hate speech, and have an open conversation with your child about the matter.
How can I approach a conversation about offensive content with my child?
Have a friendly and calm approach. Don’t pressure your child, and discover solutions together.
Is it necessary to monitor my child’s online activities?
Yes, you can monitor children’s activities if they need help adapting to the online environment.
How can I teach my child to differentiate between freedom of speech and hate speech?
Hate speech is offensive, aggressive, and aims to hurt someone. On the other hand, freedom of speech is when a person tells his/hers values online.
What should I do if my child becomes a victim of online bullying?
Firstly, hug your children and tell them everything will be just fine. Then, report the user and seek professional help if your child has suffered severe trauma.