Think Before You Speak, Because In the Digital Age, It’s Permanent.

shutterstock_62989186One of the most beautiful things about doing philosophy for kids is the large number of teachable moments that emerge from it. Philosophy may get accused of being overly theoretical, but in reality, the philosophical discussions you have with your kids are likely to be some of the most practical and applicable.

And here’s a prime example: Why is it so important to think before we put something up online?

Granted, kids aren’t supposed to have social media accounts until they’re teenagers, and any appearance they make online before that age is likely attributable to their parents, but it’s one of those discussions that’s best started at an early age. From celebrities and public figures getting their knuckles rapped for comments and content from years before, to people being turned down for jobs (or fired from them) because of online indiscretions, it’s a tough lesson to learn. Why not equip our kids with the critical thinking skills needed to navigate these choppy waters, and form useful habits when they’re still malleable?

Here are some questions you can use as a spring board when talking about this with your little thinker:

  • Are people the same online as they are in real life? What’s different? How do you feel about people thinking you’re different than you actually are?
  • Does knowing that something you say will be saved forever online make you feel different about saying it? Why or why not? What about knowing that many, many people might read it?
  • Why is privacy such an important thing? How would you feel if you didn’t have it?
  • If you say something that hurts someone, and then you apologize for it, does the person you’ve hurt have to forgive you? What if you can’t take it back after you’ve said it?
  • Is it necessary to comment or post every time you have an idea, or is it sometimes better just to keep it to yourself?
  • How do we know that people understand what we mean? What if we mean to say one thing, but someone else thinks we’re saying something else?

This list is obviously just the tip of the iceberg, as far as online activity goes, but it’s a start, and it covers some important ground, even for a young thinker. Whether it’s online or in person, learning to think before we speak, and to be critical and thoughtful about what we say, are useful skills across the board. Giving our kids an early start in developing them can help to ensure that their adult life online helps them achieve their goals, instead of holding them back.