At the beginning of September we began a conversation on what it means to be a digital citizen. In that first post we posed 4 questions we should be asking ourselves when we’re engaging with online content. Whether it’s something we’re reading, sharing, or posting ourselves.
We’ve already addressed “Is it the truth?” and now want to take a look at the second question “Is it fair?”
What does it mean to be fair?
To answer the question “Is it fair?” we need to dig deeper into what it means to be fair:
- Free from self-interest
- Free from favoritism
Being fair can be a challenge. We are often partial to what will benefit us, our children, and our families. We put ourselves first, and that’s not intrinsically a bad thing. However, when we only focus on ourselves, we are ignoring everyone else. We’re not seeking to make decisions that are fair, regardless of who’s involved.
As children are exposed to their community and situations, they develop ideas on fairness. It’s one of the common sentences you’ll hear out of a child’s mouth, “That’s not fair!”
As a parent, our response might be an automatic “Life’s not fair” or “That’s too bad”. Sometimes what seems not fair to them is solely in relationship to themselves. It’s not fair that they have to share a room with their sister, that their older brother gets a bigger portion at dinner, or that they have to go to bed earlier than everyone else.
It also extends to legitimate unfair situations, and can lead to parenting challenges – ensuring kids get equal time playing a videogame or choosing what movie to watch. We are navigating a tricky situation where we are attempting to teach kids how to be fair. To do this, we need to teach empathy. Instead of simply responding with “That’s too bad” we have the opportunity to help our children understand why in fact, the situation is fair.
Fairness does not mean equal
An important aspect of understanding fairness is understanding that it does not mean equal. A great example of this would be a rabbit and an elephant. To treat them “equal” would be to give them the same amount of food, but doing this would result in either the rabbit getting fat and having too much or the elephant getting too little and being hungry. We cannot give them the same amount of food. Instead, we need to give them the exact amount they need to stay happy and healthy – that is fairness.
Here are a few book ideas that can help your child understand that fair does not mean equal: goodreads.com/shelf/show/fairness
How do we teach children fairness in a digital space?
Bringing fairness into our digital village becomes a greater challenge. The first thing we must do to ensure fairness is ask the question “Is it the truth?” When we blindly share news articles and blog posts, that are potentially not the truth, we may be causing harm to someone else.
Something you can have your children do when they want to post something is ask the question “Will this picture hurt anyone’s feelings?” If they post a picture of an amazing party they went to, and know some of their friends weren’t invited, would that be fair?
Digital fairness might also mean that your 16 year old is allowed to visit different websites than your 10 year old. Because they’ve developed the maturity to interact with those websites in positive ways.
Am I leading by example?
Children learn by observing. And as children younger and younger are aware of social media, whether they have their own accounts or not, they may be conscious of what pictures you’re posting. At least pictures of them and the family. Teaching fairness to young children may simply start with asking them if you can post the photo of them to your social media. Will they be upset if you share that photo of them pretending to be Superman?
As adults we appreciate being asked if that unflattering image can be posted, or at least reserving the right to untag ourselves. As parents we should start that habit with our children – asking if we can post something about them. When it comes time for them to have their own social media accounts, they’ll be more likely to ask before posting.
Getting both sides of the story
In order to treat others fairly it’s important that we have all the information before taking action. We should never take action having only heard one side of the story. I see this all the time when teaching children. One child will come up to me and tell me another child hit them or budged, expecting the other child to be punished. But as parents or teachers will attest to, often you’ve already seen what actually happened. The child who tattled was bugging them first or was too slow getting back to the line. Or that yes, the other child did instigate. Either way, it would not be fair to punish the child without finding out what actually happened.
This idea applies to what we share online. Did we look at both sides of the story before posting, to ensure that we are not presenting an unfair portrayal of the person or group in the post?
When we ask ourselves “Is it fair?” we step outside ourselves. We take on a much more global perspective and begin to empathize with our fellow human beings. Making life a little bit better for everyone.