Helping Your Child in Resolving Digital Conflicts
If you want your child to be a champion and a future productive person, read this:
Digital technology has already changed the world according to UNICEF and as more children are going online around the world, it is increasingly changing childhood:
- Children are the most connected age group. Worldwide, 71% are online compared with 48% of the total population.
- Children and adolescents under 18 accounts for an estimated one in three internet users around the world.
- A growing body of evidence indicates that children are accessing the internet more and more at younger ages. In some countries, children under 15 are as likely to use the internet as adults over 25.
- Before you were physically supporting them in schools, friends, teachers, and with many people they encounter daily. But now they are online and dealing with the same different people and you are not there!
What should you do?
Whether it is a toy-related conflict, or negative peer pressure, either online or real-life, your children face problems and challenges daily.
You cannot always be there to solve every problem. In fact, this isn’t your job. Your job is to lead them to know how to solve problems by themselves. In this way, they can become confident, independent, and successful individuals. Instead of giving up or getting frustrated when they encounter a challenge, children with problem-solving skills manage their emotions, think creatively, and persist until they find a solution.
Results of not being engaged with your children:
First, you need to make a decision as a caregiver that you are going to build your own skills to approach your child properly. Staying in denial will not help you and it could lead to negative consequences:
- Spending less quality time with your children make them not perceive you as a good role model to come to you when they face a problem.
- Children learn by watching you behave, so if they don’t see you having conversations, they won’t do it either.
- Your child might be facing problems and you will not be aware of them, and this could lead to mental health issues.
- They will stay more online since this world is more connected to them, which will affect the quality of sleep, more exposure to the dangerous things online, lack of social skills, and other related problems.
- If any severe conflict happens with your child online such as cyberbullying or any other kind of abuse, your child might refuse the digital world and become scared of it, leading to a refusal to learn about it, which may harm his/her future career or even education in college.
How do you develop their online problem-solving skills?
The following are some practical tips on how to engage with your child and help him learn some online conflict resolution skills. Read them and try applying to yourselves first, learn it, and engage with your child.
1. Some concrete steps for approaching your child
You can use the same process over and over, eventually building a set of steps with your child where both of you agreed on and find it suitable for both of you:
- Engage with your children; Approach your children, state the purpose of the discussion, and ask them if they are facing any online conflicts. Listen to them, reframe each problem so it is well formulated, don’t make any reaction toward it, and ask your children if they have any solutions in mind or next steps, do not judge or make any assumption.
- Explain that there are some things that are out of our control; As we are solving a problem at hand, we should focus on the things we can actually control.
- Be a role model; Show your children how to apply the same problem-solving skills you’ve been working on together, giving real-world examples that they can implement in their own life.
- Show your child a willingness to make mistakes; Everyone encounters problems, and that’s okay. Sometimes the first solution you try will not work, and that’s okay too!
- Give examples about yourself in each in the above steps
These steps are used to interact with your child if the problems are faced online or offline, it is the process that matters, so focus on it, try your best.
2. Ask for advice
Ask your kids for advice when you have a problem. This teaches them that it’s common to make mistakes and face challenges. It also gives them the opportunity to practice problem-solving skills. Plus, when you indicate that their ideas are valued, they will gain the confidence to attempt to solve problems on their own.
3. Be aware of your addictions
As a parent you are addicted to telling your children what to do, this will decrease their self-esteem, as they grow older it’s hard for them to face some situations or make decisions. Tough parenting or controlling parents will lead your child to procrastinate on many behaviors that will improve them in the future.
4. Emotional management
First, teach your kids that ALL emotions are acceptable. There are NO “bad” emotions. Even seemingly negative emotions like anger, sadness, and frustration can teach us valuable lessons. What matters is how we respond to these emotions.
Follow this process:
Step 1: Naming and validating emotions:
When your children are upset, help them process the way they are feeling. Say something like, “I understand that you’re upset because Mohammad was teasing you in a multiplayer game”
Step 2: Processing emotions:
Guide your child to his/her calming space, create one immediately, you can start by removing both of yourselves from the digital world in the coming 2 hours and relax with each other, empower this space especially while processing emotions.
Step 3: Problem Solving:
Brainstorm solutions with your child, such as your child might tell “Next time we are playing if this continues, I will stop playing.”
Say, “What’s bothering you the most?” This helps your child understands the ROOT of the problem, making it less intimidating and easier to solve.
Repeat back what your child says. Now that your child has identified “the hard part,” he will likely be able to come up with a different solution and a stronger one, also it will be a relief as a self-expression technique.
5. Pay attention
Go online with your child, participate in the different engagement that he/she doing, learn about it, discuss it with them, so once your child discusses it with you, and have the ability to engage in it, it will boost the conversation and your child will see you as a reference.
6. Teach the Problem-Solving Steps
More concrete steps if your child is above 14 years old, in order for them to learn some digital conflict resolution skills:
Step 1: What am I feeling?
Help your child understand what they are feeling in the moment (frustration, anger, curiosity, disappointment, excitement, etc.), for example, am disappointed and sad since I am not winning at all in online gaming, and everyone is getting promoted except for me.
Step 2: What is the problem?
Guide your child to identify the problem. In most cases, help him take responsibility for what happened rather than pointing fingers. For instance, instead of, “Everyone is better than me in playing the game”, tell your child to say “I am comparing myself to others, I am much better than I was yesterday so I should keep doing it to reach a certain level”.
Step 3: What are the solutions?
Encourage your child to come up with as many solutions as possible. At this point, they don’t even need to be “good” solutions. They are just brainstorming here, not yet evaluating the ideas they’ve generated.
Step 4: What would happen if…?
What would happen if your child attempted each of these solutions? Is the solution safe and fair? How will it make others feel? You can also try role-playing at this step. It is important for your child to consider both the positive and negative consequences of her actions.
Step 5: Which one will I try?
Ask your child to pick one or more solutions to try. If the solution doesn’t work, discuss why and move on to another one. Encourage your child to keep trying until the problem is solved.
Consistently practice these steps so that they become second nature, and model solving problems of your own the same way. It is a good idea to reflect: What worked? What didn’t? What can you do differently next time?
You can even have your child roleplay the problem and potential solutions to reinforce the lesson. Once this becomes the norm, your child will start doing it alone and with other friends.
Signs/hints that your children are having digital/online conflicts
Now I want you to be aware of the below signs and monitor your child properly, if any of the signs are perceived, engage with your child immediately since they are facing some digital or online conflicts:
- Uneasy, nervous, or scared about engaging online where they used to be all the time, for example not playing with the same group.
- Nervous or jumpy when texting or using social media such as posting on Facebook.
- Unwilling to discuss or share information about their online accounts and activity, such as hiding information about what they are playing all the time.
- Loss of interest in favorite gaming for example, where suddenly the child drops interest and if they are not engaged in something new, be sure that your child is facing a problem.
- Withdrawn from close friends and family who they usually interact with online in gaming, social media, or any related online platforms.
In a few words, your child facing conflicts online is similar to your child having fights in schools. Therefore, you should take it seriously and adapt your behavior as a good caregiver.