The author (Barrie Hardymon) am the mom of two children — eight and eleven and there’s a frightful thing that keeps creeping into my mind each time I witness another tragic incident similar to the type of shootings that have been racially motivated in recent weeks and months. Highland Park, Buffalo, Christchurch, El Paso. The criminal is usually — an innocent white male.
I have two children white, males.
It’s terrifying to imagine that your child might be the victim. It’s a different kind of terror to imagine that your child could become … I don’t want to put the details on the paper … the victim. A racist. A racist. A sexist. A bigot. One who may be vulnerable to such views.
We know where many of these ideas originate -they’re an online community which our kids are a part of. We’re not talking about sites that declare themselves places for white supremacy: It’s of Roblox, YouTube, all the gaming platforms, and social media.
In the digital world, kids are extremely comfortable with it. There’s virtually impossible to keep ahead.
It’s difficult not to be anxious.
I was unsure whether the way I was discussing it with my kidsparticularly in relation to online dangerswas the best way.
So I contacted an expert. Christine Saxman is a speaker with teachers and parents about this topic every day. She’s been involved with facilitation for social justice and race for the past 20 years.
The first thing I want to say to you , is … don’t worry! What I discovered was inspiring.
Here are the best tips that Saxman offered me. And , I must say that things are significantly calmer at home. (In only one way Life Kit, I am looking eagerly to your next episode about keeping children from making “deez Nuts jokes” with polite people.)
Find the warning signs of radicalization
It’s essential to know the signs that your child is getting lost in the rabbit hole. What are the indicators that you need to be aware of? Saxman said to me to be on the lookout for the types of jokes your children are responding in and proposing. Pay attention that they may be beginning to participate in humor which dehumanizes people especially transphobic, gay, and sexually explicit jokes. While it’s disguised as humor and sexy, it can give people who have racist motives a reason to deny it as it’s “just” an absurd joke.
“Joking about LGBT concerns,” Saxman says, “… is a common starting point for various conspiracy theories. The jokes become more and worse, then the content gets more and more disturbing … it’s like an Venn diagram that you could imagine the ways the way they employ these various ways to lure you into. Once they’ve normalized the kind of conversation in which it’s OK to dehumanize gays and it’s acceptable to make women feel less human, and that we believe that there’s a Jewish cabal that runs the world and that’s the way to get deeper and more.”
She also advised having an notion of the form this type of seduction might take. Western States Center has a extensive toolkit to help you understand the various ways radicalization may take including using memes and jokes as “edgy,” or even declaring conspiracy theories in everyday life.
Read more: knock knock jokes
Help your kids comprehend their own potential
They must learn to ask the appropriate questions, not only of the media they watch as well as their peers. What can help, especially for older children is encouraging children to understand and build their own autonomy.
Saxman offers encouraging phrases such as, “I believe you’re a critical thinker.” Or “I am aware that you love to pose questions.” She then says that you’re “co-creating and discovering things in a group.”
Growing my son’s trust in his own judgement is an exciting experience for me. And the kid has been more honest about the questionable things he comes across on the internet. The balance between trust and an element of doubt isn’t easy but it’s been rewarded within the short time that I’ve been stressing it and we’ve had the opportunity to talk about it more.
Don’t overreact! It is important to keep the connection as open as possible
I … am reactive. I am a nerd who loves to react. However, Saxman pointed out that if you get caught up over something you’re afraid of it is less likely for teenagers to reach out to you when they require you. Therefore, I’ve begun to train myself to relax and raise concerns from the perspective of curiosity, not fear. It’s extremely scary out there But I do not want to make children believe that they’re facing something that is impossible to conquer.
In terms of I was expressing my fears of the dangers they could be enticed in, watching The Social Dilemma with them was really beneficial. It’s not an ideal film (it is an apology for tech-bros tour in its core) however it provides a clear explanation of the ways that white males particularly will be targeted through algorithms and stresses how important it is to make your own decisions regarding what they want to watch in the social media platforms of Instagram and YouTube and not simply watching the next video that’s shown to them next.
Keep in touch with your other parents
This isn’t easy. However, you must do it! There aren’t all families with the same guidelines for the internet and screens particularly those who have multiple children within the home. If, for instance, your child is a member of a group who has unlimited YouTube access and is watching it each when they visit their friend’s home It’s crucial for you to be aware of that and know how parents are communicating with each other about the content.
This could mean that you need to come to terms with different opinions about what is appropriate. These are important discussions, Saxman says, so be willing to learn more about why the parents’ rules might differ from the other, “Just be curious,” she advises that you inquire about the reasons they made this decision and what the implications are to their relationship with their child.
As you discuss what other parents are doing and discussing in their homes and the more you learn about what your child is exposed to and what they’re doing in their reading, watching and play.
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(And you’ll be able to get some great tips for building these connections! I heard about The Social Dilemma as a teaching tool from my parent.)
In the end, be curious.
Hey kids! What do you have to be doing on TikTok? What’s good? What’s funny? Here’s someone I love! Are you thinking I’m old? Okay, whom do you like? What’s your top YouTuber? What kind of videos do you watch?
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What is funny to you? Make it a habit to be interested in their lives online. Play Mario Kart! Build them a home using Minecraft. Curiousness builds bonds.
Let me leave you with this. If I inquired of Saxman whether there was something about her writing that made her feel hopeful and here’s what she told me: “I’m really hopeful about young people. I can see the ways in which they’ve fought COVID. They’ve weathered all of this. They have self-monitoring. They are monitoring each the other. I am a believer that they are. So I’m trying to make a place for me to keep supporting them. This is what I’d like to ask of other adults.”
One Final Thing …
I’d like to make clear that this show is primarily about prevention. And everything else is meaningless in the absence of children that are proficient in the terms of antiracism and racism.