The Three Gates of Social Media
“Before you speak, let your words pass through three gates:
At the first gate, ask yourself “Is is true?”
At the second gate ask, “Is it necessary?”
At the third gate ask, “Is it kind?”
Let’s face it. “Mindfulness” has become a bit of a buzzword - a way to sell everything from hot yoga to Greek yoghurt. But when you get right down to it, what does mindfulness really mean? Quite simply, it’s about self-awareness. Paying attention. Making deliberate choices.
And that’s exactly why a mindful approach to social media is so important for our children. The fast pace of life in the digital age is exhilarating. Our kids can text and “like” and post and tweet at the speed of light. Too often, though, their thumbs are running faster than their brains.
And they’re not the only ones. Adults can be just as guilty of operating in “post now, think later” mode. (Just ask the President of the United States.)
Parental control technology can help us manage all of this. But no gadgetry, no matter how sophisticated or clever, can do it all. Filtering the online content our kids receive is a great start. But as parents we also need to help our kids install their own inner filters.
And for help with that, who better to turn to than the great Sufi poet, ethicist, and all-around legend, Rumi? Rumi never had a Facebook page or an Instagram account - duh! He lived in the 13th century Persia - but his justly famous “Three Gates” are a timeless guide to mindful interaction, on any platform.
Gate #1: “Is it true?”
In today’s language, we might translate this as one as “Be Your Own Fact-checker.” Posting or re-posting inaccuracies, unsubstantiated rumours and even bald-faced lies is an everyday occurrence on social media. Short of a full-scale digital apocalypse, nothing is going to change that. So our kids need to be made aware, again and again, that just because it’s online doesn’t make it true. (One parent we know struggled to convince her highly intelligent 16-year-old daughter that no, mermaids were not actually real. “But mum, it’s on Facebook!” she kept insisting. “There are photos!” )
Most teens have highly developed b.s.-detectors when it comes to the authority figures in their lives. Encourage them to bring that same skepticism to their online activity.
Gate #2: “Is it necessary?”
To be honest, this one is a little tough. If applied strictly, it would mean wiping off 80% of YouTube right now, and probably 100% of Snapchat. The point is, social media is rarely about what anybody “needs” - unless we count the desire for distraction as a need. (And maybe we should.) That said, the question “Is it necessary?” can be used to to get kids thinking about the purpose of all those Snapchat stories and Insta posts. Deepening connections with friends and family may be a worthwhile purpose. Showing off - whether by spamming your network with heavily filtered holiday pics, or shots of your amazing birthday loot - not so much.
Gate #3: “Is it kind?”
If we could just get our kids to consider this single question before they post, we could make cyber-bullying history. Think about it. An unflattering photo of a classmate may be “true” in that it’s a real screenshot from a real interaction. It may even pass the test of “necessary” if the poster convinces herself she needs to entertain her friends. But “kind”? Kind is where the buck stops.
Most of the time, cruelty online happens not because kids are nasty by nature, but because they are “mindless” by nature. How could it be otherwise? They don’t know what they don’t know - especially about the power of their own communication. Thankfully mum and dad - with a little help from Rumi, the original master of mindfulness - are here to help.
And so too is Family Zone. At Family Zone, we understand that parenting in the digital age can be a minefield. But you're not in it alone - our team of Cyber Experts can help you sort out what apps and content are appropriate for your child, and provide you with the tools and resources to help you protect your children online.