Why Nice Kids Do Mean Things Online

By December 6, 2009 No Comments

There’s been a horrible rash of online bullying incidents with downright tragic results making the national news. And unfortunately, the kids involved are 12 and 13 years old. What’s happening? Have middle schoolers gone crazy? Are we raising cruel children? The LA Times article about the “Kick a Ginger Day” campaign on Facebook sheds some light on why even good kids can do incredibly mean things and why they don’t even think of it as “bullying.”

According to the LA Times, “Their developing prefrontal cortex makes them impulsive, hypersensitive, unprepared to weigh risks and rewards. In fact, the mere presence of a teenager’s friends can unhinge the brain and lead to lousy choices.

In a recent brain-imaging experiment by Temple University psychologist Laurence Steinberg, teenagers who brought their friends along to the lab for the experiment took twice as many risks as those who were alone when they were administered computerized risk-taking tests.”

This is the type of research that should be shared with teachers and parents at every middle school across the country. Kids have more ways to “flex their muscles” online and try things they wouldn’t normally do. And since nice kids feel bad after they’ve realized that they’ve caused harm, it would be great to give them the tools they need to exercise judgment before they hit “send.”

It’s our job as digital parents to help our little digital citizens avoid getting sucked into the digital mob.

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