One thing that has become glaringly obvious over the past two terms with my leadership of our Year 8 cohort is that teenagers make mistakes…..newsflash!
On a daily basis I have had to respond to, comfort, delegate, punish and refer onwards issues and actions that these 13 and 14 year olds participate or create.
Many of these involve media and I can’t but help reflect on my own teenage experiences and remember the mistakes I made and the risky situations I put myself in where media was not there to magnify the situation or outcome.
I know that social media frustrates many of the teachers, parents and authorities I work with as they see how quickly an image can spread, or harassment can escalate. The problem is this is just a reflection upon something else that’s missing.
Over the past weeks I have been speaking to these young people about empathy. I ask them if they have ever made a mistake, I admit to them that I have made hundreds and many of them in my teenage years. Yet it was different, my peers couldn’t take a picture and post it online in 5 seconds flat, or create an anonymous profile to comment on my personality or appearance. My friends couldn’t “like” or “share’ someone else’s comment and I wasn’t left with ambiguity around what that meant.
I ask them if they too have made mistakes. They never deny it. I ask them if they regret doing some of these and what it would feel like if that mistake was publicised on social media. I am yet to have someone wish for that end.
We talk about forgiveness, we talk about empathy. We talk about everyone having the right to make a mistake and when someone’s mistake hits our “inbox” or “timeline” it is our choice, right then, to decide if we punish them for making a mistake and pass it on, or we show understanding and delete.
I think we could get a little better at this.