22 August 2018
Dublin: Matthew Lickona

Children’s Dignity Online

“The big hoax of the Internet is to trick people into confusing an online presence with life”

“Before the rise of social media, I had never heard the order ‘Kill yourself!’ Today, this is a standard online response, one of the 100 responses out of 78,000 memes used on parents. Most people do not take it seriously, but what chance does anyone have to assert his personal dignity in this arena?”

This is one of the questions asked by Matthew Lickona of the San Diego Reader at the panel discussion on “Dignity and Safety in a Digital Age: Facing a New Challenge for Families.”

“If you spend a lot of time on Instagram—he added to those present—know that ‘sharing’ often means ‘advertising’ and the product that is sold is the self. Not the real self, of course, but the version of the self that is supposed to attract more attention and approval.”

The solution here, he continued, “is simple but difficult: helping children to build a social reality in real life. Here is a simple step: gather the family for dinner, ban technology from the table, and take turns asking questions. There is an obvious difficulty: even if the online self may not be real, it can ask for strong devotion. A good answer to this devotion is to examine some questions together: Why are these things important to you? Does that make you happier or sad? What do you understand? In conclusion: the great hoax of the Internet is to trick people into confusing an online presence with life. And there is no dignity in living a lie.”