Are You Honest? Teaching Our Families to Have Integrity Online
By Katelyn King and Melody Bergman
Lying…We have all done it. If you say you haven’t, well that’s a lie. Just about anyone would say lying is wrong. So why do we do it? We might lie to get what we want, avoid trouble, or create an image. We live in a society that has an “as-long-as-you-don’t-get-caught” attitude. In the news, we read countless stories of executives lying about their company stats, insider trading, hackers stealing information, celebrities cheating on their spouses. On social media, we even alter our photos to present a certain look.
It seems the more we lie the easier it gets and the more of a habit it becomes. One British study on dishonesty and found that “repeated acts of dishonesty reflect a reduced emotional response” in the human brain (AAP, 2016). The study showed actual changes in the brain that occurred from repeated lying.
So the more we lie, the easier it gets to be dishonest. But telling an obvious lie is not the only way we can be dishonest. Withholding information, leaving out part of the truth, and changing the story just a little bit are all forms of lying–even online!
We easily choose what to share and what not to share on Facebook, SnapChat, Instagram, or Twitter. A study done by WhoIsHostingThis, shows us just how prevalent dishonesty is becoming in our online communities, especially on social media (Koser, 2013). In the study, 30% of women surveyed admitted to lying about doing something interesting when in reality they were at home alone. They also found that 25% of Facebook users admitted to altering some of their social account data.
It is ridiculously easy for us and our kids to lose our online integrity. And there are generally few consequences for being dishonest online especially when you don’t have to look someone in the eye when doing it. People often rationalize that no one will know you exaggerated or fibbed a little, that it won’t affect them, or that everyone else is doing it too.
But our actions do affect others! Everything we do online–every text, email, and post we write creates ripples. These ripples may be small, but they are real and they matter.
Although the WhoIsHostingThis study reveals blatant lies, people are even more likely to filter and leave things out to create the desired appearance. For example, you want to take a picture of the flowers your husband gave you. So you clear a spot on your messy table and make sure to not get the mess in the background of the picture. Now your picture and house seem nice and perfect, right?
We need to stop trying to create a false online image! There is power in being honest, real, and authentic. When we show integrity and choose to be authentic, others recognize this authenticity and are drawn to it. It is liberating to be truly honest and authentic to ourselves and others around us. That way we don’t spend time putting up a facade or clearing away our messes. We can just be real.
Sometimes when people are online, they forget they are communicating with another human being, not just a computer screen. We do not need to manipulate, lie, or hurt others. Have you ever noticed that these types of behaviors seem especially amplified when it comes to politics? The name-calling, false information, and guilt-tripping are wrong and dishonest. Should everyone agree? No. But deceiving, talking down to others, and saying anything necessary in order to “win” doesn’t do anything but hurt. We need to lift others up and not be so worried about what others may think.
Here are three 3 tips for online integrity:
- Teach your children to have integrity online and offline.
- When we are honest with ourselves it builds strong emotional health. When we are honest with others it builds lasting relationships. Take time to talk to your kids about what integrity means and why it is important. Praise them when they are honest and correct them when they are not and help them see how their dishonesty was not ok.
- To learn more about teaching your children to be honest, check out our book, 30 Days To A Stronger Child. It has an amazing lesson and great family activities to do to teach honesty!
- Set a positive example.
- Your children are watching your actions and listening to your words. So put posts and pictures up that are authentic and real. Post an inspiring quote, a sincere thought-provoking question or a picture of your family doing something fun. Respond to posts with kindness and without judgment. Make sure you share positive, inspiring and authentic things. Your children will notice and learn how to act by your example.
- Pay attention.
- If your children have social media accounts, make sure you are involved. Be “friends” with them and follow their posts. Look at the content of what they are posting. We have a great series of articles on filtering and monitoring children. When you see something that is dishonest, say something. Use it as a teaching opportunity.
We live in a tech-driven, social media-saturated world. Let’s use the tools at our fingertips to teach our kids to be real and authentic in “real life” and online. Take the time to chat with your child and set an example by practicing positive digital citizenship and integrity.
Ready to teach your children to be honest and have integrity, check out our book, 30 Days To A Stronger Child or Conversations with My Kids: 30 Essential Family Discussions for the Digital Age. They have amazing lessons and great family activities to do to teach integrity, empathy, gratitude, and more!
Katelyn King is a wife and mother of two children. She is a Brigham Young University-Idaho graduate with a Bachelor’s degree in Marriage and Family Studies and is an advocate for parent-child relationships.
Melody Harrison Bergman is a mother and step-mom of three awesome boys, founder of Mama Crossroads[http://mamacrossroads.com], and a member of the Prevention Task Force for the National Center on Sexual Exploitation. She has a bachelor’s degree in communications and has been writing and editing since 2002. Her mission is to motivate leaders and community members to educate and protect children and families
AAP. (2016, October 25). Brain adapts to dishonesty: study. Retrieved September 10, 2017, from http://www.skynews.com.au/culture/offbeat/2016/10/25/brain-adapts-to-dishonesty–study.html
Kosur, J. (2013, June 12). Social Media Is Making Us Less Honest, Disconnected, And Poorly Behaved. Retrieved September 10, 2017, from http://socialnewsdaily.com/15070/social-media-is-making-us-less-honest/