Resilience – it’s a word we hear everywhere. It’s a key life skill that’s right at the centre of success. If you want to make a new friend, try a new skill, stick at something that’s hard, have a go at something knowing the possibility of failure is high but doing it anyway – then what you need is the universal magic ingredient of resilience.

Let’s get very clear on resilience

Resilience isn’t this magical skill that you either have or you don’t.  It’s something that we build on over many years through learning to navigate the ups and downs of life. In a nutshell, resilience is the ability to cope, to adapt, to learn, and to recover. 

Resilience is all about widening the gap between the stimulus (what’s happened) and the response. Let’s put that against an example. You’ve just cleaned the kitchen bench and washed the kitchen floor and your child runs in, opens the fridge, and grabs the milk. In the rush, they miss getting the bottle onto the kitchen bench and it teeters and falls onto the floor and splashes out all over the freshly washed tiles and up the cupboards.

The dropping, splashing milk is the stimulus. The gap-free response might look like a surge of anger, frustration, and then admonishing the child for their unthinking, ungrateful approach to life. Resilience is about learning how to widen that gap and then pouring your ability to calm your feelings and apply some logical thinking (it’s an accident, they didn’t do it on purpose) into it. Copying, adapting, learning, recovering – that’s resilience at play in our lives and it needs a steady role model and lots of practice in supportive childhood environments to get right.

Children’s digital lives and resilience

The digital landscape is a gnarly one. There are highs like shares and likes, being included in groups, playing games, and winning. And there are catastrophic lows like being cyberbullied and trolled, being excluded and shamed. 

The internet is a space where the training to have absolutely zero gaps between stimulus and response is strong. In fact, the quicker you respond, the less emotionally regulated and the more dramatic the response is – the better! It’s almost the polar opposite of what we try and teach children in homes and classrooms every day. Offline we’re all about stopping and thinking first, not saying or doing the first silly thing that comes to mind, learning to get on top of big feelings before spraying them out all over our friends and family. 

Learning to be resilient in a world built for adults that requires the thickest skin and is a rapid-fire environment full of emotionally dysregulated people yelling their opinions at the top of their cyber-lungs and smashing into anyone who dares to have a more tempered opinion is a tough gig. It’s not hard to see how early access to the online space is disrupting children’s development of resilience that needs a far more slow and steady approach to come to a full shine.

Developing digital resilience

With almost all children having access to a device either at home or school by the age of 12 and the sharp rise in young children being active on social and gaming media, the globally noted fall in children’s resilience factors is significant.

Digital resilience is no different to offline resilience but it does face some very difficult challenges in the online space. Everything is so instant and visible online. The ability to cope with bullying in the playground is vastly different to a pile on online that can involve thousands of children taunting, shaming, and even telling you to kill yourself (KYS) because you’re so useless or ugly or friendless. Yes, KYS is an acronym widely used by children online and it’s pretty hard to have your resilience on show – all that healthy coping and adapting – when that’s being thrown about.

Developing digital resilience means working with a child to identify the risk factors online and to sharpen their coping skills in a safe place. Teaching a child how to recognise and manage cyberbullying and trolling is a great first step. Remember, it’s all about teaching the skills to widen a child’s gap between stimulus and response. 

  • Putting a device down and taking a break before responding.
  • Taking screenshots of challenging content and thinking carefully about sensible next steps to manage it.
  • Choosing not to respond to outrageous, inflammatory content but scrolling on instead.
  • Being choosy about people you allow to access you online and learning to report and block those that intentionally and repeatedly cause harm.

I’ll just put it out there that these are ALL the skills we teach on DiGii Social because developing a child’s digital resilience can save their mental health – in fact, it can save their life.

Every parent and teacher in the digital age has the responsibility to teach a child the skills to become digitally resilient. Focusing on strong emotional self-regulation and calming down skills is right at the core of helping a child to open the gap between stimulus and response in what is a rapid-fire and provocative environment that celebrates exactly the opposite of that. 

DiGii Social helps children and their families to learn the skills of being safe, civil, and savvy online in their formative pre-teen years. It uses exceptional technology to provide children with a safe sandbox environment to do their messy learning in, gently guided by our virtual teacher. If you’d like to find out more about getting DiGii Social into your school, contact us HERE.