With the mere words “social media” striking fear in most parents’ hearts, it’s easy to get mired in the dark side of the internet: bullying and trolling and wasting time … oh my! We can’t keep our children off social media forever, however, so why not show them how to use the powerful communication tool to make people actually feel good about themselves? An act of kindness often leads to gratitude—and even scientists agree there are many benefits of that, including greater happiness, stronger relationships and an improved ability to deal with adversity. And what better time to start spreading online kindness and gratitude than National Random Acts of Kindness Day on February 17? To help you kick it off, here are 10 social media ideas you can easily do with your kids.
1. Leave a positive comment. There is no shortage of toxic remarks from faceless strangers, emboldened by their anonymity, left on social media posts. Combat that negativity and lift somebody’s spirits—whether it’s a family member, friend or a boy who happens to enjoy posting makeup tutorials—by taking the time to offer a heartfelt compliment.
2. Create an upbeat post. Social media is a popular place to commiserate about everyday frustrations. While that can be therapeutic, the sheer volume of frustrations we come across can also become tiresome. Inject some positivity by brainstorming a post that inspires hope, happiness and/or a giggle, whether it’s a quote or an original drawing, and creating it with your child to share with your followers.
3. Send an e-card. This might seem old school, sure, but most e-card sites (such as JibJab and Hallmark) also allow you to send a card via Facebook—a sweet way to let somebody know you’re thinking of them.
4. Write a glowing review. Maybe your family enjoyed a fantastic meal at that new Italian place down the street. Or the local dry cleaner went above and beyond to have your favorite dress ready by the next day. Posting a complimentary review on Yelp or Facebook can go a long way in bolstering small businesses. You can even ask your kids what their favorite local hangout is and write a complimentary review together.
5. Donate toys and clothes. Although it can be hard to pry old stuffies and shirts that have been long outgrown from the hands of little ones, work together to set aside some items to donate and post them on a neighborhood Facebook page and/or a page that supports local foster families (a quick search by city usually reveals them, if available). As a certain famous organizing expert would say, give them to somebody for whom they’ll spark joy!
6. Start a pay-it-forward chain. Perform a random act of kindness offline—such as putting coins in an expired parking meter or leaving coupons in front of corresponding products at a store—and post about it, encouraging others to pay it forward and share how they did so in your comments. Hopefully, they’ll encourage their social media communities to follow suit. And boom! Pay-it-forward chain: activated.
7. Support a cause. Talk with your kids about the importance of supporting charities and nonprofits, which are increasingly relying on social media for donations, and select a worthwhile cause that’s near and dear to your hearts to help by sharing their mission and/or donating. Perhaps go a step further and hold a lemonade sale—which you and the kids can advertise to neighbors on social media—and donate the proceeds to that charity online. We’d raise a cup of lemonade to that!
8. Express how much your teacher rocks. You don’t have to wait until Teacher Appreciation Week to shout your love from the rooftops. Encourage your kid to drop a sweet comment about his/her teacher on the school’s Instagram account or sing the teacher’s praises in an e-mail to the principal. Because every day should be Teacher Appreciation Day.
9. Share a blog post. If you’re a fan of a lesser-known blogger, raise their visibility by sharing your favorite blog post. It can be hard for bloggers to gain traction in a World Wide Web overflowing with animal videos and car rants, and you’d be doing them a solid by helping them break through the clutter. Try to pick a post you can discuss with your kids, if possible, and explain why you enjoy it—potentially igniting a dialogue about what kinds of online content make them happy (and try not to roll your eyes if they enthusiastically launch into why they can’t get enough of watching kids open Kinder Eggs on YouTube).
10. Thank a service member. Search for #veteran on Instagram, and you’ll find many public profiles of brave men and women who’ve served in the military. Let them know how much you value their sacrifice and selfless service to our country with a simple, appreciative note.