When Something Doesn’t Look Right

What happens when you walk into a room of youngsters who are circled around a device, trying to get “a look” at the screen, some incredibly silent and others cautiously laughing, with others gleeful in their response to the content on that screen? What happens when they grasp your presence and are suddenly completely still, averting eye contact and smiling uncomfortably? What do you do when your sense is that there is something wrong happening, something potentially harmful?

This scenario has been requested by parents and teachers alike when requesting RESPECT Workshops. Participants have interacted, brainstormed, shared and problem solved a wide variety of possible solutions to this exact scenario. Some of their concerns and suggested strategies, acted out in small group and on stage, are shared here:

  • “I try to give myself some time to think for a few seconds – maybe even a few minutes – to get a good look at what I can actually see happening and the way kids are responding.  Probably there is nothing I can do any better by rushing in and panicking, maybe saying or doing something I regret!”
  • “I try to take a deep breath and wait too! I figure they are more likely to talk with me if I am calm and don’t push my agenda on them. It’s hard though because usually they are doing something they know I won’t think is appropriate!”
  • “Get more information. I use some of that “I language” you talk about and say stuff like, “I feel like there is something happening here I should know about.”
  • “I think I get more information by letting them know they won’t be in trouble by reporting what is happening! As a teacher I tell them there is a difference between snitching and tattling and if they can help someone get OUT of trouble? It is reporting!”
  • “I sit down and wait for them to talk. Almost always someone will start to talk.”
  • “I ask them to share the device with me. I want to see it for myself! Sometimes I use humor like tell them I could use a good laugh and just quickly take the phone like I am expecting to see a funny meme or something.”
  • “I am always talking to the kids about what can happen if they are not careful with social media. I point out things that happen in the news. I know it’s not the same thing as being in a situation where they are actually facing a problem, but I think preparation cannot be harmful.”
  • “I think it’s really important to have kids read about other people their age, and even others, who have used social media for a good cause as well as the problems and repercussions that can occur by using devices too much or unwisely. We discuss movies, books, social event, that are focused on the same issues. They seem to have an easier time talking about someone else, even a fictional character, than about themselves.”
  • “It’s super important for me to make sure they know I will care about them if they make mistakes and that everyone makes mistakes. I don’t expect perfection, I sure can’t offer it.”
  • “We have honest conversations about sexting, trafficking. It’s not always comfortable; I try to share only what they are developmentally ready for, but they need to have some information.
  • “It’s not always WHAT you say but HOW you say it. I know they will sense more about how I feel about something by HOW I say something no matter what words I am using.”

Parents and teachers alike shared ways to communicate on topics that can be uncomfortable.  They agree that taking some time to think before talking, using “I language” rather than using wording that can seem accusatory or frightening to students, getting on their level physically and making eye contact with them, stating that it’s OK to make mistakes and share information, thanking them for sharing, letting them know you will problem solve a mistake “together,” are all ways to try to make the conversation more comfortable and helpful.

In our workshops they share exactly what those solutions will look like, they think about which ways work for their own style and personality, and then, they try them out “on stage” and get feedback from others. This process helps them develop their own personal style of what methods work best for them, helps them to be more prepared and provides them with more ideas and strategies to their repertoire. Last but not least? It helps them understand that they are not alone!

“I feel like I am not as alone as I thought I was,” said one participant, with another remarking, “More people think like I do than I thought!”

If you are interested in a RESPECT Workshop and using theatre techniques to stage conversations? Give us a call!