How to teach empathy in a world of selfies

The popularity of social media over the past decade has changed the way we communicate and relate to others, with selfies now a big part of many people's lives.

A lot has been written about the impact taking and posting selfies has on teenagers, in particular how it contributes to an overdeveloped sense of entitlement, lack of empathy and a need for admiration. Researchers believe this self-focused narcissistic behaviour is on the rise – and it's not good for teens themselves or the world they live in. So how to combat it? 

As a parent or caregiver, you play a key role in teaching your child the importance of thinking of others. Here are our top tips for teaching empathy in a world of selfies:

1. Lead by example

Children learn a lot by watching how you treat others. Kindness and caring starts at home and, as the old saying goes, treat others as you’d like to be treated yourself.

2. Volunteer

Volunteering is a great way to give back to your community and introduce your child to people and situations outside their normal day to day life. Spend time focusing on the needs of others, eg, elderly neighbours or new people at school etc. Read more about the benefits of volunteering.

3. Read together 

Children of all ages learn through reading, and sharing a book together is a great way to start a conversation about feelings. Children are never too young, or too old, to talk about their emotions, and the more in touch they are with their own feelings the better they can start to learn about how other people are feeling.

4. Talk about situations from another person's perspective

Teach your children to think about events from another person's point of view. Start when they’re young – talk about how situations in books or a television show makes characters feel and why. If your child is having an argument with a friend or sibling, discuss the problem from both people’s perspectives.

5. Explain the difference between online and real-life relationships

Many of us know the feeling of posting a great photo or comment on social media and the way we feel when we receive lots of ‘likes’ or positive feedback. But having 400 Facebook friends doesn’t relate to a wide social network in real life. Arm your child with the skills to build on their real-life relationships, through play dates, sports events etc.

Credits: Health Navigator Editorial Team.