By Ingrid Simone, Common Sense Media app editor
Kindness and compassion. These "soft skills" are ones that parents may think come naturally to their children. After all, your kids are good kids. You show them kindness and compassion, therefore they'll show it to others.
As many parents have discovered, it's not always that simple. Kids can be cruel. And online tools make it easier to torment a peer in an ongoing, public, and often anonymous way.
Schools deal with bullying -- cyber and otherwise -- on a daily basis, and many are trying to address this behavior before it starts by helping kids develop crucial social-emotional skills like kindness, empathy, identifying emotions, and looking at things from another's perspective. My kids' elementary school offers a couple of great programs -- Second Step and Roots of Empathy -- and my son's teacher is currently stocking her classroom library with books on social-emotional skills.
But with young kids today spending a quarter of their screen time with digital media, and with most teens using digital communications media on a daily basis, it makes sense to also use these avenues to help drive home the importance of empathy.
A raft of new games and apps are designed to foster kind behavior and compassion as kids play. They're a great complement to what kids are learning and practicing in the real world, and they appeal to different age groups. The value of these games is even greater when parents play along or simply talk to kids about them. They can spark some interesting conversations.
We've compiled a list of some of our favorite games and apps that can help kids learn kindness and compassion.
Young kids. Apps like Peek-a-Zoo and Avokiddo Emotions help kids learn to recognize emotions in facial expressions, as well as social cues.
Elementary-age kids. My DPS is a stand-alone app that comes from The Social Express; it's handy and helps kids identify and label their own emotions, which can help them recognize these same emotions in others.
Preteens. Middle School Confidential 1 and 2 can help tweens learn to navigate issues like bullying in a healthy way.
Teens. Scenarios USA tackles tough issues like bullying through thoughtful short films written by teenagers.
Parents play a key role in helping kids translate what they're learning in these games and apps to real-world situations. I'm finding with my 8-year-old son that even sweet, sensitive kids may need help when it comes to developing empathy; modeling social-emotional skills and engaging kids during those teachable moments can reinforce what they've learned.
Has your kid seen or experienced cyberbullying? How did you handle the situation? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter @ingridsimone
About Common Sense Media
Common Sense Media is dedicated to improving the lives of kids and families by providing the trustworthy information, education, and independent voice they need to thrive in a world of media and technology. We exist because our kids are growing up in a culture that profoundly impacts their physical, social, and emotional well-being. We provide families with the advice and media reviews they need in order to make the best choices for their children. Through our education programs and policy efforts, Common Sense Media empowers parents, educators, and young people to become knowledgeable and responsible digital citizens. For more information, go to www.commonsense.org.