How do characteristics and values such as kindness and compassion develop in children? What do we know about kindness and other prosocial behaviors online? What can I do to help myself and my children become responsible, respectful, and kind digital citizens on social media and other online environments?

While digital platforms can be valuable tools for social connection, they can also easily become unmediated spaces for damaging and negative communication. As children increasingly turn to social media and online communities as an outlet for self-expression and socialization, it’s vital to build awareness of kindness and character in digital spaces and the real impacts of online behavior on others. On June 15, 2022, at 12pm via Zoom, Children and Screens’ #AskTheExperts webinar “The Golden Rule: Cultivating Kindness and Character Online” examined the development of traits such as kindness and empathy, and how these qualities can be promoted and fostered in online and offline behavior. An outstanding panel of parenting experts, educators, and researchers in positive psychology discussed how prosocial behaviors develop across childhood, how youth can learn to engage in altruistic behaviors, and steps parents and educators can take to guide them towards cultivating a culture of kindness in their online world.


  • Stephen Post, PhD

    Director; Professor of Family, Population and Preventive Medicine Center for Medical Humanities, Compassionate Care and Bioethics; Stony Brook University
  • Thomas Lickona, PhD

    Professor Emeritus of Education; Director Center for the Fourth and Fifth Rs (Respect and Responsibility), State University of New York at Cortland
  • Richard Weissbourd, EdD

    Senior Lecturer on Education; Faculty Director Human Development and Psychology, Harvard Graduate School of Education
  • Eva Telzer, PhD

    Co-Director; Associate Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience, Winston National Center on Technology Use, Brain, and Psychological Development; UNC Chapel Hill

Kindness, compassion, and empathy – how do these markers of good character develop and how can these prosocial behaviors be encouraged in children in their online and offline interactions? In this “Ask the Experts” webinar “The Golden Rule: Cultivating Kindness and Character Online,” a panel of researchers and developmental psychologists examined the development of traits such as kindness and empathy, the important role that family life and parenting practices have in increasing these behaviors in contexts beyond the home, and the practical steps caregivers and educators can take to guide youth towards cultivating a culture of kindness in their world.

00:00 Introduction

Introduction from Kris Perry, MSW, Executive Director of Children and Screens: Institute of Digital Media and Child Development.

02:06 Stephen Post, PhD

Moderator Stephen Post, PhD, a Professor of Family, Population and Preventive Medicine and the Founding Director of the Center for Medical Humanities, Compassionate Care and Bioethics at Stony Brook University, kicks off the webinar by reflecting briefly on the nature of kindness. He sets the tone by sharing quotes on kindness from a number of global thought leaders.

05:50 Eva Telzer, PhD

Eva Telzer, PhD, is an Associate Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience at UNC Chapel Hill, an Associate Editor at Child Development and Social Cognitive Affective Neuroscience, and the co-director of the Winston National Center on Technology Use, Brain and Psychological Development. Dr. Telzer offers a brief overview of prosocial development before elaborating on how adolescents and teens leverage technology to contribute positively to society. She addresses the types of prosocial online behaviors we see from youth, how these behaviors impact identity development and feelings of connectedness, and potential risks or costs of engaging prosocially online. Dr. Telzer closes by offering advice for parents to ensure their children are using digital media in positive ways and discussing what is known about the spillover effects of prosocial behaviors in family life into other life contexts.

26:33 Thomas Lickona, PhD

Thomas Lickona, PhD, is a developmental psychologist and Professor Emeritus in the School of Education at the State University of New York at Cortland, as well as the Founder and current Director of the Center for the 4th and 5th Rs, Respect and Responsibility. Dr. Lickona outlines how to promote kindness and good character in family life. He briefly reviews the Fabulous Five – five super practices to encourage positive character development – and notes the evidence that these practices often are successful with an authoritative parenting style. Dr. Lickona offers insight on small and big steps parents can take to develop a family culture that emphasizes kindness and respect, including specific strategies and resources covering topics such as a family mission statement, bullying, protecting children from pornography, character based discipline, modeling, and family media plans.

52:08 Richard Weissbourd, EdD

Richard Weissbourd, EdD, a Senior Lecturer on Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and the Kennedy School of Government and the faculty director of Making Caring Common, addresses the negative impact of recent cultural norms, namely valuing individual achievement and happiness over the common good, on the development of caring, especially caring for those different from you. He emphasizes the importance of families and schools prioritizing and expecting kindness and fairness, teaching children through practice about caring, and the importance of fairness, justice, and empathy for all. Expanding on Dr. Lickona’s message, Dr. Weissbourd stresses the need for parents to be positive role models for their children, offering examples for how to do so. He concludes by considering the role of negative, destructive feelings like shame, and how parents can help kids learn to deal with these emotions and internalize an identity of kindness.

01:05:34 Group Q&A

Guided by questions submitted from the audience, Dr. Post leads the group in a discussion of how strategies for teaching kindness might translate across different cultures, as well as the role of educators and schools in teaching good character to youth.

01:16:35 Closing Thoughts

Dr. Post shares a few closing thoughts.

[Kris Perry]: Welcome to today’s “Ask the Experts” Webinar, “The Golden Rule: Cultivating Kindness and Character Online.” I’m your host, Kris Perry, executive director of Children Screens: Institute of Digital Media and Child Development. Amelia Earhart said “a single act of kindness throws out roots in all directions, and the roots spring up and make new trees.” For many people, the modern world can feel dark, lonely, even dangerous. The media and online spaces can accentuate this perception, often fostering divisiveness and hostility. Yet it is in these spaces, in that darkness, that a little light, a little kindness, compassion, or caring can have a big impact. Today’s workshop will examine these traits, exploring how they develop across childhood and adolescence and how caregivers and educators can encourage prosocial behavior, both online and offline. And why the intentional cultivation of these traits in today’s youth is important for their future. Today’s expert panel is composed of leaders in the fields of positive psychology, character education, and youth media use, and they have prepared an informative workshop full of research evidence and practical advice. Now, without further ado, I would like to introduce you to today’s moderator, Dr. Stephen Post. Dr. Post is a professor of family, population and preventive medicine and the founding director of the Center for Medical Humanities, Compassionate Care and Bioethics at Stony Brook University. He has received countless awards and recognitions for his leadership, contributions to medicine, ethics and life sciences. His bestselling books include The Hidden Gifts of Helping and Why Good Things Happen to Good People with coauthor Jill Neimark. We are honored to have Dr. Post with us to lead today’s discussion. Welcome, Stephen.

[Dr. Stephen Post]: Thank you, Kris. It’s a wonderful thing to meet you, too. I’ve heard a lot about you. So, congratulations on your position. I don’t have a lot to say. I just want to make haste to get to our very illustrious panelists. But I do hope that we can begin this event really, not simply in what I would call a hyper cognitive modality, but in a little bit more of a reflective mode on the nature of kindness itself. And sometimes the best way to do that is to grab a few of one’s favorite quotes over the years. And I’m just going to read a couple of these and you can contemplate. From Charles Schulz: in a word, “in a world where you can be anything, be kind” directed to the kids. And we’ll hear about that from Tom Lickona. And everyone. The Buddha: “be kind to all creatures.” This one from a South American philosopher: “the language of kindness: appreciate rather than denigrate. Commend rather than offend. Propose rather than impose. Humanize rather than humiliate.” The great writer Aldous Huxley, before he died, was interviewed by a reporter from the New York, from the L.A. Times who asked him what message he wanted to leave to younger generations. And he said, and I quote, “it is a little embarrassing that after 45 years of research and study, the best advice I can give to people is to be a little kinder to each other.” And then going to Lao Tzu and Taoism: “water is the softest thing, yet it can penetrate mountains and earth. This shows clearly the principle of kindness, overcoming hardness.” And then the great Cambridge, Massachusetts poet, E Cummings. “We do not believe in ourselves until someone reveals that something deep inside us is valuable, worth listening to and sacred to our touch.” So in a world where there is certainly too much humiliation.
Kindness matters. Kind, caring, kind, helping activities are really powerful in people’s development and identity formation. And we’re going to be focusing on that now. And without further ado, I want to get started. I will quickly introduce Dr. Eva Telzer. Eva is an Associate Professor of psychology and neuroscience at UNC Chapel Hill. She’s an associate editor at Child Development and Social Cognitive Affective Neuroscience, a prominent journal, and the co-director of the Winston National Center on Technology Use, Brain and Psychological Development. So at this point, Eva, can we turn this over to you?

[Dr. Eva Telzer]: Great, thank you so much for that great introduction today to today’s topic. I’m going to share my screen. Alright, so I’m going to give just a quick overview on prosocial development in the digital age. So, adolescence is a time during which youth learn to contribute to society, whether that be to family, peers or their community. They engage in behaviors such as sharing and cooperating, helping others in need, volunteering, voting, engaging in activism, staying informed and raising awareness of different issues. And these behaviors tend to increase during the teenage years as youth are developing socioemotional skills, including perspective, taking in empathy. Prosocial behaviors like volunteering and helping others in need are associated with a lot of positive behavioral, emotional and academic outcomes. For example, children and adolescents who engage in higher levels of prosocial behavior, such as sharing and cooperating, tend to perform better in school. They tend to experience better emotional well-being and also report better mood and positive affect, a greater sense of belonging to their peers and teachers, and these outcomes tend to buffer teens against long-term maladjusted depressive symptoms and higher levels of stress. So prosocial development is really important during development for all of these really important developmental outcomes. Now, online platforms and digital media have created really, really unprecedented and new forms of prosocial behavior that have been unavailable offline. So these forms of online prosocial behavior are occurring in the context of youth’s developmental needs for social and emotional connection, belonging, identity and purpose. So digital platforms are really connecting teens and adolescents to each other in new ways that allow them to engage in new forms of prosocial behavior that were not available in their offline world. So, for example, social media facilitates information sharing beyond adolescents’ immediate daily lives. So access to information outside of their kind of school and neighborhood bubble provides them with a greater diversity of perspectives and an ability to engage in ways that might not be readily available in person. Adolescents are able to immediately follow up on the information they receive so they can forward, comment, follow, like different posts. They can follow a link to donate money, sign a petition, really in very quick amounts of time. So the distance between information and action is reduced. In addition, there’s social barriers such as physical access that are reduced so adolescents don’t need transportation, for example, to take action online. They can do it from their home, they can do it from their phone, from wherever they are. This can allow adolescents to reach large audiences. They can mobilize large networks. And this is especially important for teenagers that are in communities that are defined by risk, where they may not have access to or an ability to engage in these broader types of prosocial behaviors. And so teenagers can use digital tools to band together, to gain access to things like education, to counter negative stereotypes by producing and sharing media for advocating for themselves via local governance. And this also makes online prosocial engagement more equitable so that it can reach larger audiences of youth who do not have access to traditional forms of prosocial engagement. Finally, adolescents can express their civic identities and political stances in creative ways, using videos, creating memes, artwork, and taking agency in new ways that they couldn’t do in offline forms of prosocial and civic engagement. So they can really be creative in the ways that they engage in these types of behaviors. Now, these digital platforms provide individuals with access to finding others with similar views. So, for example, about 40% of individuals indicate that social media helps them find a platform for finding others with similar views and getting involved in issues that are important to them. And this is especially important for underrepresented groups, providing them a voice, giving them a platform to highlight issues that would otherwise not get attention. Now, online visibility means that prosocial behavior can reach wider audiences and youth can contribute to really powerful social movements in unprecedented ways. So there’s many examples that we’ve seen in recent news and different world events that facilitate and show us how social or show us how social media has facilitated information sharing beyond children’s immediate daily lives. So youth are increasingly aware of world events from younger ages because they’re exposed to this via these online platforms, and they can engage with and use social media to lead social activism in really extraordinary ways. So just a few really widespread examples, we see, we saw in 2018 when Greta Thunberg was just 15 years old, she started a movement–a strike against climate change. It started small. She started with some protests just outside of her school, but soon it went viral over social media, reaching millions and millions of people and prompting protests around the world. She now has over 4 million followers on Twitter, and she can spread information very quickly via her followers on the social media platform. She was elected by Time magazine as a Person of the Year in 2020. So she made a huge and powerful movement. We saw a very successful social media campaign led by teens in the March for Our Lives campaign, where they used social media to mobilize and spread information about gun violence and the impact that it has on adolescents and providing information on Twitter. So this is Emma Gonzalez, who has over a million followers, providing information for teens on voting access and the importance of engaging in different forms of political activism in order to make change for adolescents. We see really creative ways that adolescents are doing this too. So, for example, adolescents and teens under the age of 18, they can’t yet vote and are largely unable to participate in political activism. But social media has provided them new and unique ways to participate in political activism. So, for example, this is just an example of a TikTok video. I’m not going to play it here, but I’m happy to share a link for anybody interested where adolescent users of TikTok engaged in social activism by spreading the word over these TikTok videos to encourage each other to reserve thousands of tickets for a political rally. So they were trying to take a political stance over this TikTok activism. We also see examples of children and adolescents trying to make social movements against, for example, Seventeen magazine, where a 14 year old led a campaign against airbrushed images of women, and she ended up getting over 85,000 supporters on her campaign. And thousands of people responded on Twitter, Instagram and blogs asking women and girls magazines to stop photoshopping women’s bodies and this was a very successful campaign. Seventeen agreed to stop altering girls’ bodies. And so these are, I think, very extreme examples of adolescents’ political activism and prosocial behaviors that they engage in digital spaces. We also see kind of smaller scale examples of this where teens might post funny videos of different memes or cute videos of pets to make their friends smile or happy, to post positive posts on each other’s profiles, and other forms of kindness that we see on a much smaller scale. And of course, I don’t want to suggest that all of this is positive. There are some costs to use online pro-social behaviors. So the very thing that makes these online prosocial behavior successful so it can spread quickly through networks and be widespread, gives adolescents access to information at a very fast pace, is the very thing that can make it potentially negative. So it’s online and public, it’s highly visible and it’s also more permanent. And so prosocial behaviors online can come with backlash, including bullying or harassment, surveillance, increased public pressure. And so there are some negative things that can come with this online presence. And so just as an example, for individuals such as Black teens, using social media and being exposed to activism in the context of race-related issues can mean risking PTSD, anxiety and exposure to pretty extreme forms of discrimination or even backlash from politicians. So when Greta was making a lot of climate change in the social media world, at the time, President Donald Trump commented on social media. And so there are potentially some negative attention that individuals can get that can impact their wellbeing. So I’ll just end with a couple of potential things that parents can do to promote and encourage positive behaviors online. Many parents, educators, researchers themselves are concerned about the dangers of youth’s high levels of engagement online. There’s often times this divide between what parents know teens are doing online, what teens are doing online. But online social behaviors or online social media behaviors can also be leveraged for many positive behaviors and empowerment by providing a unique platform for youth to engage in prosocial behaviors. So what can parents do to support their teens? So first, it’s important to really change the focus, which has, I think, been portrayed a lot out there, that it’s not about total screen time or the amount of time that adolescents are engaging on these platforms. But what the quality of their behaviors are when they engage in digital spaces. So if we merely thought about screen time, as much prior research has focused on, we’ll miss many of the important ways that adolescents use social media and technology for lots of positive behaviors. So it’s not about the total time they’re spending online, but the quality of the behaviors that they’re engaging in. So rather than limiting total screen time, parents should focus more on what teens are doing in those digital spaces. Parents should have open discussions with their teens about what they see and do online, rather than restricting overall time on social media. And this means that there’s different ways of monitoring the way that adolescents engage in online behaviors. So research has shown that adolescents whose parents are actively monitoring their media by engaging in discussions about the different forms of social media that they’re participating and what they’re doing online, what they see, these types of discussions are associated with more prosocial behavior in adolescents, whereas youth with parents who restrictively monitor their social media. So, for example, cutting off time spent on social media and restricting it based on the time use and being restricted as opposed to having open dialogue, these adolescents engage in fewer helping behaviors. And so the ways that parents discuss and talk about adolescents’ online behaviors can translate into adolescents’ prosocial behaviors, both online and offline. So I’ll end there and thank you for being here and listening to us, and I look forward to having a discussion with everybody.

[Dr. Stephen Post]: Well, Eva, thank you very, very much. That was a wonderful presentation. We’re very grateful. There is a question which we have for you from one of our audience members, and it goes like this: If online behavior reflects offline realities, isn’t altruistic behavior something we have to teach in real time? Question mark. That’s a good question.

[Dr. Eva Telzer]: Yeah, that’s a great question. And the short answer is absolutely. The longer response is that the behaviors that adolescents engage in, in their everyday lives, translate and spill over into their behaviors in other forms. So a lot of the research my lab has done looks at prosocial and helping behaviors in the family context. So I think that this is particularly relevant for, again, what can parents do to encourage this, which is helping their adolescents or children engage in positive behaviors in the home, because those are going to translate and spill over into their behaviors in other contexts. So, for example, adolescents who help more, help their family more, on one day are more likely the next day to help their peers and friends. And so the behaviors that they’re engaging in in their home contexts spill over and affect the behaviors that they engage in with their friends. Those helping behaviors at home are also related to more positive academic experiences the next day. And so there’s a lot of these bidirectional effects where the behaviors that are socialized in the home context can really impact adolescents’ daily lives in other contexts, whether that be more positive behaviors with their friends, more positive behaviors in the school context. We haven’t empirically tested whether this spills over into their online behaviors, but just based on the this literature that I’m talking about, I imagine that adolescents who are encouraged, supported and socialized to engage in more positive helping behaviors in the home context, that’s going to translate into their off-their online behaviors as well. So in the moments, as it’s unfolding at home, parents can help their children to develop kindness. They can help their children to engage in helping behaviors. This isn’t to say that parents should have or force their children to engage in chores and helping. that the adolescent or child does not want to do, because it is really about finding meaning in those behaviors. So requiring your child to do chores, for example, is not the same thing as an adolescent developing the competence and meaningful, the meaning around why helping around the house is an important behavior, and so it’s really developing this character as opposed to foreseeing or requiring a behavior at home to occur and hoping that that will translate into other spaces.

[Dr. Stephen Post]: Thank you very much. You actually anticipated a question that’s been proposed: I often see a canyon between how children or teens act online versus real life. Parenthetically, (they’re meaner online). Why is this?

[Dr. Eva Telzer]: Yeah, I mean, online spaces for all of the positive ways that they provide opportunities for adolescents to express themselves, also have aspects to them that create opportunities, quite frankly, to be more aggressive and mean. So, for example, the anonymous nature of many platforms mean that that they can say things without necessarily being known that they said those things. The lack of immediate feedback, so if you say something mean to peers’ face in-person, you’re going to see them react and see the sadness or negative response that comes from that, whereas an online context you don’t get that immediate response and the kind of empathic responses that you may have in real time are not happening in in these online contexts. So there’s aspects to the online world that facilitate some more mean or negative behaviors because of just the very nature of the anonymous nature of it, the lack of face-to-face nature of it and just many other aspects to the online world that are different from the offline world.

[Dr. Stephen Post]: Well, Eva, that was a brilliant answer, and thank you very much. You know, I’m a Clevelander, and when I wanted to get a dose of kindness before there was a lot of online time, I used to go to Pittsburgh and spend an afternoon with Mr. Rogers, who was one of my buddies back there. And, you know, it’s such a different world and what you’re doing is very important because it’s the world we live in. And we certainly need to have good researchers figuring out how we can convey the quality of kindness, not just the action, but the quality of kindness in young people’s lives, because they will flourish when that happens, as you point out so well. So now we’re going to let you go and I’m going to just introduce Dr. Thomas Lickona. So Thomas Lickona is, in my view, a real treasure. He’s a developmental psychologist. He is a Professor Emeritus in the School of Education at SUNY Cortland. He founded and continues to direct the Center for the 4th and 5th Rs, in case you’re wondering, that refers to Respect and Responsibility. And he wrote a book which I keep on my shelf, and I give away about ten copies a year to different interested people because parents really want to know the practicalities: How do you raise a caring child in real time?

[Dr. Thomas Lickona]: Thanks for that very warm introduction and thanks Eva for that that stimulating presentation. It is giving me a lot to think about. I appreciate very much your research. And thanks for plugging, Mr. Rogers. My kids grew up on Mr. Rogers, and they are two wonderful movies. One is a documentary, and the other is a biopic that deal with Fred Rogers, and his impact on the culture. I recommend those to everybody. Well my talk is 10 minutes and has two parts. How can we foster kindness and respect and kindness and family life? And to do that, we need a concept of what good character is. We all know that famous quote from Martin Luther King Jr. I dream of the day that all Americans will be judged by the content of their character. And the content of good character is virtue, habits that are objectively good human qualities. We can make that claim because they’re good for the individual person and they’re good for the whole society. They now enable us to live and work in community. We can maintain that kindness is the heart of good character, of all the virtues that comprise good character. Love has been considered the wellspring of the others, and kindness is the very heart of love. But kindness doesn’t stand alone and needs a supporting cast of other essential virtues. And our center’s work has actually identified ten essential virtues that cut across cultures. These are the ten. I’ll reference some of them later on. And all of these contribute to kindness in everyday life. So a kindness needs a supporting cast. There’s good news, and that is that there’s growing evidence of morality in very young children. Including a capacity for kindness much sooner than child development experts once believed. There’s a wonderful story that Martin Hoffman tells in his chapter on empathy in a book I had the privilege to edit. And it’s a story about a child, Michael, only 15 months old. His friend Paul was visiting, and they got to struggling over a toy. Now Paul started to cry. Michael appeared concerned and let Paul have the toy. But Paul kept on crying. Michael then paused, appeared to be thinking, then gave Michael’s teddy bear, Michael’s own teddy bear to Paul in an attempt to comfort him. But Paul kept on crying. Michael paused again, went to the living room and got Paul’s security blanket, gave it to his friend Paul, who then stopped crying. Martin Hoffman comments, a child, not yet one and a half was able, with the help of corrective feedback, to assess and respond to another child’s needs that differed from his own. Michael’s response showed several components that help us understand what’s going on. Empathy is one the ability to enter into the experience of what somebody else is feeling, an empathic child, for example, feels distressed when another child is crying. Perspective-taking, which is an intellectual skill, the ability to understand what the other person is thinking, feeling and needs. And finally, kindness, which has two components, an attitude of caring about the other person’s happiness and taking action to try to to contribute. We could ask, how common is early kindness? There was a wonderful study done at the Max Planck Institute. An adult accidentally calls dropped something. And a one and a half year old was observing, what would that child do? And the research found that nearly all the toddlers help, usually within seconds, and these are some of the other findings. Impressive results at an early age. Now does this mean we’re naturally good, and the answer to that is clearly no. The capacity for both kindness and cruelty is present from an early age. Here’s a mom who speaks about what her autistic son is enduring. Children remind me of chickens seeking out the weak and wounded and pecking them to death. They torture her child in the playground in that way. And there’s a great deal of evidence about the global problem of bullying. One out of three students reports that experience, some experience that for years. Voices are viewed as different from their peers in some way and are chosen for fear persecution because of that difference. There are some sex differences in terms of when that peaks between boys and girls, but both sexes engaged in it. The impact of bullying is tremendous. We want our children to have some sense of this as well as parents. There was a major study done collaboratively by Duke and a UK University, and following up people in adulthood. Those who had experienced bullying, chronically, were much more likely as adults to seek therapy for depression, anxiety and so on. And in fact, the chronic effects of bullying were greater than those of parental abuse. So bullying is still a serious problem. What works to reduce it? A lot of programs don’t make a difference. Some do. Some even make it worse. There was an analysis done that identified those programs that were effective, that you could see the components of those. They change the norms regarding it from being okay to not cool. Increased supervision. Consequences for the behavior. Students becoming support for victims in the light and parent awareness. The most effective program, according to the global research, is the Olweus one. And that was just some of the data from that particular program that’s implemented in the US. There are other programs with supportive evidence as well. This is one usually singled out as the most effective. So what is our task as parents? Certainly to develop our own children’s capacity for kindness. Second, to curb their capacity for cruelty. Third, foster the courage to come to the aid of victims of injustice and unkindness. And finally, to encourage our schools to implement effective character ed. To raise kind and respectful children in the home. There are two fundamental tasks I think we have as parents. One is to help them build a strong personal character. This is the work of habit formation. And second, to build a strong family culture that brings out the best in all family members. Now, we don’t have to start from scratch with a blank slate. There’s good guidance we can get from available parenting research. Here’s a meta analysis of 76 studies carried out by Marvin Berkowitz and his colleague John Grych, looking at studies in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. And they identified eight different character outcomes that fell within their broad definition of moral character. You see those on the screen ranging from empathy to self-control. They identified five super practices that they call the fabulous five. Parenting practices that related to at least two, often more of those eight positive character outcomes. And those were setting high expectations, helping kids to meet them. That was how authority was used, nurturance, how love was expressed, modeling, acting in the ways you want children to imitate, reasoning, helping kids understand how their behavior affects others. And empowerment, giving children voice and responsibility in family life. Now, the fabulous five, identified by Berkeley and Grych, align with other parenting research. Notably the work of Diana Baumrind identified three styles of parenting. Authoritarian high on authority but low on love. Permissive, high on love but low on the exercise of authority. And authoritative, which integrates authority and love in a balanced way. Authoritative parenting is characterized by the qualities you see listed there. Some were surprises. One, for example, at the parent values both obedience to adult requirements and independence in the child. The parent gives children voice, but reserves the right to final decision. So there’s a balance of authority and love. And research by Baumrind and that of other investigators have found that at all developmental levels early childhood, middle childhood, adolescence. The most confident, capable and morally responsible kids have authoritative parents. Now, the fabulous five and authoritative parenting give us a conceptual framework for thinking about parenting based on good evidence. But they don’t give us really specific concrete practices that show the art of parenting in a full family life. They all, for example, explain how to create a family culture character that capitalizes on the positive power of the group. So how does one create that sort of intentional family culture? There are two kinds of strategies that I’ll illustrate. There are small steps we can do tomorrow. There are bigger steps that require more time and commitment to sustain, including some things that don’t come naturally to parents. So small steps, first. We can teach why kindness matters. We make other people happy, when we treat them kindly, and we are happiest ourselves when we do so. We’re really hardwired to be happier, and we’re healthier when we do good. Steven’s research has provided abundant evidence of this connection. We can use the language of kindness and respect in natural ways. Would you be kind enough to help your sister pick up the living room? That was a kind thing to do. Thank you for your kindness. Language matters. It conveys family values. When kids aren’t kind, we can ask them to do a redo. For example, could you say that in a more respectful way? What would be a kinder way to say that your little sister? And we want to make it clear that we as adults are also striving to be better. Everybody’s character. Yours and mine is a work in progress. We can start a meal with sharing about kindness. What some kind or helpful you did for somebody today? Something kind someone did for you? What’s a kind act you observed? What is something you’re grateful for? Our younger son is that we often start with a round of gratefuls. Gratitude is an act of kindness. Ingratitude is a form of unkindness. Here’s one family tradition where they put their appreciation of their children’s developing character and talents and so on in writing. And that goes in a letter under the Christmas tree, a powerful ritual that means a great deal to the children in that family. We want to increase our one on one time, which is especially powerful, in building our bond and influence with our children. Here’s a busy school superintendent who reserves a Saturday afternoon for each of his four kids. Christian Barnard tells a wonderful story about his own father. I remember on Sunday afternoons we’d walk to the top of the hill with a damn, sinner and a rock and look down on the town below us. And then I would tell my problems to my father. He would speak of his to me. Meaningful one on one time, as I said, increases our influence in a world of competing influences. We want to love and respect our children as individuals. Help them to develop their interests and talents, in a way it gives a sense of being an individual person. I have a friend who does therapy with families. She tells a story, for example, about Molly, who’d always been a polite and obedient child, got good grades, played soccer for her dad’s team and so on. And when she turned 15, she started running in the fast crowd, skipping school doing drugs and having sex. And in therapy she screamed at her father. I always did everything for you, I never did anything I wanted to do. So we want children to develop as individuals and to respect that individuality, help them develop their own sense of identity. Bigger steps involved, we want to protect daily time to talk and reconnect in our relationship with the other parent. Keep the love growing, get on the same page regarding our values and basic expectations. Don’t undercut the other parent in front of the child. A very important thing to remember. When we have conflicts and arguments, there needs to be ways of making up and moving on. Research shows healthy families have rituals that do that. If you’re a single parent, find another buddy parent, share experiences, give each other support. That’s a very, very important support system. The research on people who rescued Jews in the Holocaust has some instructive things for our own parenting. Compared to non rescuers, rescuers are much more likely to say their parents both modeled and directly taught moral values. One woman said, My mother always said, do some good for someone. At least once a day. So the counselor here is to practice what you preach and preach what you practice. Discipline varied depending upon whether you rescuer or non-rescuer their parents as occasionally or only occasionally punish you much more often. Rescuers explained things, helped them take perspective. They taught appreciation of other cultures and religions. One man said, My father taught us to love God, a neighbor regardless of race or religion. And the of concluded that rescuers parents fostered an extensive orientation and attitude of caring that went beyond their immediate circle. Some families have had a very and will sit down and make a mission statement, asking the question what kind of family do we want to be? Identifying the qualities that they are willing to aspire to and write those out in a set of we statements. Here’s a family with four kids that has done that and they find this to be very helpful as a reference point in building a family culture in their own home. The dad says that the greatest benefit we think will be long term when there are bigger problems of the teens or not starting with a blank slate. It gives you a sense of shared purpose and identity. This is how we live. This is who we are. And then there’s a need to follow through, obviously. The mission statement is a big step forward, but follow ups, family chats, discussions to solve everyday problems, whether it’s bedtime battles, getting the kids off to school in the morning, screen policies or hassles about chores. This gets children a voice, enables them to to contribute to solutions everybody signs the agreement. And then you do a follow up a couple of days later or a week later. How are things better? And here’s an actual story of two young children where they implemented the failing media approach and with good results. And the mom said things are a lot better. There have been a lot of yelling and scolding but the family meeting made a big difference. Children are taking on an authentic responsibility here. They’re really becoming co-creators of the happy family. And what about when kids are not kind? I recommend what I call character based discipline. Insisting on kindness and respect and offering interactions just
And then if anyone violates that norm, what’s a fair consequence for speaking disrespectful? Kids get a reminder, but there has to be a consequence, and they can have a voice in that as well. Parents should model this when they have arguments. They should show that they’re able to make up and move on. They also how they talk about people outside the family. That sets an example as well. When we correct hurtful actions, we need to do so with clarity and also feeling. Here’s a research study that looked at how kids respond to somebody crying in the playground. Some just watched. Others were indifferent. Some were altruistic responders. And the mothers of the kids who are altruistic responders actually use the combination of clear teaching and addition with feeling. One little girl had pulled another child’s hair in the mom’s direction was, you hurt Amy. More to the effect, pulling hair hurts. Never pull hair. By contrast, mothers whose kids did not respond compassionately reacted more casually when their own child did something hurtful. That’s not very nice. Don’t do that. So the mother’s response was bloodless. So they to teach right or wrong, clearly, but with feeling like is that no, that a hurtful action is wrong, but also to feel that it’s wrong. Rather than also to be able to make amends. Correction shouldn’t end with kids feeling bad. The next question is what can you do to make up for it? There are all kinds of options, but it is really important that kids learn to do something positive, to set things right. And that should include the opportunity for empathy and kindness as well. Real responsibilities are either brought up chores. I agree that kids should have a voice, but they certainly should have family responsibilities. Otherwise, we find ourselves raising entitled kids like the boy who said, why should I mow the lawn? It’s not my lawn. And there’s research showing that kids who have meaningful jobs in the family have a greater concern for people beyond the family. Here’s a great website of a mother in Canada with ten kids, and she’s got a Saturday morning system for George, I think it has lots of good tips. And then kids need to learn in family life how to solve conflicts. When I’ve done marriage or family counseling, so many people who have never had any sort of experience that helps them acquire the skills of solving conflicts in a way that’s peaceful and meets mutual needs. There can be a talk about space in family life. A script that kids follow. They’ll need practice learning those steps, and we’ll have to patiently coach them through, remembering what we do when we teach a sport skill. For example, all of the kids need tons of practice learning how to bat a ball or serve a tennis ball. And it requires practice, practice, practice, demonstrating the skill, corrective feedback. It’s the same with character skills, lots of coaching, lots of practice. And finally, supervision matters a lot. The research shows that building a better team, that the most responsible kids, the ones least likely to engage risky behaviors, have parents who know where their kids are and what they’re doing. Finally, if you have a religious faith, share it with your children. The research shows there are positive prosocial outcomes of of practicing faith and taking it seriously. One of the ways is to help kids choose friends who are not engaged in harmful or anti-social behaviors. There’s good news that a lot of parents now feel that their kids are on screens too much and they are beginning to monitor that more closely. It’s even pointed out the way we approach this matters a lot. There’s an organization, American College of Pediatricians, that has lots of specific screen policies that I think can give parents useful guidance out of the gate. I recommend their website, there’s there’s an elaborate paper that spells these out in some detail. And there are practical help for parents that give them more control over what comes in, what kids have access to. We know the Internet is a source of lots of positives, but also many negatives. These are some of the screen resources I found helpful. We need a plan. Many families don’t have a family media plan. This is another chance they have children involved collaboratively in discussing this. Sitting down and asking, what is consistent, what we really value as a family, let’s come up with something that works. And to explain why you’re doing this. You’re not trying to rain on kids parade, it is not because you want to spoil their fun but it is because you you care about them. It’s the same rationale for any limits that we set in our children’s upbringing. Supervision can take different forms. It’s helpful to write down the rules. Kids pledge the follow them and have the computer in a public space, ideally. Let kids know you’ll be monitoring their activity and and let your friends know we’re doing that together. That can inhibit negative things that might otherwise happen. Teach them the golden rule applies online just as in real life and teach what the golden rule is in different religions and culture. I think it’s potentially powerful to pose this in a family. What are all the forums that this takes worldwide? Other things to teach, on the Internet, has some special challenges and dangers. You can’t take things back. It’s out there forever. They can have an impact you could possibly imagine. And also, it’s hard to convey tone through Internet messages, through text or or whatever. And when you take care to choose words that convey courtesy and warmth. Challenges are multiple that are posed by screens. They disrupt a number of things, including sleep, that could create a lot of interpersonal behavior problems. Video games can show up at attention difficulties. I recommend the work of Victoria Dunckley M.D., whose published a book that’s been useful to me. Reset Your Child’s Brain. She saw tons of parents who were having kids with meltdowns and all kinds of behavior problems, even if they got enough sleep. She started a course, Save Your Child’s Brain. She got emails from people around the world who tried her electronic fast and reported truly amazing results. Even in a short period of time. Kids would battle the thing at first and then begin to sleep better, behave better, listen better, show better manners, or greater empathy in life. And and then you can begin to restore normal screen time slowly and to observe your children’s reactions. One mother gives a testimony of the sort, both of her young children showed dramatic improvements from this electronic. So we need to help our kids maintain a healthy brain. This research is important to point to this or that. Now, there’s also a lot of research on what screens may promote, that’s probably problematic. That’s toxic. High levels of exposure to violence can increase aggression. High levels of exposure to sexual contact can stimulate the wrong kind of activity in that realm. Cyber bullying is something we just discussed….

[Dr. Stephan Post]: just one minute

[Dr. Thomas Lickona]: And there’s a lot of this out there. Our kids need to know what the impact is on kids who are experiencing either kind of bullying in school or cyber. It can have a tremendously painful impact. We can share real life stories. Here’s a young woman, and her story was told on the front page of the New York Times. A gang of girls gang began to persecute her. She ended up jumping from a tower and taking her life. Two of the girls were charged with malicious harassment, one apologized, one did not. Here’s the child who committed suicide. We want to teach our kids to be peer allies. The research shows that those kids who step up and provide emotional support attenuate the negative effects of bullying. There are stories of compassion and courage. More than 1300, on this wonderful website. People stuck out their necks for other people. Kids need to know the dangers of anxiety and depression from too much screen time. And to get out in the real world, doing service, perhaps with a parent. Conversation matters. The Harvard Family Dinner Project makes available wonderful conversation starters for families to use. And there’s the repetition on that slide. Pornography is a new danger. The book I recommend, I’ll just fast forward to it. A lot of research on the horrible stuff that Internet porn shows and the impact on teens as well as on children is well documented, now. A global research analysis. Families can make use of a small book that I recommended to families where parents were able to discuss this and they are given a strategy if somebody shows pornography. A can do a can do strategy. There’s a wonderful website that can also be of great use. And here’s something that’s very good for middle schoolers and high school kids, initially developed by college students. Books are another great source. So are so are wonderful films. There’s a couple of great articles. Picture books can be a wonderful thing to start at an early age. This is a wonderful resource on helping to correct bad habits. I know this is something that my grandchildren and I have enjoyed watching together. Charlie, a little British series where Charlie is wonderfully kind of a younger sister. And there are all kinds of wonderful movies that give us powerful examples of kindness, courage, respect and so on. And don’t just watch a good movie, talk about it. Okay, there you have it.

[Dr. Stephan Post]: Okay. Thank you very, very much. You know, your whole life has been devoted to this topic, really for 40 years, and it would be impossible to really give you all the credit that, in my view, you deserve. But I followed your work for many, many decades, and I really am grateful for what you have contributed to our culture. And your stuff is so practical. You know, if you’re a parent and you want a really useful tip, well, you know, get that value statement on the refrigerator. You know, it’s just so awesome. So now I’m actually going to, going to going to just move forward to our next speaker because that went well a little longer.

[Dr. Thomas Lickona]: Okay. Very best.

[Dr. Stephan Post]: If we if we do that. But thank you very, very much. That was just terrific. So our next presenter is Rick Weissbourd, and he is a senior lecturer on education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and also at the Kennedy School of Government. He is the faculty co-director of the Human Development and Psychology M.A. Program. He also directs the Making Caring Common Project, which is one that I’ve been following over the last four or five years and is the author of many books, including The Parents We Mean to Be: Well-intentioned Adults Undermine Children’s Moral and Emotional Development. So there is such a thing as unwise parenting, but well-intentioned. So can we just turn this over now to Rick, please?

[Dr. Rick Weissbourd]: Thank you, Steven. It’s a pleasure to be here. And I really want to talk about two things. I want to talk about the cultural signals that we send to kids about what’s important or what’s valuable. And like Tom, I also want to talk about things that parents can do and families can do to raise kids who are not only kind, but kids who are justice minded, who care about people who are different from them, who care about the common good. But let me start with the cultural signals and what I think of is the problem, and it is the degree to which we have elevated these aspects of success, achievement and happiness as the primary goals of child raising and demoted or marginalized concern for other people and concern for the common good. And over the last five or six years, we have probably surveyed 50,000 high school students, very diverse in terms of race, culture and class. And we have asked them a simple question. I’m going to abbreviate a lot of research, but basically the question is, what’s most important to you, being happy, achieving in a high level or caring for other people? We’ve also asked them to imagine, how do you think your parents would rank these things for you? Is it more important to your parents that you’re happy, that you’re high achieving or that you’re kind or that you’re caring for other people? In a nutshell, about 80% of students rank some aspect of their success, achievement or happiness as more important than caring for other people. When we ask them how they imagine their parents would rank these values, they are even more likely to think that their parents would prioritize achievement and happiness than they they themselves prioritize achievement and happiness. They also thought their parents would be three times more proud of them if they got good grades in school than if they were caring community members in class or school. And I want you to pause and think about this for a minute, because I think the degree to which we have elevated these aspects of success and subordinated or sidelined, caring for other people, caring for the common good may be unprecedented in our history. And if you are concerned, as I am, about the hyper polarization we have in this country, the fragmentation we have in this country, the demonization that we have in this country, the hostility that we routinely see in our public interactions and many of our private interactions, the hyper individualism we see in our country. You know, there are days where I feel like we are falling apart at the seams. And I think one big reason for this, and this is a puzzle with many pieces, is that we have not prioritized caring for other people and we have not prioritized caring for the common good in child raising in ways that we did at other times in our history, in ways we did in schools, in ways we did in our families, in ways we did in our religious institutions. All of these things are things we can discuss. They’re big topics. Let me just turn just in the interest of time to things that I think we as a family, we as families can do to raise kids who are a caring and justice minded. And much of this does overlap with things that Tom has said, but I really want to underscore the importance of making it a priority. And there are times where, you know, happiness, your own happiness and other people’s happiness collide your own interests and other people’s interests collide. And we really need to teach kids to balance their own interests and other people’s interests. That means that they have to reach out to a friendless kid on the playground, even though they may not want to do that. They need to pass the ball in a game, even though they may want to shoot. They need to help kids on a test, even though it’s graded on a curve. They can’t be rude to us and they can’t be rude to other people. These are ways in which the day to day and the waterways in which we make caring for other people a priority. Rather than saying to kids, the most important thing is that you’re happy, what if we said to them, the most important thing is that you’re kind? It was either Henry or William James. I can’t remember. Who said there are three things that are important in life. The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. And the third is to be kind. I also agree with with Tom that the practice really matters. I’m a great believer in chores. One of the ways in which you develop a moral identity is by practicing acts of altruism and kindness and integrity and trust. That’s how they become, these actions become part of who you are, a part of your system. And that families created an identity of around kindness and concern for others. When it’s practice day to day, when they when kids do pitch around the house, when they do chores, when they help in the community, when they do service, when this is the day these are the day to day activities of family life. This is what we do in this family. I know when my kids were young, there was sometimes clear to clear a dish or they would put a fork and a knife on and on the on on the table and they would say, Dad, I cleared the dish. And, you know, I think one of the things that we don’t want to do is praise kids for simple acts for those kinds of actions. You don’t get a trophy. You don’t you’re not Cinderella. Because you put a dish on the table. This is what we do as a family. This is our family identity. We pitch in, we help out people. We are also democratic. And I think Tom is absolutely right about this, that you want kids to have input and key decisions. You want them and that’s a practice as well. You want them to participate in family life and to feel like they have input in decisions that affect them. And particularly decisions that affect. And that’s how they develop a sense of justice and that’s how they become aware of other people’s perspectives and learn how to coordinate their own perspective with other people’s perspectives. I also think that we need to expand kids circle of concern. And here’s what I mean by this: often when you talk about caring, we talk about is like a quantity. You have a lot of it or a little bit. When we talk about empathy, we often talk about as having a lot or a little, but almost everybody cares for somebody. Almost everybody has empathy for somebody. The much bigger issue or another big issue in my mind is who do we care for? Do we care for people who are different from us in race or class or gender or sexual orientation or gender orientation or political orientation or religious orientation? Do we care for people who are different from us? Do we care for people? Do we help kids and guide kids in caring for people who may fall off their screen? Do we help them care for the bus driver, for the server in the restaurant, for a custodian in their school building? For the school secretary? Do we put these people on our kids screen? And I emphasize caring across difference, because it’s important in itself, but also because I think it’s the foundation of justice. That when you can understand value, take the perspectives of the multiple diverse people in your communities, you can represent their interests in decisions around fairness and justice. If you can’t appreciate people who are different from you, you can’t represent those interests in the same way. I agree with what Tom and Christian, I think, both said about modeling. We have to model caring for other people, caring for people who are different from us. We have to model pursuing justice. We have to model grappling with ethical dilemmas, times when values collide. These things are very important for us, for our kids to see us doing. That ethical, the leading an ethical life is work. It is struggle. It is grappling. It can be exciting work. It can be invigorating work. But there are times where loyalty and justice collide. For example, should you be honest with your teacher if a friend of yours feels a pen from another kid in the class when you know that that teacher might get that kid into a lot of trouble and that kid is having already having a very hard time at home. These are not simple. These questions don’t have simple answers. Should you invite someone to a birthday party who has been mean to your best friend and your best friend doesn’t want that person to come. Kids should see us wrestling with these kinds of questions and taking multiple perspectives and talking about principles of fairness and how to realize those principles. Let me just say that I don’t think the expectation is that we should be perfect role models. We should be living, breathing imperfect human beings, people who make mistakes. And a lot of the learning that I think our kids around ethical issues, especially a lot of the learning that I think our kids will gather from us, is if we are self-aware, self observing, stringent about our own mistakes and able to talk to them about our mistakes in ways that they understand and that makes sense to them. Let me make a case for just one other practice in family. One other form, a principle that I think is very important and that’s helping kids manage destructive feelings. I you know, the research seems to show pretty convincingly that by the time kids are five or six years old, they basically know the values. They know that honesty is important or that adults think honesty is important. That caring is important, that fairness is important. The much bigger issue is two things. One is how do those values become part of your identity? How do you internalize those values? For John Lewis, who walked across the Edmund Pettus Bridge or Martin Luther King or Gandhi, they don’t talk about these actions as a choice. Tom mentioned the Owner studies on the people. In the Owner studies, the Dutch you rescue, the Jews don’t talk about choice. They talk about as part of your identity, it’s fundamentally who they are. But the other thing that that gets in the way is that is our feelings. Emotions are the engines of our moral life. That’s shame, envy, jealousy, frustration, fear, anger can all cause us to violate other people. Usually when we transgress it’s not because we didn’t know right from wrong. It’s because we were flooded, swamped, overwhelmed with a feeling we couldn’t control. I still play pick up basketball, and I was playing pickup basketball the other day and somebody said, Who’s covering the old guy? And I’m looking around like, Well, who who are you talking about? And my team said, Well, Rick, of course they’re talking about you. But now I’m riled up. Now it’s more like we are all I’m not defending this. This was not my proudest moment. But we are all vulnerable to feelings of embarrassment or shame or anger, anger, envy. And it’s vital that we help kids to manage these feelings and I want to make a distinction between guilt and shame. And I worry especially about shame because I think shame is the cause. And Jim Gilligan’s work, other people’s work, that shame is so often the cause of violence, it is so often the cause of bullying, of delinquency, of behavior problems of many kinds. You know, guilt is when you violate one of your principles. Guilt is a deed. It’s an action. And the good news about guilt is that it typically insists on and reveals a path to repair itself. You can make amends. You can apologize. Shame is the public exposure of defects in the self. And I think in our social media life, we are especially vulnerable to the public exposure of defects in the self. And so that we really need to talk to kids about both how to avoid situations that flood with them with shame, but also strategies for managing shame. I want to stop there. I would love, I hope there’s still time for questions, but I just want to give you one take away. And that takeaway is if I were to focus on one thing, it would be appreciating across helping your kids appreciate across difference. Because I think it’s so important to self and because I think it’s such a critical foundation for justice. Thank you.

[Dr. Stephan Post]: Yeah. Rick, thank you very much for giving that emphasis to the extensively to getting away from myopia and having a sense of a shared humanity, that’s so important. And a lot of times when we talk about kindness, you know, it’s dyadic, it’s purely familial, and there are strong in-group outgroup barriers. But I think you’re so correct in that. And I think you would agree it’s better to be always kind than always right. That’s what I tell my medical students. We have a question for you, which is a good one, and I think you’ll you’ll enjoy it. Does kindness look different in teenagers or is meanness developmentally adaptive for this age?

[Dr. Richard Weissbourd]: So, you know. I would say it’s important to sort of complicate the view of teenagers. I think there’s this view of teenagers that they’re inherently selfish, that they kind of spin out of our orbit as parents, and they become these egotistical human beings. They become these sort of aliens for this period of time. And then if we’re lucky, they’ll return back to our orbit and they’ll be good people. And you know what? I think what you see among teenagers and, you know, people like Erick Erickson pointed this out a long time ago, is they can be deeply loyal, deeply generous, deeply committed to causes of different kinds. They can also be very selfish in some ways. They can be all of those things. I mean, they are, they are complicated people, and they can vacillate from moment to moment from being kind to being selfish. You know, there are forms of sarcasm and banter among teams that may appear disrespectful that I think can be quite intimate sometimes. There are other forms of sarcasm and banter and answer the question of how it looks. Sometimes adults misunderstand forms of banter and sarcasm as cruelty but I also think there are forms of sarcasm and banter that can be cruel. So, you know, I think it’s really important to ask, you know, that teens are often talking in ways, to be an investigator as an adult, that are hard for adults to understand. And it’s important to ask what is meant. And it’s important to ask people who have been subjected to a comment that seems mean–how it made them feel. I think as adults, we need to be sort of more literate about the teen world. There’s a high wall that separates, in many communities, the world of teenagers and the world of adults. And we have a lot of teenagers in our research in our work who don’t have any connections to school adults or community adults. And that’s a very dangerous situation to be in and I think it is one reason mental health problems are so high in my teens. So I’m giving you a long answer to the question. Stephen, sorry about that. But the answer is that I do feel like as adults, we need to bridge this gap to the teen world and be more available and more willing to listen

[Dr. Stephen Post]: Okay. Well, it’s nothing like attentive listening for a teenager. I’ll tell ya, we all know that. So we’re going to open this up. We’re going to throw it into a community dialogue. We have a very interesting community here. And these questions can be directed at Tom or at Rick. We don’t have Eva with us at this point, so let’s just start it off. There’s one thing already on the, okay, there’s one thing already on the chat. Do you feel it is the responsibility of the education system to integrate character education in the schools and how can you motivate teachers to buy in? And another thing here is, can we apply these same practical strategies–I guess this particularly might go to Tom’s comments–all cultures or just character education look different for people from different backgrounds? Two good things. So where does the school system fit in? And also, what about the cross-cultural dynamics of character education? Who would like to take a, try that?

[Dr. Thomas Lickona]: Well, Rick is very humble to toss the ball my way. His Making Caring Common project at Harvard, of course, is doing a lot to create cultures of character, cultures of justice and caring in our schools. I think that there has been, for three decades now, a national character education/social emotional learning movement in the country, which is a revival and renewal and expansion of something that was once more a part of schools before a focus on test scores took over. And it has overwhelming support from parents, overall support from teachers. What it requires is good school leadership that makes time for thoughtful planning, for doing it in ways that are deep and sustainable and transformative, instead of ways that are cosmetic and window dressing and don’t really change school culture or change the character of the people who inhabit it. So character education has a lot of support. It can be done well. It can be done superficially. And I think getting people on board professionally, you know, exactly is a matter of giving them the time they need to talk with each other. The time they need to reflect on what they’re doing is what’s working, what isn’t, what needs improvement. You know, that sort of reflective time is absolutely crucial for quality academic teaching. Learning is necessary for doing a good job and developing character. But there’s good news in that more and more schools have acknowledged the necessity of this, and really, it doesn’t come down to anything foreign. The dual mission of all schools is helping us do their best work and to help them become their best selves in relationships, to work well, to respect others. And so it’s really all about school improvement in those two fundamental senses. What was the other piece of the question? Character who was one piece.

[Dr. Stephen Post]: The other one was the cross-cultural question and was relevant to a lot of the practical suggestions that you’ve laid out so.

[Dr. Thomas Lickona]: That’s a good question because I think we can learn a lot from cross-cultural differences. I think that many of these processes are rooted in human nature, for example, kindness. You know, we’re happier, more fulfilled, we treat each other kindly than we are if we treat them cruelly and disrespectfully. I think there is such a thing as human nature. There are clearly different ways that all this plays out there. As a book, for example, I recently came across about German parenting, which gives kids much more independence at an earlier age. There’s much less helicopter parenting. There’s another book called French Kids Don’t Throw Food, which indicates you could take your French three-year-old to a fine restaurant, and for 2 hours, they’ll be well-behaved. So these are very good for wondering, you know, are we setting the bar too low in many ways in our own culture with whether it’s overprotected kids, whether it’s not expecting enough behavior of a responsible sort, whether it’s not giving them sufficient independence to allow them to grow. So there are real cultural differences I think we can learn from. But I also think some of these things are bedrock human nature stuff.

[Dr. Stephen Post]: And Rick, can you respond to these questions?

[Dr. Richard Weissbourd]: Yeah, I’d be delighted to. You know, I agree with Tom. I mean, in terms of schools, I don’t think schools have a choice. I think schools are always affecting character. We are always affecting character interactions with kids. Teachers are always making decisions about fairness. They are also displaying kindness or not displaying kindness, and they’re acting with integrity and honesty or they’re not. The question is, are we going to do those things intentionally and are we going to do those things well? And, you know, Tom has been in this field for many, many years. He’s absolutely right that there are a mountain of literature at this point about practices and principles that work in schools. I think there’s an implementation issue, and Tom sort of alluded to it, which is people, principals who are deeply committed to this work and want to do it in comprehensive ways and can get their faculties and their staff on board can make lots of progress. Making Caring Common is in a somewhat different space because we don’t, you know, we’re just concerned about those schools, as well, that don’t have principals who have this deep commitment and don’t have the faculty or the staff who share the commitment and want to lead this work. And so, you know, our strategy is, and this is a strategic decision, it’s much more to go to principals, but also go to teachers themselves and to give them practices and resources that are low burden, that are engaging, that are energizing, that they can use in their classrooms that build empathy and gratitude and better understanding of justice. And the idea is that if you give them those strategies, they will become, when they work, they will become a catalyst. And many more of those schools will be motivated to do a deeper and more comprehensive work. So it’s a strategic decision. And people, good people, disagree about this. In terms of the second question, I think culture matters a lot. And I agree with Tom about this. And partly, you know, the values are expressed different ways in different cultures. Parents have different notions about values, how values develop in different cultures. The challenges to developing certain values are different in different cultures. Just to give you one example, you know, when I’m speaking or doing work in white privileged communities, I talk to parents a lot about entitlement and the importance of understanding privilege and entitlement and kids having empathy for people who don’t have the resources that they do, the privileges that they do. That’s a very important starting point for moral development I think in affluent communities. That is not where I would start when I’m speaking in low-Income communities and you know, for low income kids, you know, a lot of it is dealing with a history of being marginalized and not having opportunity and being invisible. And, you know, a lot of it is how do you resist in ways that are healthy, given those circumstances. It’s a very different question. It’s a very different moral trajectory. So I think, you know, this is just one example. I just think many of the principles of moral guidance are the same across culture, but the starting points are different, the pathways are different. And that we really need to be attuned to these cultural differences.

[Dr. Stephen Post]: So I’m looking at time now. It’s 1:25, and we really just have 3 or 4 minutes left. And I think what I’m going to do is take the liberty of just a quick wrap up, and then we will turn things over to Kris, who will bring a conclusion to our activities. You know, we have a school across the street here in Stony Brook.

It’s a prep school and it has a very nice motto, which you read boldly from the street. It says: character before career. So it’s got real material content. On the other hand, we have a beloved university, and its motto is: Far Beyond. Beyond what? I have no idea. But I think you’re so correct that we need to create cultures in our institutions. And, you know, you both mentioned Sam Oliner who unfortunately passed away just a year ago. He was really, in a lot of ways, the great pioneer going back to Germany and interviewing all those rescuers. And he himself was rescued. So I want to just pause and give him a little shout out wherever he might be. And then, you know, lastly, I would just say that leadership, school leadership, college leadership, was always focused on moral qualities, on character. I’m not sure that’s the case now, but things have changed and we can move back in that direction. So this is beautiful. And how in the end: The Matrix, the World of Screens. Screenagers is a great video, by the way, the person who did that remarkable documentary was on our faculty in the center, Delaney Rustin, when she was doing that, she was our documentary filmmaker in residence for a number of time, of years. She’s going back to Seattle, but Screenagersis a really gripping, dramatic investigation in real live time of how deeply divisive things can get when parents try to control screen time. So I think, you know, that’s a big issue and something that everyone addressed. And hopefully we’ll learn better and better techniques. So without any further ado, just to thank everybody. But Kris, why don’t you conclude us and we’ll leave it to you.

[Kris Perry]: Thank you, Steven. Thank you, Eva, Thomas and Richard for sharing your knowledge and advice around the lessons that kids really need. Thank you to our attendees, as well, for taking the time today to join us. The “Ask the Experts” webinar series will take a brief two month hiatus for the summer. Webinars will resume in August when we will discuss education, technology, and digital learning just in time for the Back-To-School season. In the meantime, you can visit our website at or check out all of our previous “Ask the Experts” Webinars on Children and Screens YouTube Channel. You can also follow us on the platforms listed here to stay up to date on the Institute’s latest programs and the latest news in the field of digital media and child development. Until next time, we hope you all have a great summer. And remember, be kind.