How Students Can Use Technology to Create Empathy


Technology, which has often been shown to drain empathy from young people, can also be used to facilitate it.

Quite frankly, bullying is up because empathy is down. My research tells me that heavy screen time—technology—is playing a role. As screen time goes up, empathy goes down. Too much information leads to too little emotion. We have a perfect storm of elements that’s hindering this virtue.

Today, I want to share an encouraging story of a high school student who is actually using the very technology that diminishes empathy to cultivate it. This student uses the technology that cyber-bullies use to victimize kids to do just the opposite. It’s simple. Anyone can do it.

Jeremiah Anthony, a high school student in Iowa City, and his friends are crushing cyber-bullies with kindness. And their classmates are reaping the benefits. Anthony created a Twitter account to encourage and compliment his fellow West High School students after hearing about how cyber-bullies were hiding behind social media to do their dirty deeds. I love this paradox. He said, “You shouldn’t be such a coward that you have to hide behind a screen to say bad things to people.”

Catch just a few of his tweets:

@zacknullmeyer You are the man, one of the best runners West has right now. You have more work ethic that just about anyone.

@alexandra_dobre Very creative and wise. You’re an outstanding musician, with your guitar and your voice. Keep being lovely and caring for all.

@evpurk  Your encouraging personality and generosity towards others makes you very likeable. You’re quite the intelligent kid, keep it up.

At first, the idea seems a little cheesy. But tell me what kid wouldn’t want to get a tweet directed to him or her—and broadcast to all who might be following? Jeremiah and his buddies use the handle @WestHighBros. They have sent out more than 3,000 tweets…and it seems to be catching on.

What I love about this simple idea is that it takes the very tool that often reduces empathy and compassion for others—and actually builds it. Remember, anything can be viral, good or bad. Destructive or constructive.

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