In June, the BBC reported that Elon Musk had challenged Mark Zuckerberg to a cage fight. It brings up an important point – what lessons are we really teaching children when influential figures “joke” about violence or exchange public verbal attacks?

Two months later, this supposed cage fight challenge still appears unresolved, as the public feud between the tech moguls rages on. While this story may be a stunt, and the recent comments from Zuckerberg that Musk takes himself too seriously suggest this will not escalate to an actual brawl, the ongoing rivalry seems very real. And should these verbal jabs continue in the public eye, they risk setting poor examples for conflict resolution. 

Children look to prominent figures’ actions to model behavior and determine norms. If leading tech innovators are seen settling scores through fisticuffs or heated social media exchanges, why wouldn’t youth follow suit? Adults likely understand this “fight” may never occur, but subtler examples of aggressive language from celebrities can still leave impressions on young, malleable minds. The apparent acceptance or promotion of confrontation runs counter to ideals of constructive conflict resolution.

Parents, educators, and other role models have a responsibility to reinforce peaceful problem-solving in age-appropriate ways. When public figures model respectful disagreement and nonviolent negotiation, they set a tremendously positive example. There are always openings to have thoughtful discussions with children about expressing emotions, standing up to bullying, and resolving differences calmly. 

Influential figures should condemn violence and aggressive rhetoric unambiguously. They should exemplify engaging in good-faith dialogue, even during heated disagreements. This edifies youth and charts a wiser path for society. Two months after the sensationalized “fight” made headlines, Musk and Zuckerberg’s apparent feud still simmers, showing no signs of constructive resolution. But this ongoing issue presents a chance to reinforce lessons of dignity.

Of course, even well-intended public figures sometimes fail to meet such high ideals. But when presented with a fictionalized “fight” like this, we should consider the underlying messages that it could send if taken literally. Perhaps it presents a chance to reinforce lessons of nonviolence and dignity – values that will truly help the children who look to prominent figures for behavioral cues.

We founded Power of Zero to teach the good use of power, with zero violence, zero hate, and zero bullying.  While stories like this Musk-Zuckerberg “fight” are meant as entertainment for adults, we do not condone the normalization of violence or confrontation it represents. Children observe the behavior of public figures, and it shapes their understanding of acceptable conduct. We believe it is the shared responsibility of parents, teachers, leaders, and conscientious organizations like ours to protect youthkids from harmful messaging, whether in their school environment or the broader digital landscape. With compassion and diligence, we can promote nonviolent conflict resolution and create a culture of dignity.

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