By Patrick Showers, Associate Elementary Pastor
Woodland Hills Church
I’ve managed to avoid this topic for years while my children were younger and none the wiser. Now I have two preteens in my home and they have access to a whole host of social media outlets from texting to Instagram. As they get older, their peers are engaged in social media activities also. They see friends who text, post pictures on Instagram, and even have their own Facebook accounts.
Social media is a great place for friends and family to stay connected and engaged in each other’s lives. For years, our kids have been stars of our Facebook accounts and other media sharing sites. Our extended families are many miles away and enjoy updates about our kids’ daily activities, special events, milestones, and pictures. Our children enjoy seeing what we post and being stars of attention from loved ones. This first taste of social media has set a norm regarding posting and sharing about their personal life in a digital stream.
Social media has also become a quagmire where people share too much, cyber bullies and predators stalk, and where normal social inhibitions are forgotten without face-to-face contact. Where data never dies, once something is posted digitally, it will always be out there somewhere, even if deleted.
As parents, my wife and I have found a few things are helpful for teaching our kids how to navigate this digital world. We’ve also gleaned some great tips from Jon Acuff. a Christian blogger, author (What Christians Like) and speaker.
1. Talk to kids before they use social media: discuss how you use it at home, at work, and why you choose to post something.
2. Help them to understand that once you send or post it can’t be removed.
3. Relate social media to real life. Ask the question, “Would I do this in real life?” or “Would I say or share this in real life?”
4. Ask kids about their digital knowledge or usage: what social media do they use, what devices, or what types of profiles do they have? What are your friends posting?
5. Think Future: posts, tweets, and texts can affect college admissions, friendships, and even jobs. Help kids to be aware of cause and effect.
6. Inform kids of the positives and dangers of social media: communication, relationship building, and self-expression are benefits. Performance anxiety, loneliness, self-comparing (especially related to popularity), bullies, conflicts, and predators are potential trouble.
The Bible doesn’t give specific insight into social media but does provide principles to guide us and our children. Philippians 4:8 reminds us to “…always think about what is true. Think about what is noble, right and pure. Think about what is lovely and worthy of respect. If anything is excellent or worthy of praise, think about those kinds of things.” Jesus also reminded us to “love our neighbors as our self”. Is what you are posting worthy of respect? Is what you are about to text loving towards that person? Is what you are sharing something that reminds people of what is right, noble, or pure? Teaching our children to approach all their media choices using these principles gives them boundaries and guidelines to guide them. With these guidelines and Biblical principles, we hope to equip and empower our children as they embark on their own journey into a digital world.
See more about Jon Acuff at http://acuff.me