We’ve covered a lot of ground in the series! I hope you’ve learned some things; I know I have! Why am I shouting!?!
The truth is, you will never know all there is to know. As soon as you do think you have a handle on what’s going on with your teenager and social media, something new will come along.
That’s why today’s post might be the most important of all. You can’t protect your kids from all the temptations that are associated with social media, just like you can’t protect them from all the temptations in life. But you can equip them so that they are ready to face them on their own.
Lessons you should teach your kids again and again and again:
Stop and think. Info spreads like lightning. Don’t text or post anything that wouldn’t be ok for the whole world to see. Give your kids some practical tips to help them:
*Pick someone you would never act inappropriately around, like a grandmother or a minister. Think of that person every time you post something or text someone and ask yourself, “What if Nana or Pastor Billy saw this?”
*10 second rule. Before you hit send, let 10 seconds pass. Read it again and then decide whether or not you should go ahead with it.
Meaningful conversations should be eyeball to eyeball. Two reasons: you can’t read tone of voice in a text or tweet and you’ll keep yourself more accountable for the words you use. Face to face conversations help prevent misunderstandings that happen easily in texts. And teens and adults alike are tempted to text things we would never say face to face.
If you really want to have healthy dating relationships, put down your cell phone. It’s tricky. Texting is the norm in budding romances these days, but anyone can seem awesome when they are only known by their carefully worded texts. On top of that, texting between guys and girls creates a false sense of intimacy. Teenagers will share information with members of the opposite sex in two weeks that would normally take 2 years to learn.
Set limits. Encourage your teenager to make their own rules about texting and social media. Ask questions like: How much is too much? When do you think you should plug your phone in somewhere else? What apps tempt you to act inappropriately? What should you do about that? Work through it together instead of just imposing the rules. It may not go over well, but at least give them the opportunity. After all, you won’t always be there to do it for them.
Be picky who you follow. Garbage in, garbage out is the old adage, right? But don’t say that, because your teenager will probably just roll his or her eyes at you:) Do be sure to point out, though, that who you follow influences you either positively or negatively. That’s just a good life lesson all the way around. If you’re following someone who tweets rude or raunchy stuff all the time, rude and raunchy stuff is going to get in your head. If you’re following someone who posts inappropriate photos on Instagram, those images in your mind are going to lead to trouble.
Use it for good. We talked about it last week, in part 5. Teenagers want to know how to put their faith into practice. Texting and social media is a great opportunity for them to do that. Encourage them to be salt and light (Matt. 5:13-16) in an increasingly dark world.
How especially relevant are Jesus’ words in Matt. 10:16: “Look, I’m sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as serpents and as harmless as doves.” Rather than turning our heads, we must lead and equip teenagers to follow Christ, shrewdly and harmlessly, as they navigate this culture of technology and temptation that they hold in the palm of their hands.