You certainly didn't have social media at their age, but then...social media didn't exactly exist. You knew this day was coming, but you still feel sweat on your palms. "Mom, can I get Snapchat?" (Or fill in any other terror-inducing social media application). You scramble. Is it time yet?
Despite what their friends tell them, they don't need to have social media. Social media is a privilege that should be evaluated based on your family's needs and convictions. However, before making the leap, there are a few things to keep in mind.
What is appropriate social media use?
Even though we expect that our kids know how to behave in real life, they may need a reminder that the expectations do not change when they sign online. Here are some general discussion points to go over with your child:
- Don't send anything that is not going to be a reflection of Christ. Consider the impact of what you're sending. Is it kind? Is it true? Is it necessary? Is it helpful? If the answer is no to any of these, don't send it.
- Don't post, share, or send anything you wouldn't be proud to read or show to your parents. Nothing is EVER private online, so don't fool yourself into thinking no one can screenshot the snapchats or share messages that were intended to be private.
- Don't share with personal information or "friend" anyone that you don't know personally online.
- Always keep in mind Romans 12:2, "And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect."
Not sure what's out there? Do your research!
If you're basing your judgement on only what you've heard about apps, you need to do more to evaluate the risks and benefits. Many applications can be used safely with good judgement, but some depend more on the user's judgement than others. Read up on the most popular applications, so you won't be surprised how they can be used (or abused.) The most common apps are Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. Some apps allow you to scale the accessibility based on preferences. If you've done your research, you can tailor it to your family's needs, and avoid visiting any sites that you already know will be out of the question.
Common Sense Media Reviews of popular apps:
After you've allowed your kids to have social media accounts, the real work begins. Helping your child navigate the social media world in a way that is wise and honoring to God can be difficult in today's culture. There are a couple ways you can encourage your child to develop healthy online communication:
- Maintain access to their accounts. Allowing your child to have a social media account is not the same as free reign to do what they want online, unchecked. Since there can be serious legal ramifications for their behavior online, it's important to check up on the accounts from time to time. This extra step will also help protect your child from bullies or inappropriate behavior from peers.
- Openly communicate. Read their posts and messages aloud to them and discuss how the posts reflect their character. It may feel awkward at first; however, simply hearing their words from their parent's mouth can help them see how their words might be misunderstood.