Social Media is everywhere. It seems like every time we turn around, there is a new outlet for social media. Every sign says “Like us on Facebook” or “Follow us on Twitter.” With the way that social media is changing our society, how do we train our children in social media? What are some good standards we can set that make sure our children are safe out there in cyber space?
First of all, we need to explain what social media is to our kids. They need to know that any picture, tweet, or Facebook post they share is out there for the world to see. Within moments, anyone can see what they post. We need to be sure our children are mature enough to handle the things they might see on social media.
Here are some rules my husband and I have set for our children that have helped us to help them navigate social media:
- Legal Age: Most forms of social media have a legal age in their terms and services. This has not been popular with our children, but we have made them wait until they are the legal age according to the social media’s terms of service. Twitter, at last check, is the only social media that does not have this age requirement. Facebook and Instagram both require you to be 13. Unfortunately, lots of middle school, and even elementary school students, are being allowed to have social media accounts. This made it hard for my kids to wait, but we are very glad we did. By the time they were old enough for the social media outlets of their choice, they were able to make mature decisions about them.
- Have all passwords – and check accounts daily: I have all passwords to social media, and I am a follower or friend of my child on each social media outlet. I check out their social media accounts every night. I look in the inbox, the chat boxes, pictures, etc. If they can’t share it with me, it doesn’t need to be shared. Privacy isn’t gained until you are much older in our home.
- Limit the number of social media platforms they can be on: Our children have had to choose which platforms they are going to be on. They don’t need everything. We have made them choose. They can switch it – but they don’t need to be on everything. Social media can be a time-waster, and I don’t want my children to have that many options to waste their time. Plus, this helps me as I am looking through their stuff.
- Set time limits: My children have certain times they can be on social media – and a certain length of time. Don’t let them get lost in cyber space for hours.
Why do we feel like these things are so important? Well, first, when we allow our kids to break the social media rules of getting these areas of social media before the appropriate age, we are telling them it is okay to break the rules. That rules are made to be broken. We need to be careful in doing this. If it is okay to break the rules now – when you set a rule later, the same will be true. What about God’s Word? If they are allowed to break the rules that we set for them, why not go against scripture too? Does it really matter?
We need to have their passwords for accountability. God has given us these children to shepherd. It is our job to guard their hearts and to protect them. Accountability is part of being a Christian, and this teaches them to be accountable to others.
We also need to be sure our children are using social media appropriately. There are a lot of kids out there – and adults – doing inappropriate things on social media. From sharing inappropriate pictures, to “calling people out” and being disrespectful and gossiping, social media needs to be monitored. We need to set good examples of how to use social media with our children – by using it for the glory of God.
I hope these 4 guidelines will help you as you help guide your children through the maze of social media.
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