Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Talking Social Media With Your Children


Today's adolescent does not communicate the way we do. Social media is one of the main ways of communication and our world morphs ever so slightly into different most popular choices. As a mom on the cusp of the social media world with adolescents I protected my children maybe too much at times. If I had pre-teens today I definitely wouldn't let them have social media accounts (to me the risk outweighs the gain) but I would start the social media world with my 13 year olds as soon as I could with accountability and talks. This blog post is to help with that navigation for interested parents.

 As a teen of the 80's I received my first telephone for my room at age 13. Land lines had been around a while but to have your own phone in your room wasn't something that my parents had as a luxury. The thing about land lines is that there was always this overriding sense of accountability because anyone in the house could pick up and listen in at any moment (and some people were really good at doing it in stealth mode).

Cue the teen of the 90's and the mass use of the flip phone. The world of texting begins. A way to send short messages to others when talking wasn't practical. Also enters a generation of people that would rather tell you hard stuff in a text instead of facing the issue head on. Texting adds a facade of privacy and creates a boldness in saying things one might not say face to face. I struggled as a parent to allow my children to have their own phone. The accountability seemed so much harder.

Enter the new millennium and the smart phone. Not only can our children talk to whomever they want when they want but they have access to the world wide web at their fingertips all the time- including social media. I took the plunge, I had a recently diagnosed 11 year old with type 1 diabetes that I wanted to be connected with at all times. As a mom of a child with a life threatening disease, giving her a smartphone was a no brainer...and her 14 year old sister got one at the same time, naturally. (I hope you picked up on the sarcasm there- we were living in the day of my 14 year old being the ONLY player on her basketball team without her own phone). I was a late adopter for child connectedness for sure.

The thing is it wasn't like adults had the chance to navigate this first. It wasn't like teaching your child how to drive a car where we learned years ago and we knew the pitfalls. We were learning side by side through trial and error with our children. And the truth of the matter is, many parents have worse digital citizenship skills than the children.

One of the things I do when I talk to students about social media is give them the Philippians 4:8 litmus test. I have them look at what they are potential going to post through this lens:
"Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things."

So I share with you these questions that might be good to discuss with your children in regards to social media:

Is it true? Do I know the things I'm posting or reposting is truth? There is so much #fakenews out there. Even websites that purposefully post satirical fake news about the Christian faith, for instance. The website looks real, we trust what we see on someone else's page. Teach your child to question what they read and see. Show them how to hunt for the information on Google to see if any other sources quote it. Don't post things you are unsure about whether it be about a school mate or the president. 

Is it noble? We are all in this walk in the world together. The phrase "walk a mile in your brother's shoes" is important here. Social media allows us to quickly share gossip- real or unreal- like wildfire. Choose the path that leads to admiration. Would you want it to be said about you? The dictionary says noble means "having or showing fine personal qualities or high moral principles and ideals." Step away from the opportunities to tear down others whether you know them or not. 

Is it pure? Would you be ashamed if your grandma saw it? I'll never forget the day my 16 year old walked in the room and said, "Mom you know what will make you think hard about what you post of Instagram? When your grandma starts following you." And she did! My mom loves to see what is going on in the lives of her grandchildren. Would you want grandma to see this post? Could the post cause detriment to your character down the road? What are your motives for posting this? Is it for more likes? To build your self-esteem? Every post you make leaves a digital footprint that is far reaching into your future. Don't choose to post something today that might impact your future self.

Is it praiseworthy? Who do you seek praise from? What is your goal in posting? Is it to boast or is it to share your excitement? Do a heart check. What is the reason I want to share this? Being boastful and prideful on social media magnifies this character flaw. A key thing to remember with social media is that we are seeing everyone's "highlight reel." If you are comparing your life with what you see on social media you aren't seeing the whole picture. Keep that in mind when you are making a choice on what to share or judging what others have shared. If you are seeking to feel "better" or "more" by using social media you will be disappointed. Make sure you seek your praise from worthy places, for me- it is my desire to not seek the praise of man but of God. Reminding myself of that is important. 

Is it lovely? Is this moment worthy of just enjoying and not posting for all to see? Should I protect this from scrutiny? Is there a reason I need to share this very special time in my life? Is it going to make the moment better? Could it possibly take away from the moment and the memory? Don't forget to be "all in." Remind yourself to set the phone down and enjoy the here and now. The missed opportunity of being engaged in life is so much bigger than the chronicling of every moment. Be purposeful in stepping away from the device. Focus on the lovely and sometimes savor it deep inside you without sharing it. There is nothing wrong with that.