It has the potential to sap every creative impulse in our heads.
It can destroy relationships.
It can easily become more important than God in our lives.
Given it’s power, it only makes sense to limit our kids’ exposure — and our own — to media of all types.
I’ll admit I’ve failed at this — badly.
When my daughter was entering middle school, MySpace was just gaining popularity. Facebook was not well-known or widely used. Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram didn’t exist.
Plus, I was incredibly naive. I had limits on television for the kids, but I had no plan for social media. I grew up as a “good” girl. I didn’t appreciate the scope and potential of unwise uses for social media. I didn’t consider how this relatively new form of communication might mesh badly with my daughter’s more adventurous personality and tendencies.
I’m not even sure I knew the term “social media” at the time.
By the time I realized it’s destructive potential, the genie was already out of the bottle. She was hooked. It was incredibly difficult — although not impossible — to set new boundaries.
I have regrets. Perhaps it may help you to know a few things I would do differently if I knew then what I know now:
Delay allowing them to have their own accounts. My daughter had a MySpace in 6th grade. I didn’t make the same mistake twice. My son wasn’t allowed on Facebook or Twitter until he was several years older. Every child is different, but I think the more you can delay access to social media accounts, the better. I think this is especially important for girls. Most girls are drama-prone by nature. Social media multiplies the potential for drama 100 fold.
Don’t bury your head in the sand. Although I wish I’d delayed allowing my daughter to set up social media accounts, I know that I wouldn’t have been able to completely shut down all of her access to social media. You probably can’t either. All their friends have it. Whether they have their own accounts or not, you can nearly guarantee that they are being exposed to social media at school and/or at their friends’ houses. It’s literally everywhere.
That’s the reality. So, it’s important to teach your kids about the dangers and responsibilities of social media. Those include sexting, predators online, substituting “virtual” relationships for real communication, saying things online that you’d never say in person … the list goes on. Talking about these dangers and their consequences regularly is vital. Show them examples of social media’s potential destructiveness in the news among kids their age. Also, be open and prepared to talk with them about how they see social media negatively affecting their own lives and their friends’.
Put filtering software on their computers and handheld devices. Do this from Day One if possible. I didn’t. And she was exposed to things that I naively didn’t even realize existed. Kids are curious about a lot of things that they aren’t ready to handle. There are things they never need to be exposed to. Ever. I wish I had been a better gatekeeper — at least to the extent that I could exercise control. Covenant Eyes is a great accountability and filtering program.
Set a good example. As a writer and blogger, sitting in front of a screen is how I make my living. But I still need to put limits on it. I haven’t always been good at doing this. A few months ago, I started taking Sunday off. No computer, very limited television, if at all. I’ve also been trying to close the computer in the evenings or limit it to very short blocks of time.
We can’t credibly tell our kids to limit their time on social media if we’re not doing the same.
It’s hard for our kids to hear God speak to their hearts when it is being cluttered with so many other voices.
And His voice is the only one that will never lead them down a dangerous path.
Today’s Challenge: Our kids have to hear God’s voice in order to have bold faith. Reevaluate the media boundaries you have for your kids. Make adjustments if necessary.