Yesterday at our church I did a seminar for parents on social media. In less than a decade social media, as well as high speed Internet access, have completely transformed the world in which we live. Working with students I have been able to see the effect of social media on children and families.
In the seminar I hoped to inform parents of some of the dangers that exist in social media and the Internet. I also wanted to offer them some practical tips to defend themselves and their families from those dangers.
Since the Internet is a dangerous place for all of us, I thought I’d share a few of those practical tips below.
One of the best ways to protect against the dangers of the Internet and social media is to create some boundaries. For parents this might mean telling a child that they’re not allowed to have a computer in their rooms or they can’t get a Facebook until they’re 14-years-old. Boundaries aren’t just good for children, though, they’re good for all of us. The lure of the Internet and social media isn’t just for kids. We may not need boundaries to keep us from getting abducted by a sexual predator. But it wouldn’t hurt to have boundaries that keep us from ignoring our loved ones because we can’t break away from our phones, laptops and iPads.
Another great way to protect children from the dangers of the Internet is through filtering. It’s no secret that the Internet is full of objectionable material. While reflecting on the Star Wars porn, I shared some of my thoughts on what porn is doing to our society. Even if they’re not looking for it, kids today can come across sexually explicit material. Internet filtering keeps that content out of the home and away from young eyes. Again, this isn’t just a problem for children. There are plenty of adults who come across sexually explicit material because they were looking for it. Internet filtering is a great way to protect ourselves. If you’re an adult struggling with pornography, though, nothing is better than confessing to a trusted friend and learning to daily live by grace.
Engaged and Aware
More than anything, parents need to be engaged and aware with their children. They need to know what they’re doing, who they’re hanging out with, what apps they have on their phones and where they’re going on the Internet. In my work with students I’ve found that engaged and aware parents solve 80% of the ills that could befall today’s adolescents. And even if we don’t have kids of our own, we still need to be engaged with those around us. It’s too easy to give our attention to social networks and the world out in cyberspace while ignoring the people and relationships right in front of us.
I had a great time interacting with some parents at my seminar on social media. Learning how to better interact with social media isn’t just for parents, though. Social media have changed our world so fast that we’re still trying to figure out what they’ve affected and how deeply. In the end we have to be vigilant to make sure we’re the ones using our social media and not the other way around.
How do you control your use of social media?