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Social Network Parenting


Lately there’s been a lot of talk about kids spending a lot of time on the internet – specifically Facebook, Twitter, and other various social networking sites.  I’ve also had more parents coming up to me to ask how I deal with the issues that pop up with this ‘new’ way of staying in touch and communicating.  I thought I’d devote an article here, as the new school year begins, to some of the dangers and what you can do as parents to keep your kids safe.

About 6 years ago, MySpace.com opened up as the first very successful networking sites on the internet.  People of all ages were galloping to it to open an account, meet new friends, talk with current friends, and to keep the world updated on their day by day, even minute by minute, activities.  In fact, in 2006, MySpace became the most visited website topping Google.  Since then, Facebook has come on strong, Google+ is about to launch nationally, and others like Twitter, FourSquare have become daily habits for millions.  MySpace was specifically targeted towards youth.  It was edgy, sometimes dark and advertising was risque and in your face.  It was the MTV of the social networking places.  Facebook took a lesson from MySpace’s downfall, and went with a cleaner approach.  But there are still dangers.

The draw for all of us including our kids?  I think it is to be known and recognized and heard.  The once quiet kid in the corner can now connect with literally thousands of quiet kids in the corner on the internet.  The mouthy adult who likes to be heard now can literally be heard by millions rather than just a few around the water cooler.  The ‘people watcher’ can now spend hundreds of hours per year watching people on their friend feed.  What used to be shared in the lunch room can now be shared globally…in milliseconds.  So what used to be good for a few to hear can now be good for thousands to hear.  And what is said out of place…ummm, it now can be heard out of place by hundreds if not thousands as well.  Therein lies the danger.

I’m writing from a Christian standpoint here.  I’m also writing as one who is on Facebook.com and has a teenage daughter on Facebook.  I have friends from church and friends from the community in general on my Facebook page.  I also have many colleagues from the John Maxwell Team and from youth ministry networks.  So my friend feed has things I often have to delete.  But it also has many things that I pass on to other people because it’s simply great stuff!

Some questions for perspective.  Are the things my kids read on Facebook going to be different than what they hear at the lunch table or in the locker room?  Probably not…they may just see more of it on the net.  Are they going to meet new people at school and at church?  Yes.  Will they probably meet new people on the internet? Yes is probably the correct answer as well.  So how have I tried to navigate these waters?  Peach and I have put up some pretty high fences for our kids.  Are they perfect?  Nope.  But they provide a way for us to stay in touch and they give us bases for discussions…if necessary.

My daughter has a Facebook page.  It is set up with an email address that is mine.  Therefore, I see all the private conversations she has with people.  Some might see that as intrusive.  I see it as being a dad.  My kids also have Ipods with messaging capabilities and access to thousands of apps.  They know that at any given time, we can pick their IPod up and look through it.  We know their Facebook password and their IPod passwords.  If we find that they changed their password without telling us, they lose it.  Is this not letting them have their ‘freedom’ as some have expressed to me?  No.  It is preparing them for the fact that all things will come to light…and in many ways are already very public.  If they are doing or seeing or saying things that mom and dad or Jesus himself wouldn’t like, then it’s probably not worth doing, seeing or saying.  Are they in a prison setting in our house?  Haha, they sometimes think so.  But goodness gracious…they have an IPod!  They can use it away from us just like we let them go to school without us hovering over their shoulder.  🙂

So, in short, monitor.  Don’t let your kids jump into a river that you’ve never jumped into before…or that you’re not willing to jump in with them.  Does this mean you’re going to know their every move?  Not at all.  Does this mean they’re going to grow up under mom and dad’s thumb?  No…not if you do it right and with God’s help.  Oh, and don’t do all this out of fear.  Do it out of the idea that you’re molding them to be people who will glorify God with responsibility, forethought and carefulness.  If you’d like to know more about what we’ve done, just let me know and I’ll we’ll walk through it together.  You could probably help me out too.

Love-Serve-Spread the Word,

Ed

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