First in a three-part series on parents, teens, and Facebook.
by Toni Birdsong
One of the most common questions I get asked by parents is if it’s okay to let their son or daughter have a Facebook page. The first thing I do is gage where they are emotionally with social media. Then I listen. To their concerns. To their hearts. It’s a really big deal. Facebook has added an unexpected—and sometimes overwhelming—dimension to parenting today.
The good news is that God has given us as parents everything we need to lead these beautiful, expressive, swift-moving digital natives He’s entrusted to our care.
To clarify, this series is written to Christian parents in general and does not address the exceptions that exist in every family.
In general my answer to the Facebook question is yes. You should let your teen have a Facebook page if and only if you intend to monitor it—consistently. For teens today, Facebook is a vital connection channel where life, friendship, art, memories, music, and conversation intersect hourly—whether parents agree with that, or even like it.
That doesn’t mean that Facebook is a free-for-all graffiti wall for kids to write or post anything they feel like. Proverb’s directive to Christian parents to “Train up a child in the way he should go” extends to the digital hallways and hangouts.
7 Facebook Tips for Christian Parents
- Put safety first. Go to Facebook’s “Help” section. Here you’ll find the “Safety Center” and in there, a section for parents called “Help Your Teens Play it Safe.” This is great stuff. Don’t skip it. There’s also great information for teens here too and very helpful tools and resources to give you and your teen a solid, safe foundation in the Facebook arena.
- If your teen has a Facebook page, you need one too. The best way to understand Facebook and monitor your teen’s page is to get one of your own. It’s also the best way to “model” how to use Facebook in a godly way for your kids. Get started here.
- Max privacy settings. Parents, don’t leave this up to your teen, it’s up to you. Set all photos, personal information, and wall posts to private. It’s easy, here’s how: Go to the “Home” view of the page, click, Privacy Settings. You can set tight standards for who can view what information and pre-approving post and photo tags.
- Know passwords. Check passwords. This is where some parents (and teens) cringe but in our home, Facebook is a privilege and part of that privilege is giving parents all passwords. Safety trumps privacy with minors. Having a password allows you to check conversations to see if anyone “outside” of the safety loop of friends and family have accessed your teen’s page. In our home, if the password gets changed without permission, Facebook gets banned.
- Discuss what’s appropriate to post. This conversation is going to sound different in the Christian household. In addition to the obvious—no sexy photos, no drinking photos, no photos or videos that humiliate others—talk candidly to your kids about what it means to be “set apart” by God on Facebook as a Christian. @stickyJesus: how to live out your faith online is a great start. Teach your kids that their Facebook wall is actually a stage and the spotlight is on them. Remind them that their opinions, videos, and jokes matter—to God, to your family, and to the people who interact with them online.
- Talk about the power of words. Teens on Facebook need to be aware of the power of their words, the “tone” of their posts and comments on friends’ posts. Remind them (repeatedly) that once they post something online, it’s out of their hands—even if they’ve taken it down—someone could have shared it somewhere else. Sign this covenant with your teen and post it by the computer.
- Discern teachable moments. For the Christian parent, Facebook can become a series of powerful teachable moments that need to take place under your roof—and not be taught to them elsewhere by someone else. Facebook will allow you a glimpse inside your teen’s heart—what’s bugging him or her, what’s confusing, and what’s important to them.
When your kids post questionable comments (and they will), be discerning. Not every post or photo requires your commentary or coaching. Let them find their voice and make (safe) mistakes. However, opportunities—critical opportunities—will arise about how they might “rephrase,” a comment or reconsider the video or lyrics they’ve posted or “liked.” If you are paying attention (and keeping a low-profile) your teen’s Facebook posts will open doors to talk to your kids about God’s take on integrity, bullying, purity, conflict resolution, gossip, tolerance, and love.
What’s your biggest challenge with your teen’s Facebook page?
Tweet/Post this today:
Parents, establish ground rules for your teens on Facebook. Go here: http://bit.ly/c18IqH #StandApart #LiveSticky