If your student has a digital presence on social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, etc.) then chances are you've worried about what they're doing, seeing, posting, or discussing on there. And you're not alone, many parents struggle with balancing letting their teenager interact through their phones or computers with their friends. The benefits of using social media are incredible: you can keep up with friends, you can engage in hot-button issues, and post food pics and selfies--really important stuff.
I want to give you as a parent ten rules that you might find helpful in navigating this time with your student. Feel free to use them, add them, subtract them, or use your own set. But I think there's a lot of value to having rules and boundaries. The worst thing you can do for your teenager is give them unfiltered, unaccountable access to the web through social media and their digital presence--it's a recipe for disaster.
1. You will post, comment, like, share, and engage online in a way that reflects your relationship with Jesus
2. You will not hide your passwords from us (your parents) because we have the right to view your accounts. If you change it without us knowing, consider your devices ours.
**Hey parents, one great way to reinforce this is to reward your teenager with an iTunes card or a Christian music CD if they prove themselves trustworthy online**
3. You will not engage with anyone you do not already know without our permission
4. You will not take pictures of yourself that are sexual or inappropriate
5. You will leave your phone in the kitchen or hallway to charge overnight--it may be your room but it is our house
**Side note: Leave all computers and tablets in a common area so there can be no "secret surfing"**
6. We will friend you, follow you, and tweet you - We want to be a part of your life too, plus we think your pictures are funny
7. You will not be naive. Your snapchats are saved on a server somewhere, screenshots can be spread like wildfire, and stupid tweets may be deleted but not forgotten
8. You will have an accountability partner, a friend who can ask you about what you're looking at online and if you're maintaining your integrity and Christian witness
9. You will post things that reflect Ephesians 4:29 - "let no unwholesome talk come out of your mouth, but only that which is encouraging" - Don't be a troll or a hater online. And definitely don't talk badly about your parents or your friends
10. We will not micromanage you online or look over your shoulder all the time, but we do want you to know that trust is easy to lose and very difficult to earn back. We love you and want the best for you, don't ever forget that
Parents, what rules and boundaries have you used with your teenager that have been effective?
Scott M. Douglas
A blog about leadership and the lasting legacy of family ministry.