My husband can never understand why our teenage daughter and I know every bit of news – sports, world, local or family and friend news, before he does. We remind him that he has yet to join the rest of the world on Facebook or as I jokingly refer to it, “the source of all knowledge”.
There are many pros and cons about whether or not to even allow your child on Facebook. I believe it is really a family decision, based at least partially on the maturity of your child. If you do decide to let him enter the world of Facebook, I think you can also use it to teach some godly principles.
The most important is that God loves the truth and hates lies. Did you realize you have to be thirteen years old to even have an account? If your child is on Facebook younger than that, she has had to lie about her birthday. Our daughter is very mature and very tech saavy. She self policed her entry, because at the time, I wasn’t even on Facebook myself. It made a great thirteenth birthday for her to set up her account. This is also a great help if you are afraid to set limits. A simple “We don’t tell lies. They make God unhappy.”, should close the discussion.
God teaches us to respect our parents. In our modern Facebook world, this means parents have complete access to our child’s Facebook account and we are a “total” friend. This means your child has given you his passwords if you have issues trusting him. Please be aware your child can list you as a friend and still restrict what you see. Make sure you also check her newsfeed occasionally to see what her friends are posting. (It is also possible to set up more than one account. If you have serious trust issues, you may need to run her name through a name search to make sure she doesn’t have a second account.)
God loves it when we encourage one another. I love the fact that Barnabas is nicknamed the “encourager” in the New Testament. It tells me that not only is encouragement important to God, but it is rare enough that someone who does it regularly gets a special nickname!
Talk about your own Facebook usage and how you try to encourage old friends through it when they are having a tough time. Encourage your child to write positive notes in response to the worried or sad posts of her friends. Also suggest he tells you immediately if one of his friends has a post that shows his friend is in physical danger, whether it is suicide, drugs or some other important issue.
God hates gossip. Your child should only use Facebook to post things that are happening in her life or to encourage friends, answer questions and other positive activities. Gossip about other people should not be a part of the experience. With even the national news programs often becoming little more than celebrity gossip shows, the line between news and gossip has blurred in our world. Have a discussion about what constitutes news and what is really gossip. Be aware that sometimes even “prayer requests” are little more than gossip disguised as concern. Try to make sure that if something is shared about someone else, it is honest, positive and helpful. It might even be nice if the person tells you it is okay to share the news with others.
God has a specific plan for your child. Not only does He want him to become a Christian, but God has things He will need your child to do in the future to help further God’s Kingdom. While posting pictures and updates in bad taste are not totally irreversible, many colleges and employers now check on your past social network activity. Things said or done as a joke can seriously hurt someone’s chances in the future. It can also be a poor example to non-Christians of how Christian teenagers behave. This is also a good time to discuss the difference between good, silly, teen fun and doing things that can seem like fun but will have long term consequences.
Facebook can be very entertaining. My daughter and I often share conversations about things we have seen on Facebook. It can also be a great creative outlet for your child and a way for them to encourage others. Just don’t forget it can also be a teaching tool for you to reinforce some of God’s principles.