You’ve probably seen many articles about kids and social media. Maybe you are worried about even allowing your children access. Or perhaps you think it’s overblown hype that won’t touch your kids because they are different from others their age.
Your teens may want to use social media as a platform for the things that are important to them. Yet, few have adult led conversations about the positive ways they can use social media to serve others and share their faith.
If your teen is getting ready to join social media or has been on it for several years, it’s great to have a family discussion about the many ways they can use their social media platform for God’s glory. It’s also important though to help them think through the ways people often think they are making a positive difference, but may actually be making things worse or drive people away from their interest in God and Christianity.
There are a lot of things you can discuss, but these can help get the conversation started.
- Scroll through a social media feed and discuss some of the posts obviously written to try and convince people to change beliefs or actions (They don’t have to be faith based. Posts about charitable or political causes can teach the same important lessons). What do your kids think the person was trying to motivate people to believe or do? Do they think the post helped accomplish that goal by the way it was written? If not, how could it have been written differently to have a greater positive impact?
- Find social media posts written by someone who is clearly angry with those who don’t agree with them. If they are calling others ugly names or using other overt ways of expressing their anger with those who don’t agree with them, what impact do they have on those who read those posts? With the people they are in theory trying to get to change their beliefs or actions? With people who aren’t Christians (for the discussion ask your kids to assume the person writing the post is a Christian and wants to help other people get to Heaven)?
- Read sermons of Jesus, the Apostles and others in the New Testament. If social media existed in that time, how might they have posted something that summed up their message? What lessons could we learn from how they tried to convince others to obey God?
- Read posts of Christians who are considered encouragers. What is it about their posts that others seem to find encouraging? What impact could their posts have on others?
- Read posts and find someone who appears to be struggling in some way at the moment. Discuss how you could minister to that person. Then follow through with one of your ideas. Remind your kids they should let you know if they are afraid for someone’s safety because of a post – especially if the person sounds like they may hurt themselves or others.
- Find a post where someone seemed to have a well thought out post meant to help and someone responded with angry comments. Talk about the reactions some people have to even things that are helpful to others. Discuss the various options your kids may have when they see a post they wrote to help others gets hijacked by others who are hurting people with their ugly comments.
- Discuss the importance of re-reading before posting – especially from the perspective of someone who may disagree with what they wrote. No post is perfect, but you want your kids to pause and think before posting. Sometimes seeing their post through the eyes of someone else can help them avoid hurting others with something they put on social media.
- Remind your kids, that although a social media platform is great, it doesn’t replace actually going out and physically serving others and sharing our faith. Using social media for good is great, but in the end it’s just more words. Taking the time to go into the “real” world to serve others and share our faith is ultimately what will make the greatest impact. (Relationships matter!)
Your kids can use social media to serve others and share your faith. They need your help though learning how to use their platform effectively and how to avoid doing more harm than good with what they post. It’s worth your time and effort to teach them.