If you’re a parent you’ve probably heard about Facebook. If you have teens, it is most likely your teen is an active user of Facebook. Like any tool, Facebook is a powerful website for good or for evil, depending on how it’s used or misused. For this article, I am going to assume you know a little bit about Facebook, so if any words I use below are new to you, go online and search it to get a better understanding.
As a people-connector, Facebook helps bridge distance with family members living far away, allows people to stay in touch, share photos, and communicate. For some young people, Facebook has replaced email as the communication tool of preference. There are a lot of positive things to say about how Facebook can help people connect and stay connected. It is important that the focus of your Facebook usage (or your kids’) be on connecting with real people we know and care about, rather than just being voyeurs into stranger’s lives.
Now for the warnings: because of the social nature of how Facebook works, if a friend of your teen “Likes” any sort of inappropriate content, this may likely show up on your teen’s “wall”. Additionally, many games on Facebook have built-in features that send out invites to a user’s friends. So, if a friend of your teen plays games you might consider inappropriate, your teens will potentially be invited to play as well. This highlights the importance of being wise who you “friend” on Facebook. The short of it is, there is a lot of inappropriate content that no follower of Christ should be “consuming”. Through Facebook’s social or viral features, any Facebook user can be unintentionally exposed to this content. Additionally, Facebook is a leading website for brands that want to reach teens and college students. Unfortunately, for too many of these brands, “sex” is the “default” message used to sell to young people today.
Let’s be honest—this isn’t much different than in real life. So, before you get caught up on the technical mysteries of Facebook, I encourage you to go back to the basics of discipline and what Scripture has to teach us. To be on the same page, let’s define that together.
“Discipline in its truest sense refers to one thing: training. Heart training. … The word discipline comes from the same Latin root (discipulus) as ‘disciple’ — one who is a learner. Parents are the teachers, children are the disciples,” (On Becoming Childwise, p. 114).
If you have young kids, now is the time to establish strong trust relationships with them, so they can be open with you as they grow older. If you have a teen, renew your efforts to encourage transparency and accountability with your teens and their use of the Internet, regardless of what sites they frequent. Agree to hold each other accountable to the amount of time spent on Facebook (…that goes for adults too!) as well as what content is being consumed. Technology and the popular website of the day will constantly change, but God’s command, and promise, found in Proverbs 22:6 remains the same: “Train children in the way they should go; when they grow old, they won’t depart from it.”
A few technical things that would be helpful for you as a parent to know include how to check your internet browser’s history (do a search on Google), and how to set your Facebook account’s privacy settings. To learn more about Facebook, go to http://www.facebook.com/help. Remember: The goal is not to “spy” on your kids or spouse, but rather to hold them accountable. In a good discipleship relationship, and depending on your kids’ age, this comes with a balance of openness, consequences and training.