How to Have a Conversation with Your Kids about Social Media
How do you teach your kids to discern the truth from the lies online?
In parenting our kids, there are so many things for us to be worried about: grades, friends, safety, colleges, etc. But in our current climate, I find one of the biggest concerns for parents today is the world of social media. With online bullying and inappropriate media so prevalent, how do you teach your kids to filter out the bad stuff on social media?
I have five kids who have all grown up in the information age. Here’s some things we’ve learned about parenting them through the world of social media:
Your kids need to have a stronger relationship with God than they do with their friends.
There are countless organizations, companies, and movements that want to influence the way your children are thinking. The more time your kids spend online, the more susceptible they are to falling prey to those influences, whether good or bad.
So many of us as parents have given up our rightful place as the influencers in our kids’ lives, hoping that they will find positive role models in their professors at school, or their coaches on the field. Often times we are doing this unwittingly, believing that others know more about our kids, or more about what our kids need than we do — the people whom the Lord has entrusted them to.
If your kids don’t know who they are or who God has created them to be before they go online, or before they go to college — they will find people online and in college who will tell them. That’s how it works.
More is caught than taught.
As a parent, you need to be the message that you want your kids to live.
The more secure your kids are with who God has called them to be, and the more they know who God’s made them to be, the easier it will be for them to filter out the untruths being said about them or others online.
So how can you teach your kids how to safely use and filter through social media?
1. Start conversations with your kids. These should be ‘next-to’ conversations, not ‘over them’ conversations.
All through the gospels, when Jesus taught His disciples, He asked them profound questions in the midst of their daily lives. He was ‘next to’ them, talking to them, allowing them to discover things about themselves, rather than speaking ‘over them’ in lectures and rants.
We often make the mistake as parents to give advice and lecture on subjects/questions that our kids aren’t even asking. Asking questions allows us to discover where our kids really are at, and does the same for them. Your kids will begin to tune you out (if they haven’t started already) when they realize that all you have for them is another lecture on what they should be doing or saying, etc.
Next-To Conversations: Imagine a triangle where God is at the top, you are at one bottom corner and your child is on the other. In this arrangement, you each are positioned with a direct connection to God and to one another. The idea here is that both you and your child will be receiving from God for yourselves, and then interacting with each other.
The best way to encourage your children to keep that connection to both God and yourself open is by asking profound questions, by getting your kids thinking.
2. Model and teach your children that to be successful in life, you need both a healthy soul and a healthy body.
In order to model this to your kids, you’ll need to start some spiritual exercises with them. Just like physical exercise, this will require some effort and stamina from you.
Exercise #1: Pray out loud weekly with your kids.
How are you handling your problems? Are you checking out and watching TV or are you taking it to God in prayer? Your kids are watching how you deal with things. You can start out by asking your kids, “How can I pray for you?” At first, this might be met by a closed door: “I’m fine”. That’s ok. They aren’t ready to let you in just yet.
If your kids aren’t ready to tell you what they need prayer for yet, don’t worry. You can keep asking (but don’t pester!). You can also look for opportunities to pray for them out loud. Whether it’s around the dinner table or before bed, or in the car praying for their safety or their team before a game. Your kids are watching.
Spend time praying for your kids in private too. God hears your prayers!
Exercise #2: Read scripture with your kids out loud
The bible says, “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17 NKJV)
Your kids are being bombarded every day with social media, the internet and all sorts of other worldviews from friends and billboards and everything else. It is the word of God that will change their life, just like it changed yours.
3. Come as a ‘learner’ to conversations with your kids. Don’t come as someone with all of the answers.
You might even say, come as a disciple to these conversations, prepared to learn. I believe inside of every young person there is a built-in parenting manual that is unique to them. If you’re willing to ask questions, you’ll begin to open the pages of discovery, not only into who they are, but into how to parent them. They will show you how to be a great parent for them. You’re going to learn a lot more from them directly than you will following them on social media or reading parenting books.
Don’t forget to end your conversations with your kids by asking them to repeat back to you what they’ve heard you say. But a word of warning, you should be prepared to repeat back to them what you’ve heard them say FIRST. Start by saying, “What I’m hearing you say is…” This not only gives both of you a chance to clarify any misconceptions or misunderstandings, but it also shows your kids you’re really listening to them.
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Published on January 24, 2018.