Isn’t it interesting how the word warning jumps out to you when you read it? Typically this word is not used in a positive sense;
Warning: Bridge may be icy in cold weather.
Warning: explicit material.
Warning: don’t tickle your son when he has to go potty.
Whatever the situation, warnings serve one purpose…to keep you from danger ahead. Have you ever noticed how warning signs appear before something dangerous, not during or afterward? With that said, here’s a warning to all of you parents with kids or teens: you need to care about what your son or daughter is doing on social media. Now, before we dive into why you should care, please understand that social media is not a bad thing. But when kids/teens use it unwisely, there is danger ahead. Social media has grown exponentially more popular over the past decade and only will continue to trend that way. So let’s talk about it…here are four reasons why you should care.
- Identity Crisis. Kids are finding their identity, worth and acceptance through their social media involvement. Children and teens tend to trust people easily, and they genuinely care what others think about them. The danger here is that kids will innocently cross “social” or “privacy” boundaries if they believe that acceptance or likeability is on the other side. They could post inappropriate messages or pics, follow or private message anyone who might be likable towards them or simply spend a lot of their time “keeping up” with what others are posting and comparing themselves to them. Also, bear in mind that people naturally hide things that they know are wrong. And the more mature your kids are, the more mature problems they will hide.
- Helps you to know their world better. When you look at what your kids are posting, who they are following, and what they are clicking on it helps you understand them better. And when you keep up with them socially, it helps you stay connected with who their friends are, what interests them and what lingo they use (tip: don’t use their lingo, just understand it!). All in all, when you get involved with their world, it shows you care about them. And when your kids see that you genuinely care about them, you start to make relational deposits, which will allow you to have hard conversations later if needed.
- Higher education and career are at stake. “A 2013 Kaplan Test Prep surveyed nearly 400 college admissions officers and found that 30% said they found something online that negatively impacted the applicant’s chances of getting admitted.” (MacAfee) College applications and scholarships are at risk when kids make poor choices on what they post on social media. On the other hand, if they use their social media platform to promote themselves or blog, then that can be a positive thing for their future! Whether right or wrong, colleges and employers are looking up their potential applicants online to see who they are.
- Because you love them! At the end of the day, you want to have a closer relationship with your kid, even if they made some poor choices. And deep down, as a loving parent, you care more about their heart than their behavior (a good heart is greater than a good behavior). Ultimately you want them to WANT to be responsible and make wise decisions on their own. Responsibility is the result of a conviction…convictions are a result of a relationship, not a rule or behavior. So the closer you are to your kid, the more responsible they will become because you love them. Use your love and influence to help them want to make better decisions.
I recently heard a pastor read the following quote from the wisest man who ever lived, King Solomon: “The prudent see danger and take refuge, but the simple keep going and pay the penalty.” (Proverbs 22:3 NIV) So what does this verse mean in regards to you caring about your kid’s social media usage? Prudent Parents are those who heed the warning signs of potential danger coming and act appropriately, whether they see it in their kids already or not. In other words, if you want your child to be socially smart, then you must be more informed and involved in this particular area of their life than ever before. It’s not too late. Your future hopes and dreams for your kid are affected by the decisions they make today, especially on social media.