Protecting Our Children Day 1: Social Media Dangers
Truthfully, this should be part one of a series just on this subtopic. The vast dangers associated with social media will take us down a myriad avenues. And yes, I realize the irony of posting this on social media networks! But while maybe 5-10% of social media comes from a sensible place, the rest is a horror show of stupidity and danger to the lives of our children. As a father of three daughters, I can’t help but feel protective. The danger is very real, and incredibly vast.
A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion. (Proverbs 18:2, ESV)
So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding. (Romans 14:19, ESV)
Let’s think about the danger of posting your opinions. Why do people think everyone wants to know what they think about everything (adults are usually worse offenders than kids)? Why go off on bizarre rants about politics, religion, the so-called best cereal, your filthy neighbors, and so on? Maybe it all seems innocuous for teenagers until, several years later, those opinions are unearthed by a hiring manager who then tosses their resume in the trash can. Is it worth it, for the three likes and nine supporting comments, to put divisive opinions out there in the open for all the world to see, even years down the road? Far better to talk about such things with friends face to face instead. And at the bottom of it all, what’s the point of publicizing some opinions in the first place? As Christians, we need to be the example for our children in what we post. Will those opinions build up other Christians or will they divide them? To an unbeliever reading them, does it help or harm my testimony before them? This is probably the least obvious danger, and we should make our children aware of it.
Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. (Ephesians 4:29, ESV)
A key area of danger online comes in the form of bullying. Our children could be victims, and they could also be perpetrators. Sadly, not only is it all too common, it’s all too easy. We must make sure our children are not perpetrators. And if they are victims, our job as supporter and comforter gets kicked up a notch. Who can fully appreciate the damage of a careless comment about another student in school? A mocking video is shared on a Snapchat story where everyone knows what/who they’re talking about. The not-at-all veiled snark of a public TikTok is passed around. Sadly, kids are quick to jump on it even if it isn’t true. And once the mean girls (I have daughters, sorry) grab ahold of it, it spreads like wildfire. Now everyone is making remarks, a child is tagged with a specific label, and their life is miserable. Where does it end? “Just” a miserable existence? Anxiety? Depression? Suicide? Tell your kids they matter, and the empty words of bullies don’t. Even if they don’t believe us, we still need to hammer it home time and time again. And if we find our kids to be the perpetrators, we must help them understand the awful sin they are committing.
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against…the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 6:12, ESV)
A final danger is best summed up by the idea of “this present darkness” and “spiritual forces of evil.” I’m referring to online predators—the ones who comb social media pages looking for boys and girls as targets. These vile creatures are, simply put, evil. But they are, sadly, always on the prowl. They are looking for pictures that excite their sensual desires, and will (without any sense of guilt) strike up private conversations with our young children. They will send them pictures, asking for the same in return. Unfortunately, our children can carry on these “relationships” without our knowing. We must make them aware of the danger of prying eyes, and the lure of wicked men and women.
I wish none of these dangers existed, but ignoring them would be foolish. I think many of us who are older remember the early days of social media, when we reconnected with high school friends and admired pictures of each other’s kids. That ship has sailed, though, and now it’s up to us as parents to guard and protect our children from the onslaught of negativity and harmful possibilities. May God grant us all the courage and help to deal with them!