Social Networking Safeguards
In regards to ministry and leadership there is not a lot that scares me. However, in recent years the face of social networking has changed dramatically, and, quite frankly, it scares me to death. The insurgence of blogging, Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, and YouTube has forever changed the world. Did you know that Facebook has more than 300 million active users who spend a combined total of 8 billion minutes on Facebook every day? Get this: 58.5 million people visited Myspace last January. I found it staggering that 74% of people between ages 18 and 34 have a Facebook account; 47% of people between the ages of 35 and 44; 41% of people between the ages of 45 and 54 have an account. Social networking is a giant and can serve tremendous good; however, we need to make sure it’s not a Goliath who has come to destroy the lives of our children.
Social networking, even with all the negative possibilities, is not the enemy. The use of these modern technological tools has incredible potential for good. Imagine the world if it had rejected the technology of washing machines, microwaves and the radio. I hate to think of going to the doctor today with the tools of 100 years ago. Advancement is good! Social networking, like anything else in life, demands responsibility. As well, it requires that we understand the environment we are exposing ourselves, families, and ministries to. Social networking is here to stay, but how will we respond to it?
It has become necessary for me to address this issue due to its influx into our lives here at Glencoe Baptist church, the Academy and the Learning Center. Everyday our staff utilizes some aspect of social networking, whether it is the internet, Facebook or other media. Every evening our students and staff are utilizing these same networking abilities to communicate with friends, family, and even co-workers.
We are in the process of developing policies related to social networking. This requires much study and understanding of each of these media areas. I want to encourage our parents to do their own research. While networking and the internet can be fun, as well as provide unlimited education for your children, it is extremely dangerous. Every time your child logs in, there is the potential for him or her to be exposed to pictures, statements, and people who are a grave danger to your children and family.
As Christians we have a responsibility to always reflect Christ. Whether we are walking through the mall, talking on a cell phone, or posting on Facebook or other sites, we cannot escape the call to be holy and righteous. For those who are willing to put the energy into safely using the internet and social networking, I have put together some pointers to help you protect your family:
1. Always follow the legal age for participation.
(Presently none of our academy children can legally use the following networking tools.)
a. Facebook - 13
b. You Tube - 13
c. Myspace - 13
d. Twitter - unsure
2. Never allow your children to access the internet without close supervision.
a. Know who your children are “chatting” with.
b. Know every networking tool and website they are visiting.
c. Know the content (pictures, statements) they are sharing and receiving.
3. Never allow children to set up a computer for their private viewing.
a. Computers should be in a open area of the home— never in a bedroom.
b. Computers should never be password protected from the parents.
c. Install protective software such as Safe Eyes.
4. Never put personal information on the web (i.e. age, gender, address, school).
A few of things stand in the way of you successfully protecting your children from the potential harm they may be exposed to via the internet. First is the unwillingness by parents to sacrifice the time and energy into training and exacting godliness even while participating in social networking. Second is the dangerous notion that my child has rights or deserves privacy. In the shower? Yes! On the internet? Absolutely not! The third may be the most dangerous. It’s the idea that my child has to have all the latest games, clothes, technology, etc. to feel good about themselves and fit into society. Don’t allow these things to stop you from fulfilling your role as a parent.
I know this may sound extreme, but we only have one opportunity to rear our children. For the parents who are striving to rear their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, there is no room for complacency and mediocrity when it comes to social networking. Take the time today to nail down some absolutes when it comes to the internet in your home.