The topic of social media can be argumentative for families. Each family has their own “house rules” when it comes to the age their child can join social networks, which networks they can join, the parameters they should set with social media such as parents having access to login and password details as well as the length of time their children are allowed to engage in social media each day.
Social media bargaining between parents and children, especially between parents and teenagers can become intense. This can also be a sensitive topic for stepparents to approach with their teenage stepchildren.
I will share with you how I handled this topic with my 16-year-old stepdaughter as well as share with you 4 questions you can ask your stepchildren about social media using the bible as my guide.
How to Introduce the Topic of Social Media with Your Stepchildren
This topic of social media came up last year as my family and I attended a religious meeting. The speaker at the meeting asked the parents in the audience if we know what is on our children’s cell phones.
He remarked on the astounding amount of young ones today that have an electronic device with absolutely NO restrictions. He also suggested a few exercises that we can do as parents to safeguard our children.
The speaker asked if our children’s device had an access password. If so, do we as parents have the password details?
What about you? Are you able to access their phones, tablets or computers at any time? Some children may feel that parents having access to their devices are an invasion of privacy.
However, we need to reinforce to ourselves and to them that as parents, we are the ones that have either purchased the phone or pay the bill for their phone. We also pay the internet bills that they need in order to roam through social networks.
We should remind our children that living under our roofs means they are subject to certain rules. These rules include limits on their ‘privacy.” If they have nothing to hide, there should not be any issues with us looking through their devices for any cyber threats.
Another suggestion the speaker gave was to ask our children to hand over their phones and note their reaction. Once again, if they are nervous or belligerent about handing over their phones, they need to explain to you why that is.
At the end, the speaker suggests random phone checks, or any electronic device, on your children. That way, they will take care as to how they use their phones, which networks they visit and who their online “friends” are.
Accountability will go a long way in showing your stepchildren the serious responsibility of having an electronic device and being cautious about the websites they visit.
Question 1: How Can Social Media Affect Your Privacy? (Proverbs 10:19)
I decided that having a discussion on social media with my 16-year-old stepdaughter would be difficult to do on my own. I became a stepmother to her when she was already a teenager.
I really try to make it my goal not to drastically change the arrangement she and her father has in place. I choose my battles with her as carefully and as wisely as possible. So what did I do?
I recruited my husband to come up with a plan to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of social networking with her. I spoke with my husband in advance so that we could ask and discuss these four questions with her.
The first question you can ask your stepchild is if they think social media can affect their privacy. Teenagers feel as if they know all, that they are smarter than everyone else.
However, most teenagers aren’t careful of the information they carelessly give out online. Their profile details, bio’s, photos, status updates and comments can give out their personal information unintentionally.
Some of these photos and messages can tell strange people on the internet where you live, when you’re going to be away from home, where you go to school and more. There are criminals out there waiting to capitalize on this information. Make sure your stepchild is fully aware of this.
Internet bullies and identity thieves out there can also take advantage of other information that your stepchild may inadvertently give out such as their email address, date of birth or phone contact.
This brings to mind the scripture at Proverbs 10:19 that cautions:
When there are many words, sin is unavoidable,
but the one who controls his lips is prudent. (Christian Standard Bible)
Children and adults alike need to remember that anything that goes online is out there for anyone to see. Nothing is ever truly deleted. We also have no control over who our “friends” share what we post with.
We can help our stepchildren to become familiar with the privacy setting on each social network and let them restrict access to their status updates, photos and pages to only people they know personally and trust.
If they want to share something private, encourage them to use other forms of communications such as calling them on the phone or going by their homes to talk, share photos and catch up with each other.
Question 2: How Can Social Media Affect Your Time? (Philippians 1:10)
The second question you can ask your stepchild is how does being on social media affect their time.
The bible encourages all of us at Philippians 1:10,
so that you will be able to choose what is best… (Good News Translation)
Sometimes it seems as if my stepdaughter is busier than I am, especially as her high school graduation approaches.
Paige, my stepdaughter, has been involved in community service, piano practice, swimming practice, extra biology classes on Saturday mornings, school projects, college applications, college essays, studying for exams, taking the SAT I and SAT II exams, the list actually goes on if you can believe it!
However, the bible encourages us to focus on the more important things: our spirituality. If there are school activities that take up a lot of time in your stepchild’s life, the free time that they do have should be spent wisely.
What does your stepchild spend their free time doing? How long do they spend on social networks each day?
Social networks such as Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and even search engines such as YouTube and Pinterest can take up too much of the precious limited time we have and distract us from what we should be spending time doing.
Sometimes, we can get addicted to social networking. We feel as if we have to respond to every message and like every post that comes across our main page.
I can attest to the fact that sometimes we have good intentions when going on a social network but then we get caught up. I may decide to check out a new recipe for dinner over the weekend and end up saving a ton of recipes that I know I will never make.
Ten minutes of social media can easily turn into one hour. Before we know it, the day is gone and nothing of importance has been accomplished.
Time management is difficult for teenagers. They have an active school life, home life and social life. They need help to keep focused on what is best. What can we do as stepparents?
We can help our stepchildren to manage their time wisely. I have recently gotten into time blocking. This is when you set a time to get a particular assignment done, turn off all distractions and set a timer.
You focus on that specific task so that you can complete it. In the article, 17 Free iPhone Apps That’ll Actually Help You Study, Jemima Skelley from BuzzFeed discusses free apps that can help your teen study and still have time left over to spend on social networks.
We should not allow any online activity to affect our family and relationships. We can use social media to our advantage to help us stay connected to people, but we should limit the time we spend on it and focus on connecting with people in real life.
Question 3: How Can Social Networks Affect Your Reputation? (Proverbs 22:1)
A question that teenagers seldom think of is if social networks can affect their reputation. Unfortunately, by the time they realize the consequences of their actions, it’s too late.
What your stepchild post on social networks will follow them forever. They may end up with a negative reputation that is difficult to change.
The danger lies in how oblivious kids are today of these ramifications. They believe being on the internet somehow “shields” them from the effects of their comments and photos.
The hard truth is this, it only takes one regrettable post to damage or ruins your reputation. Why does this matter?
From a scriptural perspective, Proverbs 22:1 (Christian Standard Bible) brings out,
A good name is to be chosen over great wealth;
favor is better than silver and gold.
This bible verse emphasizes the importance of maintaining a good reputation. From a secular standpoint, your stepchild can put themselves at risk of losing jobs or not being hired due to what they posted online.
Either way, your stepchild should consider what they write or post before they hit “enter” or “publish.” They should also consider how what they post will be viewed by others especially those that they want to view them in a good light.
They can also ask themselves thought-provoking questions such as: how will my classmates react? How would my family or friends react?
Focusing on our reputations will also help to hold your stepchild accountable with what they share on social media.
Question 4: How Can Social Media Affect Your Friendships and Relationships? (Proverbs 13:20)
This final question ties in with the three earlier questions, how can social media affect your stepchild’s friendships and relationships?
I’ve seen people on Facebook and Instagram with thousands of “friends.” Our step-kids need to be careful of who they choose to call “friend.”
The bible clearly tells us how important it is to be selective of who we choose to spend our time surrounded by at Proverbs 13:20 (Christian Standard Bible),
The one who walks with the wise will become wise,
but a companion of fools will suffer harm.
What most people, teens and adults, don’t recognize is that whether we realize it or not, our friendships and relationships affect how we think, feel and act.
Our decision to accept the friend requests of strangers can be dangerous for our young ones. They need to careful of who they choose to allow into their lives.
You can encourage your stepchild to be more selective before accepting people within their inner circle of friends. This will also help them with the choice of friends in real life.
Encourage them to only accept people they know and that maintain the same high level of standards and morals as they do.
You can also encourage them to delete or remove friends who post comments or photos that they do not agree with. They can also change their privacy settings so that certain persons aren’t allowed access to their photos and posts.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Social Media
When having your social media discussion with your stepchild, try to show them a balanced view.
Yes, there are advantages of using social networks such as staying connected with close family and friends but they also have to be aware of the pitfalls of social media as well.
For more positive reasons for Christians to use social media, you can check out my post, Should Christians Use Social Media? The Advantages.
We want to do everything we can as stepparents to protect our stepchildren from dangers, offline and online.
Do you have any other tips to share for discussing social media with your stepchild? Feel free to share in the comments below!