As parents, we all must deal with the subject of social media when it comes to our children. We may ask ourselves the following questions: How old should they be before opening a social media account? How much time should I allow them to spend online? Should I even allow them to join social networks? These are tough questions to find clear answers to.
In the first part of the series, I showed how we can use social network platforms to our advantage using scriptural references. However, when making decisions (not just on social media but on any major life decision) we also must be aware of the consequences of our choices. After all, God has given us free will, but we need to be discerning as to how we use it.
In this post, I will discuss the dangers of social media, the negative results of abusing it and how we can avoid the threats that come when you join these networks. After examining the advantages and disadvantages of social media using bible principles as a guide, you can make an informed decision.
The Dangers of Social Media That We Want to Avoid (Psalms 91:3)
With new technology comes new obstacles. As Christians, especially young ones, we must constantly be aware of the traps set for us no matter the form it takes. Fortunately for us, God has promised in Psalms 91 verse 3 that,
He himself will rescue you from the bird trap from the destructive plague. (Christian Standard Bible)
These deceptions include anything that poses a threat to our spirituality. Let’s look at 4 major snares we can get caught in when using social media and how we can avoid them.
There are also a few books below on how to best use social media that you can look at for more information.
1. Spending Too Much Time on Social Media (Ephesians 5:15,16)
Have you ever found yourself “quickly” checking your Facebook homepage, Instagram account or Twitter feeds only to find that you’re still on your social networks hours later? Then you wonder to yourself, where did the day go? This happens more than we realize and as the saying goes, time wasted is never regained.
What scripture can we use to help us with time management? Ephesians chapter 5 verses 15 and 16 states,
Pay careful attention, then, to how you live—not as unwise people but as wise- making the most of the time, because the days are evil. (Christian Standard Bible)
When we pay attention to how we live, we will keep track of how much time we spend on social media so that we can also spend time focusing on spiritual pursuits and building our precious relationships with our loved ones.
One practical way we can avoid this danger is by setting ourselves time limits. We can do this each day to help us schedule our time for more important things. For example, we can sit down, set a timer for 1 hour, check our messages, post comments, photos etc. and then stop as soon as the timer goes off.
I’ve found this approach also helps teenagers keep track of time when scheduling chores, playing games, watching TV, completing school assignments or reading the bible. This method is called using time blocks. There is a simple “How to Time Block” article found on wikiHow with pictures if you want to learn more about this strategy. Or maybe you already time block? Feel free to share your experiences or strategies in the comments section below.
2. Examining Immoral Material (Matthew 5:28)
Social media focuses on following a ton of people and adding them as your “friends.” But do you really know who you are communicating with? Keep this in mind: when you are talking to someone online that you don’t know, you can’t control what they share with you. I know that my family and friends will only post morally clean text and photos because they share my morals.
On the other hand, when you befriend anonymous people, your homepage can be filled with questionable material and you won’t know until you have already viewed it. Sometimes they upload provocative images and videos which can lead to unhealthy habits such as viewing pornography or committing immoral acts. Matthew chapter 5 verse 28 warns,
But I tell you, everyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. (Christian Standard Bible)
This scripture emphasizes how easy it is to break God’s law. It may start off small and innocent (such as a pornographic popup,) but what we view with our eyes can then motivate our hearts. When we begin to desire something, we start to act on our feelings, even if it conflicts with what the bible teaches.
How can we avoid this downward spiral? By only connecting with persons that we personally know and approve. Persons that won’t send us information with bad language, pornography or graphic violence. We do not want to allow anything to damage our faith in God.
3. Posting Inappropriate Comments, Photos or Videos (Ephesians 4:29)
The same way that we don’t want others to share improper comments, photos and videos with us, we need to be careful of doing the same. It is easy to get sucked into social media feuds, especially if we feel wronged. If someone does something wrong, do not give in to the temptation to post your personal differences on social media to gather support. Personal issues should be solved person to person.
The results of emotional public battles are that each person regrets what they have done later. But by then, it is too late. Remember, what goes on the internet, stays on the internet. There is no way to truly delete information from cyberspace.
The bible gem at Ephesians chapter 4 verse 29 helps us to think before we do something we can’t take back. It says,
No foul language should come from your mouth, but only what is good for building up someone in need, so that it gives grace to those who hear. (Christian Standard Bible)
Posting improper information online can have negative effects you may never be aware of.
A few years back I spoke to a Human Resource manager at a well-respected accounting firm. She admitted that before they even considered calling someone in on a job interview, they looked that person up on Facebook and looked and the sort of photos they or others posted. If they saw compromising photos of you, they disregarded your resume. That’s it, you had no chance to explain. In fact, you simply would never hear from them and probably wonder how come you didn’t get the job you were so qualified for. This shows that we not only need to be aware of what we post but also what our friends post about us.
The best way to not worry about our reputations being damaged is to not put ourselves in compromising positions. Be careful when you are out socializing. Be mindful of how you dress, how much alcohol you drink and your conduct.
4. Keep Your Personal Information Private (Proverbs 13:20)
This topic of privacy when using social media can be the most dangerous pitfall for us. My rule of thumb for this is; don’t post anything that you don’t want to be seen by everyone. In my experience, the reason why some Christians don’t approve of social media is that of the online predators out there. Therefore, they don’t use it or allow their children to create online accounts.
I agree that our children need protection. They can be naïve and easily taken advantage of. On the internet, you can never be 100% sure who you’re communicating with. My sixteen-year-old stepdaughter may believe she’s talking to another sixteen-year-old girl but may be talking to a grown man with ulterior motives. Therefore, safeguards need to be in place.
If we do decide to allow our children on social media, as parents we need to stipulate conditions such as:
- Parents should know who their children are spending time with
- No one should ever post personal information online such as their phone number, school/work address, email address etc.
- Be careful when sharing vacation details online. Some people may take advantage of knowing your house is empty by breaking in or stealing your identity
I make it a habit of posting my vacation photos after I am back home, not during the vacation. Those who need to know my travel schedule will know through text messages, emails or telephone calls.
The below short video shows a social media experiment by Coby Persin. In the video, he pretends to be another teenager and convinces teenage girls to give him their address and to meet with him when their parents are not home. The video is entitled, The Dangers of Social Media (Child Predator Experiment.)
This is something that happens more than we think. It shows us that we need to take our duties as parents seriously. We need to ensure that our kids understand that there are dangerous predators out there. We also need to equip them with the tools they need to safeguard themselves and avoid the pitfalls of social networks.
Should Christians Use Social Media?
I hope reading both posts in this series has made making a decision on the above question easier. As I stated in the first post, I have made the decision to personally use social media. I also have no issues with my stepchildren using it easier. However, before they sign up, I make sure that I know about the platform, what it is being used for and the potentially harmful effects of using it.
My suggestion would be to discuss this topic as a family. You can share with your children the scriptures cited throughout both posts and allow your children to ask questions. If you do decide to allow them to use social media, make some guidelines for them to follow. Point out to them the very real dangers out there on the internet.
The reality is, we don’t know WHO we are sharing our information with. For most teenagers, they don’t think about the fact that criminals are out there pretending to be someone else to prey on their virtue. They simply want to have a lot of friends, likes and shares.
As a parent, if you find that your children are ignoring your guidelines, then you have every right to restrict their privileges. I have a friend who makes sure that he has access to his daughter’s login and password information. He also periodically logs in to check who she is talking to online and to also make sure she isn’t posting anything that could damage her reputation or her spirituality. He also emphasizes the importance of using social media to bring people up, not tear them down.
Whether you are asking if social media is right for yourself or your children, keep in mind that it is ultimately a personal decision. There is nothing scripturally wrong with using it, but you should always make the decisions you feel comfortable with and that keeps your conscience clear. Your decisions should also be based on bible principles and on the perfect examples that Jesus set for us. Jesus always used principles in the bible to not only identify dangers but also to avoid them.
Thank you for digging into these scriptural gems with me! Do you know of any other scriptures that can help us avoid the traps of social media? Please share in the comments below!