Belonging to a tech-savvy family, our kids have been early adopters of online media. Since we have often lived far from family, we wanted our children to have the advantage of keeping in touch with their grandparents online. Yet we were clear that responsibilities accompanied this privilege.
I use the word privilege because we wanted to be clear with our kids that they don’t have a right to electronics. But rather, time online is a privilege that is earned, and that access can be taken away if it is misused. Furthermore, a key principle in our thinking is that how you behave online should be the same as how you behave offline. You're not a different person on the Internet--the same rules apply to both areas of life.
Our online rules include:
- Keep your words polite. If you wouldn’t say it to their face then don’t say it online.
- The Internet is very public, and the things you post can be seen by many others. If you don’t want your grandma to read it, then you should not be saying it!
- Friend your parents. Parents need to be tuned into their kid’s lives. Secret accounts or unfriending your parents will result in removal of your electronic privileges.
- There is no privacy here. For one, that’s just the nature of the Internet. People will see whatever you post, and it will never really be deleted. If you don’t want a future spouse or employer to see that photo, then do not post it. Better yet, don’t do stupid stuff in the first place and no one will have incriminating photo evidence to share. For two, children are still children, and need guidance as they grow. They don't need their parents to be their best friends or to respond to each of their posts, but neither do they get to exclude their parents online or offline.
- If someone says "repost this," don’t do it. Don’t be pushed into sharing stuff that you don’t want to. Jesus knows you love him even if you don’t post his name in your status every hour.
- Don’t be the only voice in the conversation. Don't talk about yourself all the time. Be a good date. Nobody likes to listen to others rant.
- Limit your time online. Like any good thing, it will monopolize your time if you let it.
- Don’t let online interactions replace human interaction. Spend time with others without electronics. We all need some time unplugged. No toys at the dinner table, at least.
- Do not put up with rudeness, name calling, and especially bullying behavior from others. Others are also accountable for what they say online. Don’t hesitate to get other parents or school authorities involved.
Online interactions on social media can be a fun ways to stay connected with those far away and to share a little about your life. If you use it well it can be both truly social and fun. Always remember that the person that you are online should be the same person that you are in real life. Our words and actions should always reflect that we are God's children. Paul gave instructions to young Timothy saying:
Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity (1 Timothy 4:12).
In all areas of life our character should reflect Christ Jesus to the world. Whether online or offline we are showing the world what it looks like to live under Christ's lordship.