I was listening to talk radio yesterday when I heard this story about a teenager who was being blackmailed with a nude photo she had sent to someone she had only met online. I immediately thought, "Here's one more thing to talk to my girls about."
The Internet and its surrounding technology has brought some great advances into our worlds. Information is constantly at our fingertips. We can communicate easily with people not just in our own communities but anywhere in the world. But with those advances come new dangers as well.
It would be easy to just tell our kids they can't use social media. It would be easy to simply remove that concern from our homes. But, here's the thing: Social media and the Internet aren't going away. Our kids are going to need to know how to navigate technology and social media to get a job. The trick is teaching them how to navigate those waters without drowning in them as teenagers.
Our kids are growing up in a world where social media is the way they connect. It's how they talk to their friends. And the truth is a lot of jobs revolve around the Internet and even social media. Not knowing how to use those tools can seriously handicap our kids in the future.
As I listened to the radio yesterday, I was amazed at the number of people who called in and said they don't monitor their kids' Internet, social media and phone usage. Too often, it seems we hand our kids these tools with their hidden dangers and expect them to figure out how to use them responsibly on their own. You wouldn't hand your child the keys to the car and tell him to go for a drive on the first day he got his permit. In the same way, you don't want to give your kids social media and simply expect them to know how to use it well.
There's a lot of debate among parents about whether it's OK to invade your child's privacy by looking at their texts and their social media posts. Here's the thing, God didn't give you your kids to be their best friends. He gave you your kids so you could be their parent. He tells us our job is to guide our kids to follow Him. He tells us it's our job to train our kids so they know what's right when they're older. That includes navigating technology.
I check my girls' phones at least twice a week. I read texts and social media posts. I look to see what games are on their phones. I don't do it because I don't trust my girls. I do it because my girls are 11 and 13 (just for the record, my 11-year-old doesn't have social media access). They don't have the life experience to recognize dicey situations. They don't always have the judgment to recognize when a situation is getting out of hand. I do it because it's my job to teach them how to recognize those situations and how to deal with them.
We need to view teaching our kids to navigate technology as just another thing to teach them. Just like we teach them to brush their teeth and cross the street, we need to be intentional in teaching them how to safely and graciously use technology. We need to show them how to use the tools of technology to be light in the darkness. We need to teach them how to recognize dangerous situations online just as we teach them to recognize dangerous situations in real life.
As the world around us changes with technological advances, we need to simply look at those advances as another way to teach our kids to become more like Jesus. We need to view those moments as an opportunity to teach our kids just another life skill. Because that technology isn't going away, and it's part of our kids' world. It's our job to teach them how to use it. Even if it means invading their privacy.