One foolish mistake on social media can haunt a person for years. All it takes is one insensitive tweet, a misinterpreted picture on Facebook, or an unguarded moment captured on Snapchat.
Think I’m exaggerating?
A recent article in The New York Times profiled people whose lives have been derailed because of something they posted to social media.
There’s the example of 30-year-old public relations consultant Justine Sacco, who sent out a racially insensitive tweet to her 170 followers before boarding a flight to South Africa.
After her comment was retweeted by a well-known tech blogger to his 15,000 followers, people became outraged. The hashtag #HasJustineLandedYet trended worldwide on Twitter as people awaited her reaction.
And before her flight had even landed, Justine had been fired from her job.
It should go without saying that we should be teaching our children to imitate Christ in all their behavior (Ephesians 5:1). Our ultimate goal isn’t to teach our kids to not post imprudent things online. We want them to be Christ-followers and to be wise to the wickedness of the world. We want them to embrace what is right and pure and lovely (Philippians 4:8).
But for so many of us, the road to a sincere, fruit-producing faith can be filled with potholes, peer pressure and bad judgment calls. And because a mistake made online has the tendency to be amplified, what might have been once handled privately is now broadcast to a watching world.
What’s a parent to do? Our counselors suggest a three-point approach:
1. Teach your children the value of a good reputation. Proverbs 22:1 says, “A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches” – and that’s especially true in this digital age.
2. Be involved in your child’s Internet use. As parents, we need to repeatedly talk with our children about online dangers and instill in them a sense of awareness that there can be serious consequences to what they post online.
We should also go beyond issuing warnings, though. Parents should set common-sense boundaries around online time. Consider installing filters that will block objectionable content. Begin talking at an early age about discernment. Finally, moms and dads need to know what social networks their kids are a part of. You might even want to require knowing their password, especially in the case of a younger teen.
3. Pray constantly for your children’s spiritual walk. As I alluded to earlier, our children’s outward expressions are a reflection of their hearts. The only way they can live out the fruit of the Spirit – love, kindness, goodness, gentleness, self-control, and so on – will be if they’re actively walking with Jesus Christ. And while parents can influence and encourage their children’s walk, in the end, we can’t live out their faith for them. That’s why it’s so important we constantly pray for our children and rely on God’s grace.
If you want to learn more, read our “Tech Support for Parents” series on our website. And as always, if you want to speak with one of our Family Help Specialists, you can call us at 1-800-A-FAMILY