If someone asked me what my number one desire is for my children, the answer would be simple. That they love the Lord with all their heart, soul, and mind. My number two answer would run a close second--for them to be content with who God says they are.
Which causes me to wonder, in our social media-saturated culture, is it possible for my children to remain steadfast in their God-given identity? Or will they be pressured into identifying with an online persona instead?
I’ll be honest. This is a tough topic, requiring constant balance and reassessment. I’ve made my share of mistakes and learned hard parenting lessons.Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/Youngoldman
The Right Balance Starts with Us Parents
May we always remember every child is different, and God gifted each of us as parents to know what is best for our child according to His Word. As we stay firm in our own relationship with Christ and parent according to His ways, we can also realize that society is constantly changing.
And when we seek to understand our ever-evolving world of social media, we will also better understand the challenges our kids face when being present online.
Today’s generation are born knowing what it means to have an online presence. Some have had their images posted digitally since birth. Where generations before only gave those first glimpses of life to the few allowed in the delivery room, now hundreds of people or more may see their first moments.
We want to share these occasions with friends and family, but we also want our kids to grow up keeping a healthy perspective of online sharing. We hope they will stay true to themselves and their faith, but how?
Keeping the right balance begins with us. There are practical steps we can take to teach our kids that their identity isn’t an online persona. Let prayer guide you as you explore these 5 ideas for keeping your kids grounded in their God-given identity.
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1. Enjoy the moment for Yourself, Instead of Capturing it for Others
When my son turned 11-years-old, I took him to his first concert to see Toby Mac. Like many other parents there, I had my cell phone charged, ready, and pointing to the stage so we wouldn’t miss the moment he appeared.
In that instant, the crowd went wild. But we still didn’t see anything in front of us! We turned our attention in the direction of the cheers and saw Toby Mac’s surprise entrance from the back of the auditorium. He headed straight down the aisle right next to where we sat. As he passed, he gave my son a high five.
What a moment! One I almost missed because I was too busy searching for the perfect camera angle. That was nine years ago, and even without capturing it on my phone, it’s still one of our favorite memories.
Even before our kids reach the age to have their own devices or social media accounts, they see whether we are living in the moment, or living to capture the moment for later. When we’re tempted to pull out our phones to preserve memories, let’s ask ourselves these questions.
Who am I saving this for? Am I recording this memory to enjoy myself, or show to others? If our desire is to remember the moment, we may be better off putting the phone away and letting our minds absorb every precious detail. Our kids will feel our presence and see that our time together is the most important thing.
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2. Release the Pressure to Get it Right the First Time
It’s a common occurrence to hear our kids say, “...but everyone else has one!” Whether it’s a phone, online access, or social media, knowing when and what to allow is every parent’s dilemma. What’s even more confusing is seeing the wide span of choices with each new decision.
Some friends may allow their kids to have a smart phone at age 10, while others hold off until age 15. Some allow social media at 13, while others say “no” until 16. Seeking advice from other moms can be good, but it can also lead to more confusion. So how do we know what’s right for our child? And how do we make decisions without condemnation about our choices?
When deciding when or if to allow social media, don’t feel like it’s an all or nothing deal. There are a number of networks, with more popping up all the time. Listen, stay informed, and pray for your child’s online health. Begin with what is manageable and move forward when you are both ready.
In our trial run with my child’s first social media account, we didn’t realize the drama it would introduce to his personal life. Knowing what everyone is doing and thinking all the time can prove overwhelming for young hearts. Even with all my diligence in studying, reading, and thinking I knew what to expect, the newness of it all caught us off-guard. I wanted to condemn myself for being a bad mom.
I almost gave into this mom guilt, but instead I decided to reset and start again. I realized we could take a step back, review the problem, wait a bit, and start over. Our second time was a smoother transition because we took the time to address any issues he experienced. He moved forward with a better understanding of social media, and a stronger sense of its purpose.
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3. Encourage Healthy Habits, Including a Balanced Approach to Time Online
Sometimes as a mom I get so caught up in making sure I do the right thing, I neglect the simplicity of living a healthy, balanced lifestyle. This seems like an easy choice, but with our busy schedules we leave our kids vulnerable to less sleep, more stress, and social media time without imposed limits.
In my family, sticking to a regular bedtime (for all of us) and charging our phones overnight in the kitchen proved to be a solid option. We all felt better rested, and better rest leads to feeling better about yourself.
As an adult, I’ve given in to the temptation to scroll endlessly, not realizing how much time has passed. And if managing social media scrolling is a problem for me, just think how challenging that would be for a child or teen.
Taking away that temptation by making sleep time a social media-free zone will lead to a better start to the day and brighter outlook altogether. Let’s consider the positive effects of taming the amount of time we allow for scrolling, especially at bedtime.
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4. Insist on Open and Ongoing Conversation
Filters, edits, enhancements, and more. With ever-changing technology comes a long list of upgrades to how we’re able to alter what people see of us. Our kids may not realize most of the images they view are not the original images at all.
Filters can be fun, but they also give an unrealistic picture. So as young people stay present in their friends’ lives through online connections, they may fall into the trap of trying to change to be something else--an enhanced, more perfect version of themselves.
Their awareness of this altered reality can keep them from putting too much emphasis on other’s perceptions.
What is the purpose of filters? When should we use them? Should we adjust everything we share online? Asking these questions and more will keep communication open between us, so we can foresee potential problems.
Let’s insist on open conversations about the online persona we create when we share things online. Talking about it will help us all maintain godly perspectives when it comes to social media.
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5. Speak Affirming Words and Teach Them to Do the Same
The best way to keep them from putting too much emphasis on perfection is to share the truth about who God says they are.
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you…” Jeremiah 1:5
When our kids look in the mirror, their human side will try to focus on everything wrong. But when God looks at them, He sees everything right.
Our job is to train them to think kind thoughts about themselves according to what God says. This kind self-talk practice may not come easily at first. But hearing it from us will help it take root in their spirits, which will in turn help them embrace who God created.
The online world can be an uncertain and sometimes scary place, especially where our kids are concerned. Staying faithful in prayer and vigilant in their online lives will help them keep a healthy perspective. And, it will allow the peace of God to soothe our spirits as we walk this difficult parenting road.
Have you told him lately that he’s a child of the Living God? Is she aware of her royal heritage in Jesus? Maybe now’s the perfect time to tell them. Their identity is not in an online persona, but in the Creator of the world.
Discover more about parenting teens with resources from Kristine Brown’s Life Enrichment Library. You’ll also find weekly encouragement to help you “become more than yourself through God’s Word” at her website,kristinebrown.net. Kristine is the author of the upcoming devotional for teen girls, Over It. Trading Comparison for the True Me. For more information about the book’s release, follow Kristine on Facebook.
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