89% of adolescents use social media.
10% of parents say they have had intentional conversations with their kids about social media.
I've read several books to prepare for this class, and many of them give great information that equips parents to help their whole family use technology wisely, including when it comes to social media. And everything I have studied stresses that it is the conversations we have with our kids when they are offline that most influences how they behave online.
I want to talk to my kids about how to be safe and smart online, especially when I consider that the average teenager spends two hours a day on the internet. I have taught them how to look both ways before crossing the street, I have told them countless times to brush their teeth if they don't want cavities, and I have tutored them on the correct way to hold their fork. But those things are clear-cut, and I'm confident in my ability to relay those messages. Protecting your online reputation, now that seems a little more complicated.
This morning I put aside the bulleted lists of "Ways to Protect Your Online Reputation" from the various books I've been soaking up the last few weeks, and I set out to find something that my son and daughter could use to help them in that moment when they are deciding to hit "post" or "send." Already through my research (and my life experience) I have learned that when kids make bad choices it more often has to do with their impulse control than with their lack of character. I want something that they can remember, something that rings in their ears and burns in their hearts. So I Googled It.
Search: "Acronymous about online posting"
Search: "Catchy sayings about online posting"
Search: "Sayings to teach kids modesty"
And the list goes on...
But every time my results were the same - nothing. So I decided to forgo Google and seek God, the giver of all knowledge. (Yes, He's even smarter than Google.) This time my search came up with just the result I was looking for. I'm calling it #ProjectSELFie.
Here's how it works. Before you post or send that selfie or any other digital message, ask yourself does it...
I also pointed out that whatever she texts or posts, no matter who she is sending it to, should be considered for everyone to see. Research shows that over half of the inappropriate pictures sent or posted by adolescents end up in the hands of unintended recipients.
Then we talked about how the love of Jesus is for everyone. Jesus does not reserve His love and grace for those who have achieved popularity, success or fame. If we want to love like Jesus, our goal cannot be popularity either. He calls us to be genuine and compassionate. If our post is dishonest or is going to put someone down or make someone feel left out, then it isn't loving like Jesus.
And finally, we agreed that what we say online or on text is forever. Once we hit send or post, it is permanent. If we can't live with that fact, then our fingers should find that backspace or delete button right away!
I'm sure there will be times when my kids make poor choices on social media so I will be sure to tell them that Jesus is bigger than any mistake! He can handle a digital media failure.
But it is my prayer that this silly poem might ring loudly in some of those moments when their little fingers are moving more quickly than their young minds. Plus we are going to have more conversations like the one we had this morning because I want to be part of that intentional ten percent! My kids are precious, and they deserve it...yours do too.