It’s inevitable. Most children will ask their parents when they can get on social media. We know it’s not an easy decision for many reasons. To put it in terms of one social media platform, “it’s complicated.” That’s why we put together a resource for families: How to Prepare Your Child for Social Media (PDF Download). This printable resource includes 24 days of scriptures and guided questions that parents and children can work through together. It can serve as the beginning of an on-going conversation between you and your child as you prepare your child’s heart and mind for social media and establish guardrails to protect him or her. It also includes a Social Media Contract.
Here is a sneak peek at the second section of the workbook: Honoring God in How We Treat Others. This section features verses about how God calls His children to act towards others with specific questions about how these scriptures could be applied to conversations or posts on social media. After all, we experience firsthand how harsh and unkind people can be online. As Christian parents, we can start preparing our children to honor God in their online interactions just as well as they honor Him in face-to-face interactions.
5 Ways to Honor God on Social Media
#1 Love your neighbor.
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” – Mark 12:30-31
Why it matters that teenagers know this before getting on social media. Social media overflows with examples of how to be mean, disrespectful, and unloving towards others. However, God teaches His children to treat others with love and kindness. While social media may place a high value on looking cool in pictures, God places a high value on how well we love others.
#2 Show kindness and compassion.
“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” Colossians 3:12
Why it matters that teenagers know this before getting on social media. God wants His children to treat others with love and compassion—even people you don’t like or who don’t like you. You don’t need to look too far or for too long to encounter examples of cyberbullying on social media. Cyberbullying can lead to increased stress and anxiety, depression, acting out violently, and low self-esteem. Teach your child that if they see bullying of any kind or experience it themselves to tell a trusted adult. Help them identify two trusted adults to tell.
#3 Speak wisely and kindly.
“From a wise mind comes wise speech; the words of the wise are persuasive. Kind words are like honey—sweet to the soul and healthy for the body.” – Proverbs 16:23, 24
Why it matters that teenagers know this before getting on social media. Sometimes we need to take a deep breath and think before we comment on asocial media post. Ask yourself: What point are you trying to make with yourcomment? Start a conversation? Learn something about the situation to better understand? Solve a problem or help someone? Or are you trying to hurt someone or punish them because you feel hurt? Or maybe you want to build yourself up while tearing someone else down? Post kind and loving words and when you mess up, admit your mistake and ask for forgiveness.
#4 Continue doing good, even when it feels hard.
“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” -Galatians 6:9
Why it matters that teenagers know this before getting on social media. Sometimes as Christians we need to look harder to see God’s goodness in the world. Social media can seem to amplify and glorify sin. Work as a family to guard your heart and mind and to continue to be recognized as a child of God through your choices online.
#5 Be slow to get angry.
“A hot-tempered person stirs up conflict, but the one who is patient calms a quarrel.” – Proverbs 15:18
Why it matters that teenagers know this before getting on social media. Did you know that people are far more likely to be mean and aggressive online than they are in face-to-face interactions? Posting a comment or sharing online can block our self-awareness and make it more difficult to recognize and label our emotions and engage in rational conversations. If you find yourself starting to feel angry or frustrated (or any other strong emotion), take a break from social media. Step away and get yourself together. You don’t need to respond to everything.
Order a digital copy of the Social Media Workbook.