The most important thing parents can teach children in order to groom them for cyber-safe use of texting and social media is that they already have power and it must be defended. It is like the teacher saying, “You already have an ‘A’. Your assignment is to defend it.” The seminal question for the modern teen is, how much personal power will you surrender to the bully, the drug or the device? The power our children have is rooted in the mustard seed of faith that makes a free society possible: God grants every human being intelligent life and free will and this is power over your own thoughts and actions, regardless of what is happening in the world, that can never be taken, but it can easily be surrendered. It is also a great responsibility.
So what does surrendering your power look like and how does social media etiquette help?
To surrender your personal power is to believe things that are not true and base your decisions and actions on this untruth. These are the thoughts that torment your soul because you give them play in your heart; the lies of the social network that can convince our teens that they do not matter, or that their worth is tied to peer approval ratings, sex and money. Some examples include:
- You are invisible unless you are on SnapChate/Instagram (or other social media)
- The number of followers and likes I get validate me
- In order to express affection for a love interest, I must send a naked photo of myself
- I am not enough, so I must hype myself into something bigger
- Casual sex is no big deal
- Other people’s prescription drugs are safe
- Alcohol is harmless as long as I don’t drink and drive
- Nothing is more important to my well being than peer approval
All of these lies express a universal belief that the cyber-powered peer communities are the single point of reference for life and are the source of feeling connected, secure and “okay”. And while these lies can inspire real experiences with real feelings, the reality is that our power to feel connected and secure comes first from within; it is by the wisdom of your chosen faith (i.e. freedom of religion) that every human being has the power to choose their own thoughts and actions. So why not choose thoughts that nurture the soul, and bring about peace? In this way, social media etiquette offers thought leadership for teens to defend their liberty, their power to be free from undue influences that torment (bullying, exploitation, addiction). Along those lines, below are some social media etiquette tips:
- Always set standards that are respectful of self and others. Establish a “digital sunset” hour in the evening when you are retiring from social media, and let your friends know that you will be replying to texts in the morning. Regulate use of social media so that you are making time and giving attention to other things and people in your life (in person). When you are in the physical presence of a friend or family member, put down the device and give them undivided attention.
- Assume no privacy. For everything you post or send, imagine your mom, grandmother or another person you respect is reading it.
- Avoid and redirect gossip. Gossip is information shared about another person that causes relationship and reputation harm. Put yourself in the shoes of the person being talked about. If the information you are sharing about another person is not to benefit that person, or there is a genuine need to share it, then it is gossip. Gossip can lead to bullying. So make it a personal policy to avoid gossip. When gossip surfaces, find something kind to say about the person and change the subject.
- Be mindful about posting pictures that exclude members of your social group. If you are posting a photo of yourself and another friend, and the third person that usually hangs out with you is absent, consider how this will make her feel. Feelings of isolation are amplified in the social network. Extra consideration must be given to this “new social reality.”
- Do not “friend” people you have not met. “Friends of ‘friends’” on social media are not your “friends”. Do not let them into your network unless you know them personally. If someone you don’t know attempts to connect with you repeatedly, get an adult involved. It may be a clue that there is a bad actor trying to engage a minor inappropriately.
ABOUT: Banana Moments Foundation is a non-profit education center founded in Roseville, CA to strengthen the parent-child bond in a hyper-connected world. The BMF mission is to restore families with the mustard seed of faith that declares liberty already belongs to the soul because one God, the Creator of all humanity, grants every human being intelligence and free will to choose what to believe, and that is power that can never be taken, but is easily surrendered to the bully, the drug or the device. To that end, ten percent of all BMF proceeds are donated to prison ministries. Your Donations are greatly appreciated.
Joanna Jullien is an author, educator and speaker on strengthening the parent-child relationship in a cyber powered world. She is a mother of two grown sons, the author of The Authority In Me: The Power of Family Life in the Network Culture, produces The Sacramento Cyber Safety Examiner column on Examiner.com, and is the CyberParenting advisor on The Fish 103.9FM. Her new book, A Google World in the Garden of Eden: Five Family-Safe Strategies for Texting and Social Media is now available for PC and all eReader formats including Kindle, Nook, iPad.
- Cyber safety for kids and families on TheFish103.9FM (videos)
- Follow Joanna @CyberParenting
- Like Banana Moments
- Sacramento Cyber Safety Examiner
- Sign up to receive Banana Moments quarterly and monthly updates
- Email: Jullien@surewest.net
Jodie Stevens, hostess of The Fish Family Morning Show on 103.9FM The Fish offers insights and lessons learned about faith and recovery from addiction. Check out her blog, Genuine Life with Jodie Stevens, weekday mornings on the Family Morning Show.