Every now and then, David or I will sit down with one of our kids and ask to scroll through their social media feeds. They love these special times just as much as you can imagine they would.
Even with the consistently less-than-enthusiastic welcome, while our children are still under care we will continue to drop in and invite ourselves into their on-line spaces.
We do this because we really enjoy eighth-grade humor and have tons of extra time. Kidding. We check in because we care, we think we should, and because we aren’t overly conflicted about our children thinking we’re cool.
Call us crazy or uniformed, but we don’t attach any moral value to social media. It is not the root of all evil, in our opinion. It is a tool and a temptation that can be used by people of all ages to bless or to curse; to build up or tear down; to edify or demean; to give generously or take selfishly; all depending on the heart and intention of the user.
So how do we help the next generation wield the tool of social media for good, instead of them being used by it for sport? We continue to check in – invited or not – and parent our children with perspective and grace.
David and I don’t hitch our wagon with those who think that social media is inherently vapid or dangerous; always a shameful waste of time; something to be disparaged by parents at every turn. While we’re not naive to what’s ‘out there’, we’re also not filled with fear or dread for the safety of our kids. We mostly try not to give the subject any more value or significance than is rightly due.
Even so, we choose to check in (and chime in) because that’s what parents of teenagers have done through the ages – we open doors, turn on the lights, poke around a little, and get in our kid’s business like it’s our job.
Oh! But they need privacy! Oh! But what will happen when they leave for college and you’re not around? Oh! You don’t trust them! You’re stifling them! Oh! Your poor, socially awkward kids will need countless hours of therapy to undo the damage you’ve done!
Our children do not need total on-line privacy. They need boundaries, accountability, insight, and infinite grace – just like we do.
When our kids leave home to make their way in this world, may the seeds sown during our Instagram discussions (like, the value of restraint, respect, transparency, humor, humility, and self-control in) be firmly rooted in their minds and hearts.
As for trust? It’s earned. What better place to practice, flounder, fail, and be forgiven than under the care of people who love you unconditionally?
The time allotted to American parents to instruct their offspring is about eighteen years.
In that very short time, we must teach our children to not despise what is good for them. Let’s not be put off by a less-than-enthusiastic welcome.
Good parents insist that their children speak kindly to one another, apologize when they’re wrong, champion the weak, and respect the dignity of all people. Why would we hesitate to insist they do anything less in their on-line spaces? How can we understand their challenges and guide them in understanding if we don’t invite ourselves in?
Our teens are with us for just a little while. Why would we leave them (literally) to their own devices in their last days in our care? Drop in, turn the light on, ask some questions, and poke around a little. You may not be cool, but you’ll be parenting like it’s your job.
As parents we spend our best energies preparing their sons and daughters to care for themselves, their world, and their neighbors in all the places they hope to go in life. Social media is now a place that they will eagerly (and frequently) want to go. Do they go there knowing how to take care of themselves and their on-line neighbors?
Do they go with our hope? With light? With discernment and understanding? Do they go there with our blessing?
Do our children go and make their on-line spaces and communities more beautiful because we have chosen – as their God-given parents – to invite ourselves in?
Peace to you, and also courage, discernment, and infinite grace.