Social media can feel a bit like the Wild West at times. As parents we feel overwhelmed with questions:
- What is okay?
- For how long?
- How much is too much?
- Will my child make good choices?
- What happens when they don’t?
- What should I do when their friends make bad choices?
- How do I manage who they contact online?
But there are answers. Working together with your family you can devise a family framework – a baseline set of expectations to help your children make decisions on their own without requiring a full-time internet police force. This allows you more time to fight for your family, rather than just with them about their social media use.
Building a Framework For the Whole Family
In Philippians Paul reminds us that “he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion on the day of Christ Jesus” (1:6). This is amazing news, because we are still works in progress!
This framework should reflect that truth. These aren’t laws we will use to police our family but directions to follow on the map of life. When we get off course we don’t get a ticket, we get pointed back to our directions: Hope in Christ.
Use this framework to help guide conversations with your family about what is most important and how that applies to our lives on social media. The goal is to fight for our family rather than with them regarding social media tech.
A Quick Introductory Exercise
Get a writing utensil and a piece of paper. Without discussing, answer this question on your own:
If you could make one tech rule for your family (and everyone would follow it) what would it be and why? Hold on to these answers.
Step 1: Ground Rules
- All selected rules will apply to all family members.
- Read through the list of expectations below. You can choose to do this on your own or as a family.
- After reading go through as a group and determine what you will keep, throw out, or add.
Step 2: Circle / Cross Out / Add
Read through the following on your own.
- Circle the ones you believe should apply to your family.
- Cross out the ones you believe should not apply.
- Add any expectations you believe might be missing.
Remember: Conversation is key! So be prepared to ask questions, explain your answers, and talk through this process with your family.
- I will only use social media to create, connect, and inspire. If it is not true, helpful, or kind, I will not post it, like it, share it, or otherwise give it influence or audience.
- I will keep all of my accounts set to private.
- I will post pictures of faces, not just body parts, as I understand it is not healthy to sexualize my body.
- I will not post sexualized pictures of any kind, including kissing, groping, emojis, or gestures.
- I will remain respectful of myself and others; I will not gossip, harass, mock, or use social media in any way to tear down another person.
- I will be wise about my safety and will not post my current location/activity. i.e.; I will not say “I’m at the movies with Beth.”
- I will tell a parent/guardian if anyone ever sends aggressive or sexual messages of any kind on any social platform.
- I will be a resource to people who are depressed, suicidal, or harming themselves or others. I understand that I’m not trained or prepared to intervene directly, so I will tell a caring adult to get these individuals the help they need.
- I will not view pornography. I know that sex is part of a healthy adult life; and I know that pornography is not that, nor is it healthy. I know that I cannot un-see images, and that they have long term effects on my physical, emotional, and spiritual well being. I know that the porn industry is large and powerful, and that the men and women who work in the industry are treated poorly. Because of all these reasons, and that in addition, pornography isn’t loving, I will not engage in this content.
- I understand that all content I put online is tracked, traced, and tagged to my online profile; and that even if I delete a post or photo, it can still be accessed (even if the app says otherwise.) Even private messages and pictures are not really private. All digital content is able to be accessed at any time in my life.
Step 3: Discuss Rule Additions
Discuss the rule you made at the beginning as a family. there any expectations you need to add as a family?
- What did your rule say?
- Why do you believe your rule is important for your family?
- Was that rule addressed by the others in the framework below?
Step 4: Discuss Consequences
Consequences are only effective when they are clear and consistent. Develop expectations for what will happen when someone doesn’t abide by the family framework.
- What should happen when a family tech expectation isn’t followed?
- What if it expectations aren’t follow repeatedly?
Consequences for breaking expectations should be discussed up-front and agreed upon by all parties prior to being used.
On your paper write a quick answer to each of the follow (as few words as possible):
- In one word: Describe the process of making these rules with your family.
- What rule did everyone agreed on the fastest?
- Which rule took the most work to get everyone to agree to?
- Which rule do you believe will be the hardest for you to follow?
- Which rule will you tell your friends about first?
- If you had to pick one other tech area of life to make ground rules for, what would it be: Video Games? Time and places for tech? Music? Shows?