Children grow up in a social media saturated world. This world is full of possibilities: instantly communicating with friends and family across the world, learning opportunities, or seeing photographs from every corner of the world. However, social media, with all it’s advantages and promise, also has a shadow side that ministry leaders and parents must face: bullying.
Bullying finds a home in social media. Attacks are instant, anonymous, and widespread. Here’s five ways to bully-proof your kids’ social media.
1. Be in the know
Kids have access to digital devices earlier than they are able to hold them upright. Most children will learn how to navigate a smartphone or tablet is akin before they can recite the ABC’s. Get to know your kid’s device. How are they using it? Is it password protected? Does your child have access to download and install any new app? You’re in charge. Get educated on the devices and apps your kids use.
2. Be together
Would you let your child cross the highway by themselves? Allowing kids to go online or use social media websites without your supervision is akin to allowing them to cross a highway by themselves, blindfolded. Use it with them. Allow them to sit with you as you interact online. Work together to create accounts and set up passwords and protection.
3. Be a teacher
One of the best things you can do is teach your child how to flag inappropriate content on social media sites. Here’s the basic steps for:
Learn them. Teach them.
4. Be mindful
Friendships are powerful forces in our lives. Encourage healthy friendships for your children. Certainly friends can become bullies, but mindfully and prayerfully consider what kinds of friendships to encourage and nurture in the life of your family. Be vigilant for signs of a bullied child as well. Is the Internet history cleared? Does your child turn off the computer or close the laptop when a parent enters the room? Are they upset when they get off the computer, withdrawn, or isolated? Look up and notice.
5. Be a first responder
If your child or a child in your ministry is bullied online, be the first one to respond. If you’re a parent, web tools like YOUDiligence, Avira, or STOPit can help you track, monitor, and respond. If you’re a children’s ministry leader, pray with the child and talk to the family.