Most would agree that social media and the internet are places where dangers lurk. So it might be tempting to say the solution is to avoid cyber-space altogether. But that would be unwise. Consider this. Driving a vehicle is also fraught with dangers. There are unsafe drivers in abundance. Driving to places of temptation is always an option. One’s self-image and self-worth can easily attached to the type of vehicle driven. Lack of attention can cause loss of property, injury and even death! The unexpected is always around the next turn. And of course, a parent’s nightmare, the car is an opportunity for sexual immorality.
Even with all of these negative possibilities we still encourage our children to drive. Why, because it is part of our everyday culture. Driving is how we move from place to place. So, what can be learned from this analogy?
First is the importance of training. You don’t hand the keys to your teenager and say good luck, be safe. No, as painful as it is, you climb into the passenger seat, buckle up, pray and say “turn it on.“ And, even before this dramatic moment, training has taken place. A learner’s permit has been acquired and basic instruction about road safety and traffic laws was given. However, even though the world of social media is just as dangerous in its own way as driving, the same level of preparation and training is seldom given.
You get the point. Don’t hand your kids a smart phone, a tablet or computer with internet access and say “be safe.” Training about the dangers involved, about how to recognize trouble, and spending time sitting next to them while they learn is just as important as teaching them how to drive a car. Your children need the skills of biblical wisdom to safely navigate the potential land mines of social media. These skills can and should be taught from early childhood in preparation for the “big” moment of getting behind the wheel or logging on to the net.
For example, practically teach your children the meaning of Proverbs 18:17. It is foolish to accept one person’s word on a post without verifying it is true by another source. If you haven’t had frank discussions about purity and the lure of sexual temptation, then your kids aren’t ready for the internet and social media. Use the model of the dad in Proverbs 7 who shows his son explicitly what temptation looks like and how to avoid it.
You wouldn’t toss your car keys to a teenager who has never been behind the wheel and say, “see you later.” So, don’t hand over a password and a tablet without loving you kids enough to teach them the skills they need as they travel through cyber-space.