Parent-Directed Cyber-Communication with Teens
This is the second part of an analysis blog regarding the troubling teen trend, soliciting votes, “Am I pretty or ugly?” … (See Part 1 – Dig Deeper: New Teen You-Tube Trend Is Pretty Ugly )
Use these pointers below to open up a parent-teen dialogue about the Internet, online social networking and finding your identity in Christ – just a few more tools for healthy living and good cyber-communications.
Parents: Be Pro-Active, Involved and Engaged in the Cyber-Life of Your Kids
- Always keep computers in open areas of the house, like the kitchen, living room or dining room – so you can see what they are viewing and dialogue while they visit FaceBook, watch You-Tube videos or visit other sites.
- Be able to access your teen’s email and FaceBook accounts, and do this somewhat regularly, just to check up on them and see what – and how – they are communicating with friends. FaceBook is a privilege for them, as minors under your roof – not an inherent right (yes, you can expect some whining and resistance).
- For more resources, articles and ideas to keep your family safe, visit the Pure Intimacy website, developed by Focus on the Family, and specifically view the “Protect My Family” section. Also read “Tech Support for Parents,” where you’ll find more helpful advice, regarding computers and safety on the Internet, from Focus on the Family.
- See a listing of more articles addressing sexual health and helping your teens remain abstinent until they are married in the Quick Guide: Articles on Healthy Sexuality.
Face-to-Face Rules of Engagement
- According to Psychologist John Suler, and other social-trend experts, in the CovenantEyes.com article:
… people often feel empowered by the Internet to express themselves in ways they would not do in face-to-face conversations. He calls this the “online disinhibition effect.”
… The Internet is being used to amplify our lives and amplify the insecurities many feel about the way they look. In the case of the viewers, leaving a comment can be an anonymous interaction, allowing them to feel free to say whatever they want without fear of consequences.
… Sitting casually in front of their Facebook profiles, teens can post whatever images of themselves they want, unaware of how their online persona reflects their character. The medium of the Internet gives users a fresh boldness to flirt, insult, or express themselves in new ways—and unfortunately this can lead to real-world dangers and temptations.
Conversation with your teen about rules of engagement might include the following:
- If you wouldn’t say something face to face, you probably shouldn’t be saying it to someone online. Just because you may feel “anonymous” on the Internet, it doesn’t imply that you can be mean spirited and act without a conscience. Your actions, words and motives are measured by God, and the choices you make today impact current and future relationships.
- Preserve your good reputation, and refrain from venting in anger on FaceBook, You-Tube , email or other online venues. And be careful to keep the conversations clean. How many times have you reacted immediately in anger, only to deeply regret it – and feel very embarrassed – the next day? Yep, we’ve all been there. Give it 24 hours before you respond (unless it’s a life, death or suicide situation, which requires immediate action).
- In all things, act in love – Jesus tells us to love our neighbors as ourselves and to treat others as we would like to be treated. We all probably have regrets over what we’ve done out of anger; but, there are probably few, if any, regrets over our acts of kindness and love.
- Remember, we are all made in God’s image (Genesis 1:26-27), and, ultimately, God created everything and everyone. So, who are we to judge “how” or “why” of God created someone or something? Now, when we ask Him, “How did you design me, specifically, and what is it you want me to do to bring you glory?” that’s moving in the right direction.
- Talk to your son and/or daughter. Explain to them when you post something to help someone through hard times, and you try to be a friend to them, it glorifies God because you are caring for someone He loves and who is hurting. When you post something hurtful or make rude criticisms and accusations, it hurts a person God created and loves, and it does not bring glory to God; not to mention, others may see what you have posted, and it could ruin your good reputation.
- As parents, we need to remember that teen brains are still developing. Their ability to think rationally and critically (via their brain’s pre-frontal cortex) will not be fully developed until early 20’s for girls and mid- to late-20’s for guys. Having said that, as a parent of a teen, you should teach them what’s appropriate and inappropriate to say to other people, online or face to face – there should be no difference.
- Bringing correction to someone should occur face to face, not in front of the online FaceBook or You-Tube worlds. And it should be done in private and in love. If your motive is godly in nature, your goal should be to make something right and resolve conflict, not to ignite the fuse of gossip or bring undue harm to another person’s reputation.
- John 3:16-17 says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” Loving someone is sacrificing yourself and/or your own desires for someone else’s well-being. And shouldn’t our focus be on saving people instead of condemning them (online or off line)? Lots to learn about what defines true love here … This can lead to other conversations about relationships, lust, infatuation and how our world defines “love” in the media. Is love the same as sex? No.
- Help kids realize when we “get ugly” on email, FaceBook or You-Tube, it’s usually to bring attention to ourselves, put others down and elevate ourselves to a place of superiority or authority. Truly, God is the only one capable of judging peoples’ hearts. John 3:30 tells us that we should decrease so He can increase. Derogatory and cruel online talk is often rooted in our own pride – emphasizing our ‘correctness’ over the value of the relationship. FaceBook and You-Tube can get pretty ugly when we get ugly attitudes that are driven by motives rooted in bitterness, jealousy and/or anger.
God Made You! Find Your Identity In Christ, and Know that You Are Important, Beautiful, Intentional and Full of Purpose.
Let’s train up a new generation of kids who have their identities planted in the firm, unchanging foundation of God’s Word. Here are a few verses that might help in talking to your teen(s) about their identity in Christ.
If your son or daughter has not yet received Jesus into their heart, pray for the Holy Spirit to move in their life. Walk them through the Romans Road, a series of verses in Romans that can be used to lead people to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, and ask them if they are ready to receive Christ as their Savior. To find your identity in Christ, you must first know Him. For deeper discussion, read Focus on the Family’s “What Must I Do to Be Saved?”
- Isaiah 64:8
- Isaiah 45:9-12
- Romans 9:20-21
- Psalms 139:7-18
- Our purpose in life is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever
- Explore more verses discussing our purpose in this life …
- How we, as individuals, can best glorify God will depend on our personality, our faith, our gifts and talents, our vision or calling from God. This can be a frustrating and rewarding adventure. Here are some tools from Focus on the Familyto help!
Time for Change …
I think we can all agree: This trend toward online, self-degrading videos is getting pretty ugly (and too popular).
Let’s plot a new course, and encourage our kids to start making videos (if they enjoy making and posting videos) that glorify God and sharing testimonies of how God’s helped us overcome some of life’s toughest struggles.
Listen to and watch some of the song videos listed below. Use the testimony of these artists to open up some healthy discussion.
If you want look in the Bible for general wisdom in life, the book of Proverbs has a lot to share regarding good, bad, right, wrong, wise and unwise courses in life. These verses can easily stir up thoughts, opinions and reflections, which can be very useful if you struggle with initiating conversations with your teen.
In fact, there are 31 chapters in Proverbs, which means you can read one chapter for each day of the month. This might be a good place to start with your teen(s), if they are not already in the Bible consistently.
If you’re struggling to maintain a relationship with your teen(s) and you need some help to break down the walls or deal with deeper issues, you may want to get some initial direction by calling our counseling helpline and talking to a counselor.
Post Videos that Glorify God!
How cool it is that we have the technology at our fingertips to be our own video creators, directors and editors? And then we get to post our final product online for the world to see – that’s incredible!
Unfortunately, where there’s great potential for good, there’s usually much potential for evil, as well. We must be careful with this video “power tool.”
Imagine if you post a single video online – one that’s done really well and has a great message – you could literally reach thousands of people in a matter of days. What a great tool to spread the Good News of our Lord and Savior and to reach those who are hurting. Glorify God in all that you do!
Share with Us …
Have you seen some amazing online video clips that truly glorify God?
Please comment on this blog, and tell me, why did this video impact you? Have you, or have your kids (parents) made a video that glorifies God and posted it on God-Tube, You-Tube or another site? Share it with us! Be sure to include the video link, so others can enjoy it, too.
[Note: Only clean, God-glorifying video links will be posted. If you happen to disagree with something said in this blog-analysis article, please submit your comment in a civil, constructive manner without the use of profanity or threats, and we will be happy to post your comment.]
Digging Deeper …
Videos with Songs and Testimonies that Hit You Where You Live
Here’s a sampling of a few good Christian songs, lyrics and videos below (many posted on You-Tube). These are some examples of what’s been done with video-Web technology to help those who are struggling in life to get a new perspective and to glorify God. There are many more!
(Sorry, I cannot control the ad clips that run prior to You-Tube videos, so be careful with younger teens and various movie-preview clips, etc.)
Mercy Me (band) – “Beautiful” (song-video, lyrics with video clip background) - Days will come when you don’t feel like you’re worth anything … you were made for so much more than all of this … you are treasured, you are sacred … you are His … you’re beautiful … Nice job combining lyrics with pictures in the background on video.
Barlow Girl (band) – “Mirror” (song-video, live concert) – Talks about self-image … being “perfect” … trying to meet the world’s standards for outward beauty … video link has the band sharing testimony about their struggle with beauty as a young lady.
Barlow Girl (band) – “Five Minutes of Fame” (song – video, live concert with testimony) – Song talks about giving into the pressures of this world … selling out and giving in because you want more people to like you … standing on your convictions …
Francesca Battistelli (artist) – “Beautiful, Beautiful” (song with artist’s video) … making my life something so beautiful, beautiful … realizing your full potential in life … being okay with who you are and being in your “sweet” spot in life (artist does a great job combining video, song and meaning of the song)
Francesca Battistelli (artist) – “Free to Be Me” (song with video done by artist) – Another nice job with music and video by Francesca Battistelli … coming to terms with the unrealistic expectation of perfection – “perfection is my enemy” she sings … and just being “who” you are … “who” God made you to be, and not trying to duplicate the world’s pattern … finding the freedom in just being who you are … great message, with nice video accompaniment …
Skillet (band) – “The Last Night” (song – video clip, live) – John Cooper, lead singer, intro -giving testimony about why he wrote this song … Skillet is on the harder end of contemporary Christian rock, and their live concerts are amazing … This song talks about another ugly trend of ‘cutting’ or self-mutilation … about how this will be the last night you have to spend alone, because God wants to be with you now and forever … you never have to be alone again … great job by Skillet, and live concert video clips can be difficult to get …
Disciple (band) – “Dear X” (song – video clip, live) … This song talks about overcoming addiction, anger and things that control our behaviors and choices, other than God … it’s about breaking free from the bonds of this world that hold us in chains … Disciple is a passionate, very real and raw, harder-core mix of Christian metal and rock, and the lead singer and his band members fully engage and evangelize in live concerts – great band bringing glory to God in a genre of music that’s often given over to darker, satanic bands … See the interview, and learn the story behind this song …
Barlow Girl (band) – “I Need You To Love Me” (song – video)
Again, Barlow Girl hits real-life struggles with young ladies (or anyone) needing to feel loved, and how God always loves us … finding His love, letting His love be sufficient … struggles with being so bad and terrible … How could God ever want me … ever love me? Nice job on the official song video by Barlow Girl – good mix of band and imagery of a searching soul with the lyrics going through her mind …
Switchfoot (band) – “Mess of Me” (Song, testimony, video) – Lead singer talks at a concert about how we have a drug for everything these days, but there “ain’t no drug” that can make his problems go away or make him well … how he’s his own affliction … the sickness is himself … “made a mess of me … want to get back the rest of me” and how he wants to spend the rest of his life alive. A good message for those with the deep hook of drug addiction, and it might encourage some people to take some steps to break free of drugs. The song lyrics and performance are done in somewhat of a rock-grunge genre that emphasizes the “trance” and illusion drugs bring to people’s minds, and how God can straighten out the mess we’ve made of ourselves.
Building 429 (Band named after Ephesians 4:29) – “Where I Belong” (song -video, testimony at end of video) “… All I know is I’m not home yet, this is not where I belong …” This popular song talks about how we, as believers in Jesus Christ, are not of this world … how our life here is temporary and how our life with God will be eternal, so hold on! (See John 17:13-19) We will take nothing from this world, just as we brought nothing into it when we were born, Job 1:21 tells us. The “stuff” of this world does not matter; what is important, however, is that our life here on Earth glorifies God. This video is a great example of what you can do with music and testimony to give hope in a struggling world.
The video creator was sure to credit his sources at the end, which is a good idea. Always be careful with copyright laws, video-pirating laws and other laws that could cause unwanted legal problems with online videos. You-Tube has posted copyright tips that may be helpful to read before you start – or continue – posting videos.
Now, let’s glorify God on You-Tube, God-Tube, FaceBook and all other sites!
You can visit Focus on the Family’s Plugged In site for more family-friendly music and movie reviews before you buy a movie ticket or new CD.