Remember when you were a teenager? I do. I remember the late 90’s. I remember the rise of the internet, and the dangers of AOL chatrooms. I even knew that there were places worse than that on the internet. I remember having my own landline in my bedroom and I could talk on the phone until I fell asleep. I knew that some people had cell phones, but not me…there just wasn’t any need for one.
Fast forward to today. The world has changed dramatically. The internet has gone crazy huge, and social media has become about the biggest thing ever. Now the vast majority of teens have a cell phone (and a smartphone at that). It all changed so rapidly.
Do you remember what you were like as a teenager? Do you remember making poor choices because you didn’t have enough life experience, common sense, or character? I do.
Fast forward to today. Teens still make bad choices. Teens still don’t have a long-term view of life, but the decisions they make in an instant can change their lives for a lifetime. As a society, we have created new ways for kids to make these bad decisions. With the rise of camera phones came the rise of sexting and the new app Snapchat. With the rise of social media comes the rise of cyberbullying and other such misuses of the medium.
So what can you do?
First, understand that what you see professed in the media as the end of the world may be a bit sensationalized. If you watched the news only, you would believe 90% or more of teens are sexting, but the best numbers we have put the actual number around 28%. Now that’s a lot of teens to be sure, but it not everyone…it’s not even a majority.
Second, talk with your teen. Consistently talk about the long-term impact of decisions. The internet is a permanent place. What they post on Facebook doesn’t just disappear when it scrolls off the newsfeed.
Third, help your teen understand the proper way to use their phone to enhance the kingdom of God. The cell phone is a great device, with great potential to link students with their peers. Harness it and use it for God’s glory. It is possible.
Keep on keeping on. I know it’s tough out their on the front lines. How are you helping your teen make wise choices. Have you discussed the long-term impact of online decisions? Do you have open dialogue with your teen about these issues?