Q: After such a contentious and nasty presidential election, we have decided to establish some guidelines for ourselves and our teenagers as to the way we use social media. What ideas might you have for Christian parents?
A: Colossians 3:12 reminds us that “… as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.” This idea of “putting on” and “putting off” is an important one in the Bible. Nowhere is this more fleshed out in our society and families than in the way we put on and put off certain practices with regard to social media.
When Paul writes in Ephesians 4 about “putting off” the “old man,” he specifically references such things as anger, rotten talk that tears down others, bitterness, wrath, insults and slander. Instead, we are exhorted to “put on” the “new man,” who is characterized by kindness, compassion, forgiveness and love. Galatians 5:22 echoes much of this as we are reminded that the “fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”
One could argue that what we “put on” social media simply mirrors what is in our hearts. While there is truth to that statement, it is equally true that much of what goes through our minds should never be exposed to the light of day, but be carefully and prayerfully filtered. For many young people (and unfortunately older ones as well whose wisdom does not match their years), Spirit-led filtering is short-circuited by a readily available “on ramp” to the internet superhighway of 24/7 impulsivity. Stimulated by a culture of narcissism and temporarily emboldened by anger, anxiety, or lust, it is easy for all of us to get carried away and allow emotions to hijack our thinking processes.
Here are a few common sense guidelines for teenagers (and the rest of us). Post positive. Post sparingly. Practice pruning in your social media usage. Keep devices out of the room in which you sleep. Practice self-control. Decide in advance to avoid reading rants. Build others up. Exalt Christ.