Today’s big profile story on facebook is about a New Jersey pastor that is asking his staff to delete their facebook accounts because it encourages adultery. According to the story, some 20 couples in the church have broken up marriages due to rekindling previous relationships via facebook connections.
Other ministries are taking a counter approach, citing that the benefits of keeping in touch with their congregations and the results they are seeing in more effective community outreach far outweigh the moral perils opening up to the Internet and Social Media may reveal.
Yes, reveal – this is an issue that everyone with children and in a relationship should be aware of and dealing with proactively. The volume, pace and availability of images, videos, live chats, location tracking and revelation of private information is like nothing we’ve ever dealt with and can seem overwhelming.
This is a topic that I’ve discussed at great length with Millennial expert Scott Degraffenreid (http://n2millennials.com) and Dr. Patty O’Sullivan, an author and speaker who works with pre-teens and teens in New Mexico via her organization Envision Your Future.
As a parent of 6 Millenials, ages 14 to 25, all of whom are very active online – I have concerns, and also take active measures to monitor and protect them, but it’s a challenge.
What Scott, Dr. Patty and I do agree on, is that creating a foundation of emotional and family stability and having clear moral boundaries is the only really effective solution long-term. The tactics for this foundation are decidedly low-tech – listening, showing interest in what they are doing, communicating trust and respect, family meals and activities and individual time with each child when possible to really tune in to how they are doing.
Online or offline, they are faced with moral challenges and decisions about things like sex, drugs and alcohol use that can have immediate and fatal or life altering consequences. Giving them the best parenting and family support doesn’t guarantee they will make good choices, but it creates the knowledge in them that they are loved, valued and that their life has purpose and meaning.
Let’s swing this back to adults and churches concerned with facebook in particular and the Internet in general revealing where people’s personal moral boundaries are drawn. If you are in a relationship, spending time listening, showing interest in what they are doing, communicating trust and respect, sharing meals and activities and carving out time as a couple doesn’t guarantee that your partner won’t reconnect with their high school flame, the office hottie or a porn addiction. It does make a big difference in the likelihood that someone will “forget” where the boundaries are drawn.
My challenge to parents and church leaders is to create strong relationships with powerful choices of what we do with our time and attention. Social Media, facebook and the Internet are supplemental and morally neutral in themselves… the foundation of what you believe and what your personal moral boundaries are frame your life – online and offline.
Dr. Patty’s book “Parenting At Warp Speed” is slated for release next year – it will be amazing (be sure to sign up for more info – we’ll be announcing the launch for sure) http://envisionyourfuture.org
Scott Degrafffenreid’s book “Understanding the Millennial Mind: A Menace Or Amazing?” is a great resource for parents, church leaders and employers.