What I Want to Tell my Kids About Social Media

If you’re anything like me, social media has become an integral, almost mechanical part of your day.  We wake up, reach for our phones, and before we get out of bed, we’ve read the news, checked Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and responded to a handful of emails.

We are more connected now than we’ve ever been in the history of human civilization.

Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t all bad. I use Facebook and Instagram to keep in contact with my family, share pictures of the kids with them, and share the occasional opinion. Like most other millennials, Twitter is where I get my news. It’s true that news happens on Twitter before it happens anywhere else.

Social media can be bad for us, but it can most certainly be helpful too.

My girls are seven, five, and one. They’re obviously not old enough for cell phones or Twitter or Snapchat or any other social media app. They’ll have the rest of their lives to waste time worrying about what other people think of them and comparing themselves to every other person in the world.

I’ve been thinking over the past few months, particularly in light all that has happened in our country, about how social media has affected the way we interact with one another. I’ve been thinking about how to talk to my children about it, and what I would say to them if they were old enough to take part in all of this, and I’ve learned a few things that I’d like to pass on.

Be Kind

This should go without saying. The person we interact with on social media is exactly that: a person. They have friends, a family, and feelings, just like everyone else. My wife and I have raised our daughters to be kind, and that doesn’t stop just because my kids are in front of a screen. 

Disagree Well

I know my children will encounter people that they disagree with. It happens all the time on social media. Particularly with our political climate getting as hostile and combative as it is, this is a sure thing. The important thing to remember is this: disagree well. Listen to other points of view. Learn from people different than yourself. Don’t assume that anybody that disagrees with your point of view is wrong or ignorant. You’ll find that disagreeing well will get you a long way in life.

Know When to Shut Up

My kids are always allowed an opinion on anything, but sometimes the smartest thing they can do is to just be quiet and listen. The world doesn’t need my child’s opinion on every single issue, any more than the world needs my opinion on every single issue.

I know that my children will encounter all sorts of crazy stuff in this world, and most of it will come through social media. It can be scary and confusing, knowing what and who to trust, or knowing who to listen to. If my children can remember these three things, I know that they will be okay.

The world isn’t always good, but they can be.

Stephen Carter is a writer, husband, father, & friend. He lives in Portland with his wife Rachel, and 3 beautiful girls, Avery, Rylee, & Hattie. When he’s not reading or writing, he enjoys a local micro-brew, or a strong cup of coffee. He is passionate about literature, theology, justice, Daniel Day-Lewis movies, U2 records (but with strong reservations about No Line on the Horizon), and believes that the right words can change the world. He can be found on: Twitter: @stephenedwardc

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