This is my final post on the topic of Protecting our Children on the Internet. We’ve looked at the dangers of unbridled access and learned of resources available to help us through any situation. We’ve talked about the need for establishing ground rules in our homes and signs to watch for that indicate the rules might be getting broken. We learned about Parental Control tools for the internet and cell phones. And lastly, we discovered a new threat to our children’s innocence called sexting.
Today I want to ask you a question. How will you react if you discover one of your kid’s best friends engaged in any of the behaviors we’ve discussed? Is your gut reaction to immediately have your child de-friend their friend on facebook because one of them made a post that doesn’t live up to your family’s standards? I hope not. There is a better way.
We never want to send our children the message that bad behavior is okay. Bad behavior is not okay. But when we encounter bad behavior, I think we need to look at the offender through eyes of compassion. These are your kid’s friends. You’ve allowed the friendships to form. These kids might be friends from school, a sports team, a youth group or some other venue. Their parents are working just as hard as you are to raise them as you are with yours. Despite what teenagers may tell you, they are not grown-ups. They can easily victimize themselves through immature attempts at humor, bad judgment or completely innocent mistakes. How we respond as adults can make a world of difference in correcting the bad behaviors and restoring the child to a proper balance.
Avoid knee jerk reactions such as immediate de-friending. That does nothing to solve the problem and may be sending the wrong message to your children on social responsibility. What’s wrong with sitting down with the child who made the offense and discussing your viewpoint with them? Ask the child to delete the offensive post. If the child listens to you, you’ve made a friend for life.
If the child doesn’t listen, take it to his/her parents. If this gets no response, then de-friend him/her. The point I want to make is to resolve the problem through gradual escalation. Don’t pull the big guns out at the first sign of offense. Work through the issue to help the kid’s mature. Restoring a fellow human being caught up in the consequences of their own poor judgment is always a right thing to do. We’ve all made mistakes, right?