The following is a guest post by Terry Goodwin, a junior high youth worker for 12 years.
While working with junior high students, I have learned that many of them haven’t developed a “filter.” A filter is what makes you stop and think about the outcome before saying, writing or doing something.
Junior highers especially lack a filter when it comes to using social media. And to make matters worst, they underestimate how fast that information can spread. They’ll often post details of their physical relationships with the opposite sex, write something nasty about a teacher, put down a friend or even brag about breaking the law. They usually don’t realize until afterwards, that it wasn’t a good idea to post those things. Uh… busted!
I make it a point to connect with students on Facebook and Twitter. Not in a creepy kind of way, but because that’s where they live. I often have to decide if and when to respond to certain things. Do I comment on a Facebook post? Do I respond to a tweet? Do I call the student to talk about it? Do I send a private message to them? Do I communicate with their parents about the issue? Do I do nothing at all?
These are good questions to ask yourself. The answers will be different for everyone, but the important thing is that you ask those questions. Engage when necessary and know when to step back and observe when needed.
You might be tempted to throw Bible verses at students or play the Pastor card when students post inappropriate things. It’s the easy thing to do. But in doing that, consider that you might push them away. In the past, I have sometimes done more harm than good taking this approach. Instead, approach with caution and approach in love.
Also, use social media as a window into the real lives of your students. Use it to discover the real issues they are facing, the sins that tempt them the most and as a glimpse into their relationship with Jesus.
Educate students on how to use social media in a healthy way. Help them to use a filter beforehand so they don’t have to experience the negative consequences afterwards. When they mess up, help them to get back up and learn from the experience.
Consider partnering with parents on the social media issue. Don’t assume they know everything about Facebook and Twitter. Look for ways to work together and help students use social media in a healthy way.
QUESTION: How and when do you decide to respond to a student’s inappropriate Facebook post?
Terry Goodwin has worked in Junior High Ministry for 12 years. He is also the creator of juniorhighministry.org.
Posted on May 23, 2012