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Responding to a student’s inappropriate Facebook post [Guest Post]

Inappropriate Facebook postThe 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?

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TerryTerry Goodwin has worked in Junior High Ministry for 12 years. He is also the creator of juniorhighministry.org.


Posted on May 23, 2012

  • Charlie

    I once saw a student’s recent activity included them liking a page entitled “It’s my relationship, stay the &^%$ out of it.” Curious, I dug a bit and found out she was in more than 4,000 groups or pages. After a quick search, I found out that wasn’t the only colorful title she was involved with. That quickly got my mind racing as to how much parents know about their student’s activity on Social Media. Apart from educating them a few times a year, I also respond immediately anytime I see something posted. I send the student a private message, trying to bring to light that in all aspects of life, digital and real, we are to represent the name of Jesus, and by joining or liking things like that, they don’t do that. I do my best to incorporate as much about social media and technology into my lessons, talking about the effects it has on us relationally, psychologically, and otherwise. I also do a parent class at least twice a year, kind of an open forum on how social media affects students and what they can do to be both aware and proactive about the role it plays in their family.

    • http://timschmoyer.com/ Tim Schmoyer

      I’ve had to approach a few kids, too, about different things. I made it a point to always contact the kid first and see if we can work it out together. If a resolution is made, then I just inform the parent of my conversation with their student as an FYI and let them know that everything is cool now. If the kid just blocks me instead, as has happened before, then I let the parent know and leave it to them to decide how to proceed. I never go straight to the parent without talking with the kid first, but I always go to the parent either way after my discusion with the kid.

  • http://lukemcfadden.com/ Luke McFadden

    Good post. I will often address “the big ones” through a private message, and Followup in person if necessary.

    However, I do struggle with an appropriate way to communicate issues of modesty with the girls in our youth group. We’re small, and so not many of out leaders on on FB Twitter as much as I am. I feel like modesty is a message that needs to be communicated slowly over time with love, but I’m not comfortable sending a private message to a teen girl about the fact that she needs to wear different shirts, especially around guys/her boyfriends.

    If its bad, I’ll have one of my female leaders address it with them, as it usually spills over into youth group.

    But I also need to do a better job about communicating that with their parents… But that can get tricky too depending on their level of modesty. Obviously it takes some tact so one doesn’t come across as a creeper. It would be a good thing to address ministry wide, with some discussion about how we as a community can establish some guidelines for addressing issues like these.

    I could also find some older mothers who would be good at lovingly addressing this issue.

    Just thinking out loud!

  • http://crumpednotebook.com/ Melissa

    This is a huge issue in my ministry, and it seems the kids go through phases with it. I’ve had other adults in the church approach me about what the kids are posting (the parents of my kids don’t attend our church, so I become the fill in parent a lot of times). I’ve had members and even our pastors block the kid or unfriend them because they don’t like seeing the stuff they are posting in their feed. I can understand that, sometimes it is discouraging to see and sometimes just down right gross and things I’d rather not subject myself too.

    However, I see my role as someone who sees as much of the real them as possible and still loves them. I’ve always said I’d rather know about the stuff the kids are doing, good or bad, so that I can be more effective in my ministry to them and focus on the problems at hand.

    That said, I try to toe a fine line with Facebook, etc…. I appreciate they trust me enough to allow me to into their lives, both online and offline. In fact, I see it as a privileged. So what I do is just monitor and see what they are posting, sometimes using it for where to focus Bible studies, etc…. When I do think something is getting out of hand, and not the normal, “I’m a teenager and do stupid things sometimes,” I will talk with them privately, either in a message or, preferably, in-person. Talking with parents is important, but not always a practical thing in my ministry.

    Of course, my group is aware that sometimes there are things I see and hear that I have to report, either to parents, my supervisors, or CPS. It’s hard to explain to kids when that is the case, but most of them at this point understand it’s part of my duty and hopefully don’t let it affect what they are willing to share about themselves down the road.

  • http://joshhevans.wordpress.com/ Josh Evans

    I have had to deal with this a lot here lately. I have asked myself the same questions that you mentioned in the post. It is difficult. I feel that I have failed in my approach to the students. I feel that I go after our student leaders harder than other students, because I have communicated to them not to tweet/post this and that, because they are a leader. No, it should be because they are a believer! I am trying to revamp how I handle this, and this post and the comments have helped me.

    I tend to try and get the parents involved if it is necessary. I think this is one of the most effective ways, because it also brings family ministry & church life together.

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