Your Kids Will Go Where You Are Not

It wasn’t so long ago that I was in high school. Well, yes it was. It was 16 years ago. There was no Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Snapchat. The most we had back then was AOL Instant Messenger.

We didn’t have a social network to hang out on, but I’ll tell you one thing: I didn’t want to hang out in a physical place where my parents were. I would hang out in coffee shops, football games, and even the grocery store parking lot – because my parents weren’t there.

When social networking came about in 2004 with Facebook, I don’t think anybody really could foresee what would happen with teenagers in the digital space. You see, today’s teens and even preteens are doing the same things that we as kids did back when we were young – they are moving to places where their parents are not. Only this time it’s in the digital space, not necessarily in a physical space. Sure, kids will still want to hang out in physical places where their parents are not just to get away from them, but have you ever thought about kids doing that through a digital way – for websites, apps and services?

The largest demographic on Facebook right now is ages 35 to 45. Why do you think that is? Parents dominate Facebook while teens dominate Twitter. Teens know that their parents either don’t like Twitter or don’t understand Twitter enough to keep a watch on them while they’re on that network. So the big question is: where are your teens that you are not?

One of my cardinal rules for internet safety is be where your kids are. If they’re on Twitter, then so should you. Even if you don’t understand Twitter, you should still be on it and following them. A couple of weeks ago we had a Parent-Child Device Contract, and in that contract it stated that you should limit the use and number of your social networking accounts. Anyone who has killed half an hour on Facebook reading posts and watching videos knows that these networks can be a real time-waster. With services like Curbi you can limit the amount of time they spend on these networks and limit how many accounts they have. A good rule of thumb is 5 accounts – and that includes sites like YouTube or Instagram that may not be seen as “social media” sites. Limiting the time they are on the app and the amount of accounts they have will greatly improve your chances of keeping up with them on these networks.

Your teens don’t want to hang out with you, and they certainly don’t want you to comment on their pictures and things where all their friends can see it. At least if you know where they are and you check up on them regularly, you can maybe prevent something disastrous happening. Because where kids hang out digitally now is just as important as where they are hanging out physically.

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Chad Landman is the youth minister for the Church Street Church of Christ in Lewisburg, Tennessee where he has served for four years. He and his wife Bonnie have two boys—Jacob and David. Chad writes about technology and Christianity on his website at chadl.co, and talks to other ministers and youth ministers about technology on his podcast called Ministry Bits. He speaks frequently at area churches using his Active Digital Parenting curriculum, now a weekly blog at Start2Finish.org.

1 Comment
  1. Reply
    Chris February 17, 2015 at 11:00 am

    Thank you Chad for your insight! I too avoided being in the same places as my parent (single mom). I will pass this information along to the parents where I attend.

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