By: Liv Looney Cappelmann
Friends, it is no secret we are living in the digital media era. There are hundreds of social media platforms at our fingertips. Deciding which one or which ones to use can be overwhelming. We use these platforms for daily interactions, to keep in touch with family and friends near and far, to feel connected, supported, encouraged and to share the things we love most. The question for churches becomes, how do we faithfully minister to and connect individuals? The question for families in the social media age becomes this, how do we faithfully parent in these times?
My name is Liv Looney Cappelmann and I am the Director of Middle School Ministries at Mount Pleasant Presbyterian Church in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina. You caught me. I am not a parent; however, I see as part of my job to partner with families in the search to answer the questions of how families, and the church, remain faithful in ministry and in parenting. It is my goal to work towards equipping parents with resources and knowledge for faithful parenting in this digital world. By the time you read this blog, my congregation will have hosted the second series of classes for “Parenting in the Social Media Era.”
Social media was designed to be just that, social. Its purpose was designed to bring people together, not to separate. In order for social media platforms to be social and connect people, we need to practice smart “social media etiquette” and promote Internet safety for our young people.
According to a recent Pew Research Center survey parents of teens between the ages of 13 and 17 are taking measures to monitor how their young people are participating in the digital world and encouraging responsible use of technology and social media.
Among parents of teens ages 13 to 17,
- 61% had checked which websites their teens visited.
- 60% have checked teen’s social media profile(s).
- 48% have looked through teen’s phone calls/text messages.
- 39% have used parental controls for teen’s online activities.
- 16% have used parental controls to restrict cell phone use.
- 16% have used monitoring tools to track teen’s location with his/her cellphone.
In preparing to write this article I sat down with social media expert, Jennifer Bilbro. Jennifer is the founder of Out to Eat with Kids and Pink Bike Networking. She is a member of Mount Pleasant Presbyterian Church and an enthusiastic Confirmation leader. Jennifer has been an influential player in getting these workshops for parents to our congregation.
Jennifer had some great advice for parents, especially when it comes to social media and their internet safety:
- Parents, embark on this “social media journey” with your child. Think of a smart phone and its apps like a mall. As a parent, know what to expect when you walk into the store or let your child download and use that app. You would not let your child walk into a store where you were not sure what to expect to see. In the same respect, do not allow your child to download an app that you have not experienced firsthand.
- Apple user? Enable Apple Family Sharing. This setting alerts parents with a notice that your child is attempting to download an app. It gives parents the ability to approve or deny said request. In that way you are aware of the apps on your child’s mobile device. It also alerts parents for “in app” purchases, too.
Setting up Apple Family Sharing is fairly simple. You can use the feature on iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch with Ios8 or later, a Mac with OS X Yosemite or later and iTunes12, or the PC with iCloud for Windows. To access the feature on an Apple device, go to Settings > iCloud, tap “Set Up Family Sharing,” and follow the onscreen steps.
- Check out the Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI). Here you will find all sorts of additional resources to guide you in your social media journey with your child.
One of the most important things parents can do for their children is to have open and honest conversations about internet safety. It is crucial that we remind our young people that nothing is private, not even Snapchat. It is important to stress this idea and remind young people that even if you delete a text, picture, etc. that is never really goes away. Parents, rest assured, you are not alone in this journey. The church wants to be a network of support and encouragement as you navigate the critical years of adolescence.
Liv Looney Cappelmann is the Director of Middle School Ministries at Mount Pleasant Presbyterian Church. She lives in Charleston, SC with her husband Sean and their Vizsla puppy Humphrey. Liv enjoys capturing life’s beauty and its precious moments one Snapchat at a time.