Sunday, March 2, 2014

Why my 13yo isn't on facebook

I hesitate to write this post, because I'm afraid it will come across in a condemning, judgmental way.  I've been on the opposite end of this stick before: I allow my children to watch certain things, read certain books, and have certain internet freedoms that many other parents do not allow their children to do.  I've gotten the question, "why do you let your children do that? Don't you know what's at risk?"  I try to be intentional about the things I allow and have good reasons behind them.  Key word: I try.

This is not that kind of post, so bear with me.

I've seen many positive things coming from teens on facebook.  I'm seeing many young people grow into remarkable, God loving, people serving adults.  Many times, I'm blown away by their maturity.  Their witty posts make me laugh and put a smile on my face.  When times are rough, friends and friends of their parents chime in with prayers and words of encouragement.  I love seeing moms chip in on facebook and show real love and concern when a young person may not be making a wise choice in their lives.

Without a doubt, used wisely, Facebook can be amazing for bringing people together, including teens.

There is one concern, however, that scares the be-jeebers out of me.  I have very little control of what pops up in my facebook feed.  Here's how that looks in my life:

I login to Facebook.
I scroll through my feed and see all the recent status of my friends and family.
One friend posts a link to an article she read, with graphic pictures, of atrocities in foreign orphanages.
Another friend posts a link to an article about an animal that was horrifically abused, complete with pictures.
Because these images are being posted by people I trust and have friended, they pop up without warning.  In one instant, a graphic image is burnt into my mind.
Often, these images haunt me for days.

There are horrible evils in this world, and we cannot fight them if we turn a blind eye. I get it.  Sometimes human kind needs to see itself at its worst, so we can fight it and rise above it.  The children, the elderly, the animals...those who are weak and have no one to defend them or care for them; we are called to those things.

However, I also have 3 children that are calling for my attention, right now.  These images affect me deeply on an emotional level, and take me away from serving their needs.  I find myself depressed and distracted for the next 2 days after seeing those graphic images.

By now, you've drawn the correlation.  Yes, if my teen shares the same friend, they have now seen disturbing graphic images on Facebook, too.  Let's take that one step further...

Let's say my teen has a friend on Facebook that posts a crude image, just for the shock value.  That image now shows up on my teen's feed.  And because the friend was trusted, my teen has now seen a graphic image that cannot be erased.  This is more common than you realize!

I read an article (I will only refer to it, but I won't link it, here, due to the explicit nature of the article) in which teens were asked in a study what types of intimate acts they had seen.  It was a normal part of their day for friends to post shocking videos and images, simply because of the shock value.  Scientific studies have shown how the human brain changes after viewing p-graphic material.  Not to mention, the unhealthy, unrealistic expectations about intimacy, and the addictive nature of viewing such things.  You cannot "un-see" something; that image, seen once, lives on in the brain.

Sure, my kids probably have a little too much computer freedom at times.  They could seek these images out on their own.  They aren't perfect and kids get curious.  I could and should probably do more to limit this, by enforcing more house rules and installing filters.  However, for them to see graphic images, they would have to seek it out.  With Facebook, those images are thrown at them, without seeking it out or desiring it.  There is no real control of your feed.  You can unfriend people or remove a post from your feed, but this is "after the fact", and it's already too late.

So, that is why my 13yo isn't on Facebook.  This is something we've discussed at large, and she has decided that it doesn't interest her, anyway.  Will she always be Facebook-less?  I don't know.  Hopefully, that is something that we both decide together with wisdom and discernment, each year until she reaches adulthood.

No condemnation, here.  The flipside is that my daughter is missing out on the positive mentoring from good parental role models.  She's missing out on certain connections with friends.  Those times of sharing goofy thoughts and having a laugh are some of the most precious times of teen hood!  There is no making up for the lost opportunities of youth.

Parenting is full of tough decisions, isn't it?

Question: why or why not do you think a teen should be on Facebook?  And, what is your answer to the graphic feed problem?

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