My husband and I have been wary of social media. But we feel like we have been missing out on news from friends, and now our 13-year-old son wants a Facebook page. Is social media safe or a time waster or, worse, a danger?
You may have seen the report recently about Pope Benedict sending out his first “tweet” from his iPad, announcing the launch of the new Vatican news portal (News.va). If you break down that sentence, you will notice that, in a shrewd public-relations move, the Holy Father referenced or utilized three separate new-media platforms in one announcement!
The Holy Father, in that instant, reiterated what his most recent predecessors also believed: New technology should be utilized for the spreading of the Gospel in order to reach people where they are. We’ve seen it done with print, radio, television and the Internet; this is just the next natural step.
Like with any form of media, the platform itself should not be the concern, rather how one uses the platform. Just as there are good and bad books and movies, so there are good and bad uses of social media. If a Christian practices the moral virtues of moderation, chastity, etc., then any form of media can be put to positive use.
Tom: In our household, I have a Facebook account, while Caroline does not. I make sure that every aspect of my page is open and available for her to view at all times. At the same time, I make sure to use it in moderation, primarily as a very convenient way to keep up with old friends. Like anything else, I need to make sure it serves me and not the other way around. It has been extremely useful for keeping up with prayer needs, family news and the like. I often tease Caroline that I know what is going on in her family before she does simply because it is posted on Facebook first!
Our recommendation would be as follows: If you make the judgment that social media would be useful to you in terms of communication with friends, family and/or colleagues, go ahead and use it. Just be sure to familiarize yourself with appropriate privacy settings and safeguards. Share all account usernames and passwords with your spouse so that you are able to hold each other accountable.
In terms of your teenager, exercise great caution, but be realistic as well. The reality is that this is the primary way kids communicate in today’s world. It may make us uncomfortable, but that’s how things are going. We would suggest allowing him to have page, provided that he “friend” you and allow you access to every single word on his page. It may even enable you to know him, his friends and activities better than if he didn’t have one.
The McDonalds are family-life directors for the Archdiocese of Mobile, Alabama.