If you have Facebook and have been on it at all the last week, my guess is you’ve seen the sensationalized and breaking news.
The internet is not safe.
It’s taken millions of people by surprise.
And while I’m certainly not taking the issues that have been brought up lightly, I do write that sentence, slightly tongue in cheek.
The internet is not safe.
That’s not new.
The world is not safe.
Ask your parents how their parents felt when they saw the first Victoria Secret commercial flash across their televisions.
Ask their parents how they felt when they saw the blood splatters and graphic images of their sons first comic book.
And before you say… “it’s different now.”
But it was also different then.
Let’s not pretend that previous generations didn’t deal with things we take for granted.
The point is children need (and always have needed) adults to both at times protect and possibly more importantly, prepare them, for the evil that exists in this world.
I’ll be the first to admit that the internet brings new challenges and situations. But I think principles are powerful things. And the principles that kept parents and adults grounded before still need to be considered now.
But one of the principles I’ve seen going around lately is concerning to me. Or maybe it’s a lack of principle.
Let’s call it reactive parenting rather than relational parenting.
There’s a huge difference and I think it’s worth talking about.
With this latest “MoMo Challenge” children are being exposed to inappropriate and scary content and students are being invited to hurt themselves. (These are two separate things by the way. YouTube Kids has inappropriate content in videos and there’s also a challenge going around where people message strangers)
It is absolutely disgusting and infuriating.
(It’s also been super sensationalized and blown into this quazi-urban myth/hoax)
Which… is also one reason you won’t find a bug eyed picture of this “MoMo” anywhere on my blog because I refuse to give the creeps behind this any more fame or hysteria. (Exactly what they want by the way)
Sorry let me step off my soap box real quick.
Bottom line. One of the things that I’ve seen a ton in posts and comments sounds like this:
“So scary, we sat our kids down and had a talk about staying safe online.”
“Just sick! Gonna have a talk with my kids.”
“No more social media for my kids. We are done!”
See there’s nothing wrong with those posts but what scares me is, it’s talked about like one question, conversation, or new rule is going to protect your kids.
It won’t. It’s also as if we aren’t having hard conversations until we feel like we have to.
In a way, it’s autopilot parenting and it’s SO EASY to fall into.
I say this as a person who needs to hear it as much as say it.
You don’t need to have THE TALK with your kids about…
Pick a topic.
Because the truth is you need to be TALKING to your kids about all those things.
Don’t just parent as a reaction or as a response to the latest hysteria or fad.
Parent in the relationship you have with your child.
What does that look like? Let me share a few verses that to me embodies this principle.
“Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates…” Deut. 11:18-20
See the writer of Deuteronomy was talking about faith conversations but there’s a principle at work here.
What the writer describes is a consistent and constant conversation.
So what does it look like to relationally parent versus reactionary parent?
It means you do things intentionally.
So for instance, let’s talk about the issue of sex. That’s a tough topic to handle with your kids.
But, even though our kids are under 5; we’ve already started laying the foundation. We use anatomically correct verbiage and talk about the different between private and public when it comes to their bodies.
Because we want to lay the foundation that they don’t need to be ashamed of their body, God made it special and just for them for now, and that they can talk to their parents about it.
When it comes to technology?
Well we intentionally talk about videos, movies, and phones as a special treat and a tool that mommy and daddy use.
We also talk to our kids intentionally about trust and how there are adults they trust and that they shouldn’t trust.
So when a panic goes through the news about creepy adults online, we start the conversation where we have before.
Talking about how there are adults that they shouldn’t trust.
We talk about how the internet is a tool, but it can be used in a bad way by other adults; just like mommy and daddy use it in a good way for them.
The point is we don’t panic because there’s something new and scary out there.
Because we have been having intentional conversations about those things before they run into them.
I’m learning from great parents around me that to relationally parent means I don’t protect my kids from everything.
But I can prepare them for a lot of things. By starting the conversation not out of fear but out of a desire to see them grow. And by continuing that conversation over time it leaves the door open to them to come talk to us about the things we not be aware of yet.
So no. You don’t need to have “the talk” about all the scary stuff on the internet. You need to have talks. Lots of them. Often.