1. Accept reality. - Honestly, I do not like social media. I think it is a waste of time and just leads to all sorts of temptations and issues. But students are going to use it. And the way trends are going they may have to in order to succeed in their chosen career fields. There may come a day where we all pull away from it, and I hope that day does come, but I do not see that happening any time in the near future. Instead I just believe the networks we use and how we use them will continually change. So we must accept that to some extent we need to have a presence on social media to connect with our students and keep an eye on the choices they are making, versus what they are telling us.
2. Know what your students are using.- Did you know that while most teens have a Facebook many of them are not using it anymore? There are many reasons for this, from fear about privacy settings to there being too much drama. But the main reason students are leaving Facebook is because their parents are there now. And who wants to hang out with their parents? So many students are moving to places like Instagram since it is more visual and twitter and Tumblr as micro-blogging becomes more popular. But many students are moving to networks like snapchat. If you have not heard of this, students can post pictures and they disappear within seconds of being viewed. What is scary about this is both that students believe that anything they post ever truly disappears and the fact of why students want a social network of this nature. Which means we not only need to know what students are using to connect where they are connecting but also to get a glimpse into what this teenage culture is struggling with and what forms of sin are gripping their lives.
3. Set boundaries and have accountability. - Social media can quickly be a time sucker. So while it is important for us to have a presence on social media, at the end of the day it is not the best way we can connect with students and we can only accomplish so much through this medium. So you need to set clear time boundaries, hold yourself to those boundaries, and find someone else to help hold you to those boundaries. But maybe the more important part of this is remembering that none of us is perfect. Everyday it seems like there is a news story about an adult, from teachers to ministers, having an inappropriate relationship or being involved in some other immorality that began on social media. Every time this is heart breaking but the danger is that it is really easy to point the finger and say thank goodness that is not us. When if we are not careful it could easily be us. This is why we need accountability. We cannot afford for more ministers to believe they are invincible and above sin. We need clear accountability and boundaries not only to keep ourselves out of trouble but also so that we have a witness to stand with us in cases of false accusations of impropriety. Your boundaries are up to you but I suggest things like keeping social media use to under an hour, or honestly under 30 minutes per day, or even going as far as to setting aside only a couple of days when you even look at it. I also say that when dealing with students do not send private messages.
But enough about me. What are your boundaries in social media and what have you learned about using it in youth ministry?