It’s nothing new when it comes to parents needing to have discussions with their teenagers about social media. Snapchat use to be a problem, but now it’s mainly used for their filters and then the content is placed on Instastories or Tiktok.
First Problem is Predators:
The same fear for people that have teenagers or people who work with teenagers hasn’t changed, “How is this negatively impacting children and teenagers?” We talk about internet safety and not wanting to become prey to pedophile stalkers. We also want to guard them from content that is not age appropriate.
The strategy of avoiding chatting with and getting in contact with a pedophile hasn’t changed. Do not talk to people you do not know. Since AOL chatrooms, boundaries have been suggested on what information is given and the reality that you do not know who is on the other end of the line.
The ability to talk with an unknown person is on every device, video game console, app, computer; you name it. Your child has access to the world when they are connected to the internet.
I recently had to have a couple of conversations with my eight-year-old about Roblox, an app that has a lot of free games people have made that look like lego characters or Minecraft characters. Some of the games require you to open a chat window to interact with other players to accomplish the game tasks. His cousin was over and I said they could chat with each other from their respective devices. They were sitting right next to each other, following the game directions and messaging each other.
I should have monitored more closely because it was one big chat room where both of them were talking with everyone. I found this out after the cousin left, and my son wanted to play this same game. When I checked on him after twenty minutes I saw the chat window was open. “Son, I thought I said you were not allowed to talk with people you do not know?” He replied, “I know but this is what I was doing before to complete the game challenges.”
I pulled him aside, away from the computer and reminded him, “We do not talk to anyone on the internet because we do not know who they are. We need to find another game that does not involve talking to people we do not know it person.”
Here is one thing you need to know about every social media app, they all have a way to privately message you. The above conversation I had with my child should apply, or you hope applies, but there is something secretive when a child or teenagers has a phone. Even adults do things on their phones in secret because it is easy to hide.
It takes more monitoring on your part as the parent to check not just your child’s text messages, it takes looking at every app that allows “direct messaging” or a “DM” as the kids call it these days…it has probably changed by the time I post this.
Second Problem is Content:
I’ve talked about this before in a post about a show Netflix had developed called Sex Education. It’s all about content, content and more content. The bigger problem in my view is the content your child is being exposed to and which apps allow for what kind of content.
It is unanimous and probably the law, that anything even resembling nudity and/or pornography is a breach of their policy and is taken down. However, the power of suggestion is very high.
Here is my rating of Tiktok, if it were a movie, and that would be rated R. There is adult content on Tiktok and you as a parent need to be aware of it. Tiktok allows for someone as young as 13 to create an account, but I see kids with accounts that have followed me. If they are seeing what I’m seeing then I’m horrified for them.
Tiktok does not filter by language in any way. You can say as many curse words as you want and it isn’t against their policy. If it turns into hate speech or violence then it might get reported and removed. Know that the F word is in at least 50% of the videos your child swipes through. You can sit and watch hundreds of 15 second clips and hear that word hundreds of times.
The next is when people decide to make things that we would find taboo or private and making it a joke on Tiktok. There are things from being molested by an uncle or step brother that get posted and people re-create it as if it doesn’t happen but acknowledging that it does. It is a little disturbing to see what people are either admitting to or perpetuating.
During the month of November, one trending hashtag was, “No Nut November,” meaning it was a challenge for guys to not orgasm during this month. So there were constant jokes about girls having caused their boyfriend to lose this challenge. It was overboard with this continual discussion about sex. I heard a teenager start to say, “No Nu” and right before he hit the last syllable I looked him square in the eye and said, “Stop.”
This is one of the reasons I engage in Tiktok, to see the secret language of my students and be aware of it. As a parent, go make one and you will see for yourself all the content that is both good and bad.
Here is the Solution:
As with anything in our culture, we can avoid it, embrace it or try to engage it. Assuming you allow your child to watch any R rated movie, then go for it. However, you child is going to know more about the birds and the bees than you if you haven’t had “the” discussion with them and all that is involved with it.
I know my students are on it, and I told them to follow me because it is possible to create clean content. I can swipe past the bad content, self-filter and look for what is appropriate. However, that is me as an adult. We need to train our teenagers the difference between right and wrong and then at some point trust them with the moral compass you gave them. That is probably around senior year when they are about to leave your house. It could be earlier when they start driving, with your supervision. Have a discussion with them, allow them to open about what they are watching teach them what the world does verses how we as Christians act.
I was approached with the notion that maybe me being on Tiktok is encouraging them to use it. I can see where people are coming from as a person who works with teenagers. However, Tiktok in and of itself is A moral. meaning it’s how people are using that makes it wrong. It’s the same argument we make for guns, it’s how people use it that make it wrong. It doesn’t make it wrong to own a gun…well certain guns.
Would Jesus be on Tiktok? I think he would, he would make people laugh and he would teach them. He would not ignore the culture altogether. He could perfectly swipe through content without lusting or hating and then would share truth, love, praiseworthy and admirable material.
There are Christians on Tiktok trying to post clean content and share Jesus. There are Christians on Tiktok perpetuating wrong behavior. It is always about the heart.
Jesus says, “The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks."Luke 6:45, ESV
Let us focus on the hearts and character of our children, may we pray and ask God to reveal our own faults and own up to them. Let us lead our children by example and may we love them greatly.
In Truth & Love
Matthew J Diaz
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