Q: My kids are old enough to have their own social media accounts, and I'm reluctantly ready to let them. But I'm still nervous about it. Do you have any advice?
Jim: We've all heard the stories. Someone posts an offensive comment to social media and gets fired. A young boy stumbles across explicit content online and begins to struggle with pornography. A teen girl is bullied on Facebook and Twitter. One foolish mistake on social media can haunt a person for years. All it takes is one insensitive tweet, a misinterpreted Instagram picture or an unguarded moment captured on Snapchat.
None of us wants to see our children in these situations. But we live in a media-driven world, and the internet is here to stay. If you talk openly with your kids and put common-sense safeguards in place, they can learn to navigate the web safely and responsibly.
First, teach your children the value of a good reputation. A classic Proverb says, "A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches" -- and that's especially true in this digital age. It takes hard work to earn the respect of others, and only one brief, foolish decision to lose it.
Also, stay involved in your child's internet use. As parents, we need to repeatedly talk with our children about online dangers and reaffirm their awareness of the ramifications of what they post online.
We should go beyond issuing warnings, though. Parents should set common-sense boundaries around online time. Begin talking at an early age about discernment. Consider installing filters that will block objectionable content. Finally, moms and dads need to know what social networks their kids are a part of. You might even want to require knowing their password, especially in the case of a younger teen.
You can find more practical advice on our website at FocusOnTheFamily.com/parenting/tech-support-for-parents.
Q: When should I tell my parents and siblings that my marriage is on the rocks? My wife and I have been struggling for a long time. We're seeing a counselor and we both want the relationship to work, but so far things aren't getting any better.
Greg Smalley, Vice President, Family Ministries: Generally speaking, secrets are a bad thing, whereas confidentiality is good. When someone who needs to know something doesn't, that's keeping a secret. On the other hand, when the people who need to know do know, and the rest of the world doesn't, healthy confidentiality is being maintained. When everyone gets in on the action -- regardless of who they are -- that's gossip. And gossip isn't in anyone's best interest.
In that context, the general rule of thumb is to dispense information only on a need-to-know basis. If a physical change in your living arrangements is imminent, then immediate family members are going to have to know about it sooner or later, and it would be best if they got the word from you first.
This doesn't mean you have to share all the details with them. Discuss your deepest concerns only with people you trust implicitly and regard as thoroughly healthy and safe. Everybody needs a strong support system you can turn to in times of trouble. Ideally, we all want family in that network. The problem is that family members are often too emotionally involved, too biased and too invested to maintain a helpful and objective point of view.
If you believe that your family members have the capacity to listen compassionately, and you're convinced that their only motive in doing so would be to offer you good, solid, objective and disinterested advice, it might be worth your while to open your heart to them.
Jim Daly is a husband and father, an author, and president of Focus on the Family and host of the Focus on the Family radio program. Catch up with him at www.jimdalyblog.com or at www.facebook.com/DalyFocus.
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