Today, I’m excited to introduce you to Kari Kampakis. Kari is the mother of four daughters and author of 10 Ultimate Truths Girls Should Know, which releases November 4 through Thomas Nelson!
Even if your girls are not yet ready for social media, this post is a great place to start laying the groundwork!
by: Kari Kampakis
Last January, we had a surprise snow storm in Birmingham that caused roads to ice over within minutes.
At 10:30 a.m., our elementary school called to say they were letting kids out at 10:45 due to emergency weather. Immediately I picked up my daughters, plus a friend, and headed to Mother’s Day Out to get my youngest.
Cars were skidding everywhere. People were parking on the side of the road and walking to shelter. Since our house was a street away, I figured we could make it. But then my Surburban started skidding, too. As I panicked and prayed for control of the wheel, my girls called out from the back.
“Look, Mommy, that boy’s filming you!”
I stole a glance in my rearview mirror. Sure enough, a teenage boy with droopy pants and an excited grin had his phone in the air. I knew why he was enthusiastic, and it made me mad.
He wanted me to wreck. He wanted a train wreck on video. Because if my accident was bad enough, or funny enough, he could post it on YouTube or other social media in hope that it might go viral. Then he could be an overnight sensation. He could be famous for catching a moment that got shared and watched again and again.
Unfortunately for him, my wheels straightened out. By the grace of God I navigated my way home safely, away from him and his phone.
I share this story because it illustrates the common mentality of kids on social media. I find it sad that his automatic response to someone else’s trouble wasn’t worry and concern, but how fast he could whip out his phone to seize the opportunity. While not all kids think this way, obviously, many do. As parents, we’re up against that.
And that’s why we can’t rely on the world to teach our kids how to use social media, because the world encourages the wrong goals. According to the world, social media is a way to get famous, get even, or get attention. It doesn’t matter what you post because the main goal is to attract a large following and get tons of likes and shares. Whatever people take to, good or bad, inspiring or scandalous, is fair game.
This reckless disregard for content is what leads to online bullying, impulsive posts, ruined reputations, and social media nightmares. And while there’s no simple solution, I do believe that with proper guidance, we can teach our children to use social media responsibly and be among those who actually benefit from it.
Because there’s as much potential to create good on the Internet as there is to cause harm. Those who grasp this early will have a better experience with social media and have a leg up when this next generation starts looking for jobs, and employers conduct Google name searches to see which applicants have a respectable online track record and which ones don’t.
After all, what’s posted online stays online. A Google search of my name pulled up everything from an article I wrote 15 years ago that I’d forgotten about…to an Amazon book review I posted…to a comment I made on a friend’s blog post. Luckily it was all positive, but had they not been, I wouldn’t have had easy recourse.
Following are 5 tips to help prepare your daughter for smart use of social media. By discussing these before she even opens an account, you can point her mind in the right direction so that she posts wisely.
Tip #5: Pick a goal that’s pleasing to God.
Philippians 4:8 says, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”
This verse is a great filter for social media. It’s a reminder that God is found in the GOOD. The purpose of life is to make Jesus famous, not ourselves. So when you post things that reflect Him – i.e. a picture of your baby cousin, a birthday tribute to a friend, a rainbow over the ball field – you honor God.
Tip #4: Before you post, ask three questions: Is it kind? Is it true? Is it necessary?
The key word is necessary. While it may be true that Janie got a bad haircut, or that Sarah misbehaved at the Halloween party last night, is it necessary to announce that on Twitter? Are these the conversations you really want to stir up?
Tip #3: If you aren’t feeling love, stay off social media.
We all get cranky, angry, jealous, and sad sometimes. We all fall into bad moods that bring out the monster. But giving the monster a keypad is a mistake. No good can come from it. Use social media only when your heart’s in a good, kind, and loving place, because what you feel inside will influence every post and comment you make.
Tip #2: Put on your armor (Ephesians 6:10-18).
There is intense meanness online today. I’ve received emails from moms whose daughters aren’t even on social media, yet former “friends” have turned on them and started smear campaigns on the Internet.
You can’t control what others say about you. Even if you’re not blatantly attacked, there’s always the possibility that someone with anger to dump or a grudge to avenge may target you. One thing I tell my daughters to prepare them for the culture of online hatred is 1) have a thick skin so negative comments don’t get under your skin and 2) know the truth about who you are in Christ. What others think about you is opinion. What Christ thinks is Gospel truth. In Christ, you are loved and cherished beyond your wildest imagination. By basing your confidence on that, you can bravely pursue God’s plans for you regardless of what anyone writes.
“May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.” Ephesians 3:19
Tip #1: Learn from your mistakes- and the mistakes of others. Remember the boy who wanted me to wreck? Well, that event led to a great conversation with my daughters about motives, respect, and what’s appropriate. It was a teachable moment we could all benefit from.
That boy’s mistake was small, but every day there are teens making riskier and bolder mistakes on social media that hurt individuals and families. All it takes is 30 seconds of poor judgment to set in motion a wrecking ball that can’t be stopped.
As parents, we need to monitor our kids’ activities and be on every social media they use. We can learn a lot about them, their peers, and the adolescent mind by simply observing what gets posted, liked, and talked about. Being young and inexperienced, our kids need adult guidance. They need us raising their awareness of what kind of stories they’re telling online, and how their posts reveal their character.
Used appropriately, social media is a fun, effective way to connect and share a message. And when kids make the choice to use the Internet for good, not train wrecks in action, it also sets them up to attract better followers who appreciate their encouraging messages and want to inspire them in return!
Be sure to check out Kari’s new book!
Kari’s writing has been featured on HuffPost Parents and reflects her passion for family and God. A graduate of the University of Alabama, Kari holds an MBA and public relations degree. Find Kari’s blog and learn more by visiting karikampakis.com, or connect with her on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.