"Be Careful Little Eyes What You See"

As the parent of a soon-to-be nine-year-old boy, I carefully monitor what he does, sees, and eats. I monitor how he sleeps and how he talks. I keep an eye on just about every aspect of his life. I am his father. I am responsible for how he is raised—not our church, not his school, not his peers, not a village. As his parent, I am responsible.

So, it shouldn’t come as a huge surprise that I carefully monitor what my son does online. I supervise his online usage, whether he’s on a search engine, a music site, a gaming site, or even an educational site. I also limit his time on the Internet. If my son had his way, he’d be online 24/7—well, other than the time he’d spend eating everything in the fridge!

Please don’t misunderstand me. I know that my son will use the computer and Internet far more than I ever will. He’ll create things, learn things, and watch his world unfold online. I know that. And, in time, those things will happen. But for now, it’s my responsibility to train him correctly.

Social media can be a wonderful tool for communication. I love spending time on Facebook catching up with old and new friends. I’m learning to appreciate Twitter more these days. My wife loves finding projects for me to do on Pinterest. Hours and hours per day can be spent online.

At national WMU, we value social media. Our children’s team works hard to communicate regularly and effectively on our various sites. Our team has Facebook pages, Twitter accounts, a Pinterest account, and I have no doubt that as we move forward and technology changes, we’ll move onto other social media platforms as well.

Why do we do that? Simple. We want to communicate with missions leaders. We want to provide leaders with the latest information, updates on our materials or products, introduce leaders to new missionaries, and to talk about how God is moving around the world. We also communicate to ask leaders for feedback, comments, tips, suggestions, etc.

You’ll notice from that last paragraph that our communication is directed to leaders, not to children. In Children in Action Leader, GA Leader, and RA Leader, we promote our websites and social media presence. We’ll encourage leaders to visit our pages, network with other leaders, etc. However, at no point do we encourage children to join that conversation. As a matter of fact, you’ll never see us mention Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Snapchat, etc. in GA World and RA World. Why? There are two basic reasons.

First, if you carefully read the terms of service for most social media sites, you’ll discover that those sites have age restrictions on their pages—only individuals above a certain age can legally be a part of their site. As you read those legal disclaimers, you will see that the ages they have set are above the ages of the children in our organizations. So, as a national organization, we don’t feel that it would be prudent to encourage underage children to use those sites.

Second, and most importantly, while social media can be a wonderful communication tool and way to network with others, there can also be a darker side to social media. Not all social media is suitable for little eyes or ears. Our team believes that parents and guardians are the ones best able to determine what their children see, read, hear, etc. So, we don’t promote social media to children. We leave the decision about when children are ready for it to parents.

We hope you understand our policy. As always, if you have questions, comments, feedback, suggestions, etc., let us hear from you. You can contact us at children@wmu.org.

 

M. Steve Heartsill is the managing editor for Royal Ambassadors, Children in Action, and Challengers.

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