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Why You Need to Explore Your Kid’s Social-Media World

I joined a group from our church recently to walk through the streets of Lexington, Kentucky.

This was for the Lexington Mural Challenge Scavenger Hunt in which participants had to find specific murals out of the hundreds painted on the sides of buildings, in alleys, up and down streets, throughout the city.

Each mural has a story and each story is a part of what makes Lexington the city that it is.

Our church hosted the walk through the city as part of our Lex Get Together activities aimed at helping people who are new to the city get to know it better and those who are old to the city to learn something new.

We figure there’s no better way to get to know a place and the people who live there than to explore it, engage with it and experience it.

This is also the reason that I have an Instagram account.

You see, I’m the mother of an almost 15-year-old. Her “city” is Instagram. Her “streets” are the people she follows. Her “murals” are found in that lovely search feature at the bottom of the screen. And her community is found in the multiple group conversations she is a part of.

Each image has a story and each story is a part of what makes her world what it is.

Realistically, I know this is, like everything, a phase that she is going through, an experiential stage common to most kids her age.

I don’t think that for the rest of her life she will “live” there; for now, it’s where she is interacting with people on a daily basis.

And I need to be there. I need to be on her streets and in her community. I need to understand viral videos, trending memes and the language that is spoken.

More than that, I need to be aware of the messages that are given and received, not so that I can control them, but so I can have a conversation about them.

Our church plant recognizes that to minister effectively to those in the city of Lexington to whom we feel called, it’s important for us to experience the culture and engage with the environment.

Our children and youth are our first ministry, but if we are not where they are, if we are not engaged, not experiencing their world, we will have a much more difficult time having conversations that lead to discipleship and faith formation.

I still get made fun of by my girls for being old and not getting things, but that doesn’t deter me from remaining engaged and aware.

If I’m willing to walk the streets of a city so I can know it better, I’m definitely willing to scroll through a social media app to know my children better.

It is challenging to be where our kids are, to be present and aware. Here are a few ways that I’ve found helpful:

  • Ask questions like, “Have you seen anything interesting lately?” and “What’s new on Instagram?”
  • For younger children, let them sit with you and see how you interact with people. Teach them healthy ways to engage digitally with you because one day, even if it’s after they leave your home, they will engage.
  • Establish the culture of loving God and loving others in all areas of life, including the digital one, so that even when you are not there, they will be able to approach technology in godly, responsible ways.

In our home, we have limited to one location the social-media world to which our older kids have access so that it is easier for us to engage and interact.

Each family understandably needs to find their own rhythm and guidelines, but whatever those end up being, just make sure you are there.

Discipleship at home is more than family devotions and Bible stories before bedtime.

It’s intentionally welcoming Christ into every area of our lives and looking for opportunities to grow our faith no matter where we are and helping our children to see him.

Editor’s note: A longer version of this article first appeared on her website, Refocus Ministry, and is used with permission.

Christina Embree

Christina Embree is a church planter with Plowshares Brethren in Christ in Lexington, Kentucky. She is a graduate of Wesley Seminary with a Master of Arts degree in ministry focusing on family, youth and children’s ministry.