You Can’t Get the Toothpaste Back in the Tube: Social Networking for Children

“You can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube” was commented by a Watergate co-conspirator. Once you’ve posted your personal information and pictures to the internet, they’re out there and the more effort you put into getting them back, the more likely they are to spread.

Yes, that was me who had her child wear a faceguard in the outfield at a little league game. After all, one 10-year-old prodigy hitter might just slug the ball into the distant right field directly at my daughters face leaving her permanently maimed, injured and scarred for life! Not to mention, the braces just came off. Unfortunately, the little league rules prohibited a helmet in the outfield so I acquiesced to just the mouthpiece and face guard.

Move the same child inside at the keyboard of a computer and I go into complete ‘social networking phobia’ alert—look it up, the term exists. Our concerns are real: cyber stalking, inappropriate content, a poor decision marring your childs’ reputation and unfortunately much, much worse.

When considering social networking and my child, I made a decision to monitor instead of restrict when she was quite young. I listed just a few of the precautions that I have implemented below and one suggestion used by another parent. This week I am attending a special information session on this subject and I will follow up with additional information that may be helpful for other families.

  1. Email in elementary school: I opened an email account for my daughter in elementary school. She was permitted just a few connections including immediate family and a close friend. At first I supervised any use and she progressed to save any messages in draft form before sending. The next step was to cc me on any correspondence, then independence with monitoring. It was a good learning experience on many levels.
  2. Passwords: At 13, my child shares a document with me of her social sites, passwords and usernames. Any new sites or any changes are to be recorded in this document. If your child is fortunate enough to have their own computer, be the administrator on it (and other electronics). In addition, it is best to have computer use limited to a family room.
  3. Facebook: If you choose to permit your child to be on Facebook, have some fun with it. Here are a few of our rules:
    1. If any profanity or inappropriate content is posted by a ‘friend’ and then appears on my daughters wall, she must immediately unfriend the friend—no compromise.
    2. Proper dress: to each his own but I figure if you won’t walk into a public event dressed as you are in the picture, it should not be on your profile.
    3. Restricted: If the friends are not in their immediate circle, select ‘restricted’ as the friends status. (Locate this under the friends checkmark/more/restricted. This will block any share of photos or information with that individual.)
  4. ‘Toothpaste’ or Reputation: Your child’s reputation is being weighed on the content they post. A foolish decision can have serious consequences. Potential employers, colleges and admissions personnel police social media. Our children need to understand the impact social media can have on their future. Sidenote: There can be a fine line between supervising and stalking. Your child will let you know if you crossed it!
  5. One parent I spoke with has the electronic activity of her three boys captured and reported to her phone with this product. The children are aware this is in effect for their safety and protection. Spectorsoft sells their product for home use to monitor your child’s computer use, phone and email activity to “Protect Your Children and Ensure Their Online Safety”.

Do you think #5 is a matter of trust, parenting responsibility or necessity in today’s culture?

I am just another parent struggling along, feeling inadequate in the job and trusting that God is showering Grace on my actions and decisions. I am humbled at the task of parenting and angered at the presence of evil that is aligned against the pure in heart in our culture. But, God the Father has loaned me this child to parent for His Glory. The bible demonstrates that God doesn’t call the equipped but He equips the people who He calls. My trust is in God’s abilities, His wisdom and direction and His protection over my daughter every day. Lord give us ears to hear your direction to parent our children and a heart to follow Your will for our family. Empower us to do Your will. Amen.

“May the God of peace… equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” Hebrews 13:20–21 (NIV)


4 thoughts on “You Can’t Get the Toothpaste Back in the Tube: Social Networking for Children

  1. I have a heart for metaphors! I think I love them more than the average person. Maybe because Jesus used them a lot in his teachings. But I had to say what a wonderful post and your use of getting the toothpaste back in the tube is thought provoking at the very least! Great food for thought!

  2. I applaud you for your careful and conscientious approach to directing and protecting your daughter. It’s not an easy job.

    My kids are grown and gone now, and we didn’t have Facebook to contend with when they were home. Email and cell phones were the two main issues. My perspective was (and still is) treating kids with respect and being clear about expectations/consequences will go a long ways in helping them make good decisions.

    I don’t envy those of you dealing with FB, Twitter, and smart phones; but I do admire you all for taking an active role.

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