Thought Factory Podcast #107 || Social Media Part 4: Guidelines for This Social Game

In episode #107, we discussed how social media can be a guessing game when it comes to parents and their children’s use or youth worker and their students in a ministry context.  At times it can feel like we are at battle with each other, taking shots from opposing sides instead of playing this game alongside each other.  Guidelines only assist us so we can all be better together.  We want to provide guidelines and suggestions, but parents and youth workers should also ask the question – do these guidelines apply to me as well? – before immediately applying them to our students and kids.

Normally we don’t want to tell you what to do, we want you to start thinking and talking about these topics.  But in this episode, we want to offer some advice about your students and social media.

Whether you have older student are younger students, start where you are.  Simply do something now.  But again, before looking at these guidelines, ask yourself if they apply to you as well before assuming it only applies to your child. 

  • Have a Conversation with Your Student About Social Media.
    • Explain to them that you are doing this for their protection.
    • There is no time to be passive on this topic nor being a passive parent, so open up the conversation and let them know you care.
  • Remind Them of Your Authority as a Parent.
    • This is not the time to get all authoritative on your student, and demand compliance, but remember, as a parent, you have the right to look at their phone anytime, as well as the right to take away their phone.  A phone is a privilege and not a right.  Do we know all of the passwords for everything on their phone?  Do your kids know you will be regularly looking at their phone?
  • Set Boundaries
    • Ask students for input about the appropriate amount of screen time for them, but let them know the parent will make the final decision.
    • Set rules for home and public.
      • What is socially acceptable outside the home when you are together as a family or spending time one-on-one and what is accepted inside the home, whether at the dinner table or just hanging out and doing something together?
      • Rules for the bedroom (tech room) and bedtime.  Do you allow them to be on their devices all hours of the night or do you set a time they put them away?
    • For App Use
      • App is short for “appetite,” for every app creates an appetite that needs to be fed and every time we introduce a new social platform, we have another thing that takes our attention.  Asking the questions of:
        • What’s your rationale for downloading this new app?
        • How will you use it for good?
        • Where will you get the time to fill using this new app?
        • What will you be giving up by using this? (homework, sleep, a skill or ability, going outdoors, deep relationships/friendships?)

*Jeff Eckart’s rules as a parent about phones/social media:

  1. Need to be able to “carry” a conversation w/ an adult to have a smartphone.
  2. We control everything: apps used/passwords, phones, use, social settings, etc.
  3. Cannot say anything negative about anyone on social media.


  • Be Intentional About Your Controlled Venues
    • Tell them when it is and isn’t okay to use phones (i.e. worship times, teaching, etc.)
  • Help Them Socially Interact
    • Don’t be afraid to be the “bad guy (or girl)” when it comes to firm boundaries.
    • Refer to your youth group “rules” often, not just one and done.
    • Put adults in place to help connect students when they enter your ministry environment and be on the lookout for those who may be socially excluding themselves by sitting alone on their phone.  Encourage them to join your group or activity.
  • Be a Resource to Parents & Your Church 
    • Parents need help.  Offer them resources and provide real-time meetings.  Support strict parents in this area, don’t make it tough on them by how you operate (i.e. if students don’t use FB or Instagram, don’t use that to be the only way you communicate)
    • You should be leading the way in communicating the gap between digital natives (students) and digital immigrants (adults).
    • Tell your staff/board/church about the digital reality.  Lead up in this area with your supervisor or senior pastor.
  • Assume Students Want Boundaries and Direction
    • Provide accountability and a safe space to share.  (i.e. Small group stories of guys who share about their porn problems).