Last Sunday, I met with fourth and fifth graders at St. Joseph Marello Catholic Church to talk about the risks of social media and texting, and how to respond with confidence. This training was part two of a class on Your Circle of Grace and Social Media, which helps youth understand that they are granted wisdom by their faith in God to know what to keep out and what to let into their personal space (body, mind and soul), and when to ask for help from parents or another trusted resource. (Read part one of this class from the previous week here: Prepare grade schoolers to use apps and devices with wisdom and grace.) This class focused on the risks of social media and texting, and when to ask for help from parents or a trusted adult.
Trust versus faith
One of the key concepts in this conversation that knowing who to trust requires clarity about the difference between trust and faith. Among people, trust is always verifiable because people are prone to error. While faith we reserve for God who requires no proof. The students were encouraged to consider that since people are prone to error and sometimes operate outside their Circle of Grace, we can build trust in relationships through common experiences over time. So we have experience with our parents, and teachers and friends that makes it possible to trust that they are reliable and will not intentionally cause us harm. Parents and other trusted adults are therefore trusted resources for life, and it is wise to keep them informed about what you are learning and experiencing in your life, so they can help you to keep out of your Circle of Grace those people, images and experiences that do not belong in your circle of grace.
RISKY TRAPS of SOCIAL MEDIA & TEXTING
- Attacks on your sexuality
- Making drugs and alcohol seem cool and normal
- Scams and phishing
Bullying is saying and doing things to intimidate and cause harm to another person. It is hostile, treating yourself and others as if they are the enemy. With texting and social media it is very easy to make a person feel completely worthless and hopeless.
This is behavior that is outside your Circle of Grace.
So it is important to keep in mind that the person who is doing the bullying is also feeling harmed, like they are the victim. They will justify their cruelty because they feel like they are under attack.
Bullying is learned behavior. Bullies have been bullied.
The other thing to keep in mind is the difference between conflict and bullying.
- Peer Conflict – disagreement where there is mutual respect.
- Bullying is abuse of power. When one person or group is perceived to have more power and it is used to cause harm.
HOW DOES BULLYING HAPPEN?
- Gossip – talking about the details of another person’s life in ways that hurt their relationships with others who have no need to know, cannot help.
- Explicit photos on devices – photos of people revealing their sexuality in graphic detail is a disrespect for
- Hate speech – saying things like “I hate you” and “nobody likes you”, and “why don’t you kill yourself” can really have an impact when texted or posted on-line
- Isolating peers by posting group photos without them, or sharing inappropriate photos of them
- A will or a desire to do harm to another
How to respond to the bully
If you are experiencing bullying, the test of your faith is to remain in your Circle of Grace; it is important to respond without hostility.
Think about it. How would Jesus respond for you? He would agree with what God says about you, not what the bully says. Wouldn’t he?
Declare the truth which is the opposite of what the bully is telling you. Just like Jesus, you can take a negative statement and turn it into a positive.
If the bullying persists, then you can do what? Seek wise counsel…get help from a parent or another trusted adult.
Some things you can do to respond to the bullying:
- Pray for the bullies and stay in your Circle of Grace.
- Block the contacts who are harassing you.
- Make new friends.
ATTACKS ON YOUR SEXUALITY
Genesis 1:27, tells us that God created us male and female in his image, and that this sexuality is a good thing. And it in this goodness that we are meant to respect one another, male and female, as persons created and loved by God.
Anytime someone wants to talk about or access (touch) those parts of your body that are covered by a swimsuit that is a hostile attempt to invade your Circle of Grace.
Attacks on your sexually are an abuse of power, of seeking to gain something from another person which is outside their Circle of Grace. It causes harm to the relationships that were meant to be formed in love, and inspires feelings of hostility and shame where there is actually goodness and grace.
Examples of attacks on your sexuality will be:
- Requests for & distribution of explicit photos
- Pedophiles seeking to gain your trust so they can use you
- Online they pose as peers to gain your trust
- They make you feel special, like they really care about you
This is why your cyber safe house rules are important. Do not accept friend connections from people you do not know.
If you are approached in this way, seek help of your parents or another trusted adult.
DRUGS AND ALCOHOL
Drugs and alcohol are often featured as the only way to have fun or fit in. And the problem is that while there are good reasons why people use drugs and alcohol, they can be easily abused… that is not with medical supervision and over consumption (getting drunk and/or addicted).
- Social media may contain images of kids using drugs and alcohol – and they appear to be having fun and/or to be cool.
- It can feel like everyone is doing it, but they are not. It is only perceived that way.
Problem for children using substances. Young brains using alcohol and drugs can trick the brain into wanting the drugs and the alcohol more than being in a love relationship with God, family and friends. This is called “addiction”.
If you are feeling pressured, ask parents for help. They can give you an excuse, like “we will drug test you” or “or my parents have promised to take away all my privileges if I am using drugs and alcohol, so I am going to pass.”
Here is another example of why house rules are important to help set boundaries so you can keep out the things that do not belong in your circle of grace.
These scams come in the form of trick emails, texts, videos, popups, apps and websites that appear legitimate.
- Once they get you to click, they download their software to steal personal information
- Access your accounts, including financial and medical
- Use your social security to open credit cards and get loans
- Spy on you and threaten to share personal information if you do not do what they tell you
This is where you and your parents can collaborate and always discuss with your parents any apps you think you want to use, and if you are not sure of a link, don’t click. If someone you know is sending you something to click on, ask them before you click.
AIMING FOR THE BULL’S-EYE
So we just finished talking about the things that do not belong in our circle of grace are:
- Attacks on our sexuality
- Drug and alcohol abuse
- Scams and phishing
We keep these things out of our Circle of Grace because we were created by God to learn how to love and be loved – and these risks involve hostility.
So in order to respond to these risks with confidence, it helps to put these risks into the perspective. Let’s think about it as archery lessons wherein we are learning how to love and be loved as God loves humanity.
Let’s think about it as archery lessons. In archery, the term for anything outside of the bull’s-eye is called: sin
Sin means in error, wrong, or off the mark. What happens when something goes wrong?
Yes. It needs to be corrected.
So when something invades our Circle of Grace, how do we respond? We seek wisdom and get help so that we can remove it and keep it outside. In this way, we are learning how to become better versions of ourselves.
About: We are a non-profit education center founded in Roseville, CA to strengthen the parent-child bond in a hyper-connected world. Our mission is to restore families with the mustard seed of faith that declares liberty already belongs to the soul because one God, the Creator of all humanity, grants every human being intelligence and free will to choose what to believe, and that is power that can never be taken, but is easily surrendered to the bully, the drug or the device. To that end, ten percent of all proceeds are donated to prison ministries. Your donations are greatly appreciated. (Donations are payable to Banana Moments Foundation).
Joanna Jullien is an educator and speaker on strengthening the parent-child relationship in a cyber-powered world. Trained in behavioral science at U.C. Berkeley, she is a mother of two grown sons, an author of books on parenting, growing up and family life in the network culture. As a family and technology culture advisor, Joanna has appeared on 103.9FM The Fish, 710AM Keeping Faith in America, 1380AM The Answer, and Examiner.com.
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