Facebook 911Today’s guest post is by author Joanne Kraft.

If Facebook were a country it would be the third most populated in the world. At 800 million users to date, it surpasses the number of people in both the United States and Russia combined—twice.

If Facebook were my boyfriend, we would be the quintessential high school couple—since I’ve broken up with Facebook more times than I can count. I’m back for now and wondering daily, why are we still together? Or better yet, why am I looking at Darrin and Kristen’s honeymoon pictures from Niagara Falls? I don’t even know Darrin and Kristen.

With over half the American population with a personal profile on this social network we need to learn how to navigate these tricky waters with our teenager. You’d be surprised how many parents have dialed 911 for their answers.

Facebook Emergency

My phone line lit up and I mentally prepared for the next emergency. Would it be a vehicle accident? Maybe a domestic violence call? Lord, I don’t want another suicidal caller tonight, those are so tough. It only took a few seconds to recognize the male voice on the other end didn’t have a life or death emergency to report—but I couldn’t have told him otherwise.

“911 Emergency.”
“I need your help.”
“What’s your emergency?”
“My wife and I don’t know what to do. We recently discovered our teenage daughter is using Facebook inappropriately. We’ve tried to get in touch with Facebook through their website, but no one is getting back to us.”
“Sir, is she using her page for criminal activity?”
“Well, no…”
“Then the police department has no legal jurisdiction.”
“What do we do?” It was clear he was discouraged. I felt bad for him. God knew who was going to answer the phone when he called, so I decided to be quite frank.
“If she were my daughter I’d have her delete her account. If she won’t do that, I guess I’d have to delete it myself.”
“That’s the problem. She won’t delete it, and she won’t give us her password. We don’t know what to do and apparently we’re finding out there’s nothing we can do.”

Okay moms, this is where I have to stop my story and interject a little Mean Mom truth here. I have a big problem understanding statements like “there’s nothing we can do” from parents. If I hadn’t been on a taped line I would’ve said, “Remember, you are the parent. She is the child.”

Teens and FacebookFriends, I don’t care if your child is six or sixty—if they depend on your financial blessings for survival they’re a child. There are always consequences to any situation your kid is in. It just depends on how much you’re willing to sacrifice your own time and energy.

Okay, back to my story…
“Sir, did your teenager purchase that laptop herself? Does she pay for the wireless Internet service that keeps her Facebook account going in your home? Does she have her own car or does she drive yours? Does she enjoy the freedom of hanging out with her girlfriends? Does she have a cell phone…”
“I see what you’re saying.” He sighed.
“I understand the frustration of raising a teenager and not knowing what to do but you and your wife hold a lot more cards than you think.”

I wish I could say this was the only time I received a call like this. You’d be amazed at how many I’ve answered over the years.

Think About it with your Teen

Purpose. What’s the purpose of being on a social network? Good reasons like hanging out online with friends, or sharing photos with the grandparents can quickly become watching the lives of people they will probably never meet and who have little or no interest in them. Train them to limit their time. Don’t be afraid to give Facebook a time-out if it’s taking too much time away from real family relationships.

Precaution. Self-reflect before you self-reveal. When they shoot from the hip with pithy comments, they may think they’re being funny, but often times, funny is lost in translation. I tell my teens, “Only share on Facebook what you’re comfortable shouting in a crowded movie theater.”

Pretend. Remind your teen not everything they see is real. Truth isn’t always found online. I remember someone telling me after seeing my photos on my Facebook page, “Your family takes such great pictures!” I chuckled and told her, “That’s because I only put up the good ones.” Facebook is not real life. It’s life happening the way people want you to perceive it.

As a parent, it’s most important to be honest. Since honesty is a character trait we desire in our kids, we need to model it first. What am I getting at? In order to have a Facebook account you must be 13 years old and have a valid email address. According to a Consumer Reports Study, 7.5 million kids under 13 in the United States are on Facebook. Which means one of two things: either the child created a Facebook account without their parent’s knowledge or parents are okay with lying about their child’s age. Parents, your kids are watching. Please lead by example. Do you really expect your child to be honest with you online if you aren’t?

As Christian parents, what words of godly wisdom can we encourage our kids with when it comes to Facebook? In Philippians is where I found my answer.

“Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.” Philippians 1:27 NKJV

Teenagers need their space. They need to feel trusted. As a mom, I refuse to be the Facebook police and check up on them like a stalking loon, but I must inspire them to walk worthy of their royal bloodline. I love this verse because Paul exhorts his friends to remember who they are in Christ. He doesn’t threaten them with the consequences of an all-consuming God. He strengthens their hearts. That’s what we need to do. Let’s refresh our teenager’s memory. They are children of the Most High God. No matter where their feet tread or their fingers type, they represent Him.

Joanne KraftJoanne Kraft is a recovering too-busy mom and the author of Just Too Busy—Taking Your Family on a Radical Sabbatical. A sought-after speaker, Joanne’s articles have been published by Chicken Soup for the Soul, Thriving Family, InTouch, ParentLife, Today’s Christian Woman, Kyria, P31 Woman and more. She’s appeared on CBN News, Focus on the Family, Family Life Today, The Harvest Show and Sacramento & Co.

Joanne worked as a 911 Police Dispatcher where she met the love of her life, Paul, while dispatching him to a call. Lifelong Californians, the Kraft family took a cross-country leap of faith and moved to Tennessee to raise their four children Meghan, David, Grace and Samuel and have happily traded their soy milk and arugula for sweet tea and biscuits.

Sign up for Joanne’s monthly newsletter Encouraging Women at JoanneKraft.com. Connect with Joanne on Facebook and Twitter.