I love Facebook, but I am very much aware of the risks and dangers. For me, the benefits still outweigh the risks, but I’m more careful than I’ve ever been. And I’d advise you to do the same.
Here’s what you can do to keep your Facebook relations with your students healthy and functional:
1. Know when to quit
If you feel Facebook becoming a risk to you in any way, get out before it’s too late. Be honest with yourself and don’t delude yourself into thinking it’s not that bad or that it’ll get better. It is bad and it won’t get better. Remember what the Bible says: we have to flee temptation. Not go looking for it.
If Facebook is causing you to even think about sinning, quit. If it’s causing stress for you because you don’t feel like you have a private life anymore, quit. If students are constantly approaching you, encroaching on your time off, quit. Make the tough decision that will save you from falling.
2. Don’t initiate
Let students come to you, don’t pursue them. Leave it up to them if they want to befriend you or not, because if you approach them, some may feel pressured into accepting when they’d maybe rather not.
3. Stay public
Don’t normally engage in private messages with a student. If there’s a reason it has to be private (for instance when a students is telling you something personal), ask someone else to watch (like your spouse) or if that isn’t possible, keep a record of your messages.
4. Pause and reflect
Before commenting or liking anything, take a few seconds to pause and reflect if it’s a good idea. Can your comment be interpreted wrongly? Are you liking something with objectionable content? Are you writing something you wouldn’t normally say in person? Think before you act. When in doubt, stay on the safe side of cautious.
5. Create a social media policy
If you’re the youth ministry leader, create a social media policy with your team in which you decide on some ground rules and boundaries for connecting with students online. If you’re part of the team, ask you youth leader if you can make one.
Having a social media policy has multiple benefits. Just talking about it may make leaders more aware of the risks and pitfalls, thereby reducing the chances of them making a mistake. It will create clarity for all youth leaders in your ministry, so everyone will know what’s expected. And thirdly, it creates accountability among the leaders and they can encourage or admonish each other.
Does your youth ministry have a social media policy? If so, what does it say?