my life in my words

Didn’t See It Coming

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I realize that most would associate me with Children’s Ministry because, well, I am the Children’s Director at our church. Being the new Children’s Director allows me to take what I have learned over the years (and am still studying/learning) about Christian Education and Discipleship to an even younger level—and I LOVE it! However, I am also the Youth Pastor at our church and have been for the past 5 years.

Even before I moved to Seattle, I was heavily involved in teen discipleship. I started leading a youth Sunday School class for Jr. High/High School girls during my Senior year of High School and served in our student ministry—preaching, teaching, leading small groups, event staffing, mentoring programs, etc. for over 6 years—before shifting over to doing the same in our 20/30-somethings ministry. From time to time, I am faced with BIG questions from parents, and I LOVE being able to dialogue those things with them because it gives us even more common ground and challenges me to rethink and prepare for my own future children. Most are easy to navigate with them, but as our age of technology grows and our society becomes even more damaged/damaging, they get trickier. Recently, one of my teens sent me a text saying, “Hey Amo! I really want to get a Facebook Account because I want to stay in touch with my friends, but my parents want to know what you think about it first.”


First of all, I’m honored that parents would be willing to let me sound-off on big decisions like that. Secondly, I knew it was a response that couldn’t be contained in one simple text, so I sent an e-mail to all of them so that they’d all be on the same page. I figured it might be good (and possibly helpful) for others if I re-posted it here. Feel free to share any feedback of your own!



TO: Youth parents; Youth student
SUBJECT: To Facebook Or Not To Facebook . . .

Howdy folks!

So, I got a text from E— earlier asking for my opinion about Facebook and well, it’s a response that definitely requires more than a text back. 😉 I LOVE questions like this because it gives teens and parents another opportunity to get real and honest. It’s true that I have a Facebook and that I got a head start on social networking when it was first making its grand entrance during my teen years. While it gave me a chance to experience the fun and excitement of keeping in touch across the miles, it also showed its ugly side quite frequently. Please know that this is coming from someone who only has personal experience as a youth pastor, and not as a parent. However, it’s a question I have wrestled with time and again, as I move closer to building my own family.
That said, I would not recommend that any teenager get a Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/Keek/Pinterest/Ask.Me/SnapChat/Tumblr/MySpace/Blog/Chat Roulette, etc. until they are 16 years old. Even with that age restriction—with my own child—it would be with these clear boundaries and stipulations until they turn 18 years old:
  • I am allowed to have your password and adjust your security settings
  • I am allowed to randomly check on your account for your safety. 
  • If grades start failing or behavior issues arise at school, Social Site privileges will be taken away for a week.
  • If chores and other responsibilities are slacking, Social Site privileges will be taken away for a week. 
  • You are only allowed to “friend” people that you know in real life.
  • You will have a Social Site curfew—no Social Sites after 10p. 
  • You are not allowed to post about private family issues on Social Sites or use them as a way to “get back” at a family member.
  • You can only have ONE account on each Social Site.
  • I will never “hack” your account or make you be my “friend” on any Social Sites,  but I do expect clear communication about any thing I’ve seen on your account that concerns me.
Here’s why:
  • Social networking is not necessarily real life. What you see on a Social Site is a highlight reel, not a full-length motion picture. This leads to confusion and deficit in self-esteem, contentment with what you have/where you are/what you are doing with your life. 
  • Online bullying is real. I’ve been there—experienced it personally, observed it among other friends, counseled other teens on it, etc. It’s ugly and truthfully, E—, your heart is so good and well-meaning that you would be an easy target. While I know you are 100% secure in who you are as a woman of God, it’s a sneaky snake for breaking spirits and allows for mind games like no other. 
  • Social Networking is a Time-Suck. Even as an adult, when I hop on any of my social networking sites, I have to ask myself honestly: How much time do you spend on those sites in one day. And in that time, what else could you be doing? What could you be learning? What real-life friendships could you be making? Would it be more meaningful to hop online and get lost in a long list of quotes, pictures, etc. or to send an e-mail/write a thoughtful letter to someone who is really on my mind? Truth be told—Social Networking can easily become a silent idol.Also, many social networking sites allow spam and malware to be hidden under the guise of  clickable ads, pictures, videos, and games. Not only does that open another gateway to dangerous things on the internet, but it is also a time-suck because you get lost in a series of click-after-click-after-click
  • Social Networking can actually make you less social. It’s easy to get caught up in what’s going on on your phone or your computer that you forget that real people are in your presence. The internet can wait. Real life people cannot. Imagine what you might feel if one of you was in a car accident and the day before, the majority of the day was spent online, spending all of those precious moments “Liking” and commenting on Some E-Cards* that didn’t actually contribute to your intelligence or character. That would be a mega bummer, to say the least. *SomeECards are really popular online right now. 
  • Stranger Danger. Again, it’s real. There are people online who lie about their age, occupation, likes, home life, etc. in order to prey on innocent people. They do not care how much you love Jesus, or how much you want to have genuine friendships. They only care that their mental/emotional/physical needs are met, no matter the cost. I speak from experience, after being led innocently into a chat room with a grown man when I was a younger teen—no bueno.
  • Social Networking is not going away. It will still be there when you get older. In this present day, the most valuable social networking one can do is writing letters, meeting up for quality hang out time, sending e-mails, sending texts, etc. Not only is the internet not secure, allowing businesses and strangers to access your personal information and location, but Social Sites are notorious for altering their security settings without alerting you. To them, money is king and if you sign up for something (whether you read the fine print or not), you willingly agree to be their pawn. They’re not going away anytime soon, so waiting until internet protocol enhances their security features as the time goes by would only be a plus.
  • Social sites provide both positive hang-outs AND negative hideouts. It’s easy to re-create yourself to cater to someone else’s approval and acceptance. It IS entirely possible to make great new long-distance friends and maintain those friendships online. However, it takes discipline, grace, and wisdom. It is also very possible to damage yourself and those friendships due to deception and the fact that tone is not conveyed very well in typewritten words. There are also features on Facebook that allow certain statuses and info to be hidden from selected individuals, which can complicate relationships if not handled properly. Social Sites have been known to cause naturally extroverted people to turn into recluses because they trade in their real life for an online life. It’s sad, but it does happen . . . very frequently.
That said, I know that there are some teens in our youth ministry that ARE on Facebook and that’s great! That’s also entirely up to them and their parents, just like this is entirely up to you all. I honestly do not view those that are online differently than those that aren’t. I will most definitely interact with those on social sites and unless it’s something that’s detrimental to a students’ health (mental/physical, or otherwise), I won’t offer those things up as conversation pieces to their parents (unless those parents ask). If it were my own child asking to register for a social site, I would tell them that they are allowed to use e-mail to communicate with their friends (since e-mail is necessary to register social sites—thus they will for sure have an e-mail) until they turn 16 and at that point, we’ll talk about why they want it, what can happen, what I expect of them when they get it, and what they expect from me as their parent when they get it. I imagine that my child will ask me to trust them and to give them grace, and I will be more than happy to agree to that, if they are willing to agree to the safe boundaries I’m setting up for them.
I know it wasn’t necessarily asked for, but as a bonus, here are the top safest Social Sites in my opinion:
1) Blog, 2) Pinterest, 3) Instagram, 4) Twitter, 5) Ask.Me, 6) Facebook, 7) MySpace, 8) Tumblr, 9)  Keek/SnapChat, 10) Chat Roulette

I know this is long (and again, it’s only a personal opinion), I hope it gives you guys some good things to dialogue about. I love y’all mucho mucho and I hope this helps a bit!

Hugs and blessings,

Author: Amanda Martinez

I am a mexican chick, born in Germany, raised in Austin, TX, lived in Seattle, WA, and now back home in Texas! I am a daughter, a sister, an aunt, a friend, a graphic designer, a youth pastor, a comedienne, a songwriter, a screenwriter, and a lover of music, art, people, and the world around me! Join me on the journey as I share with you my thoughts, dreams, passions, and experiences!

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