Great question! It's funny, because just 15 years ago this really was a non-issue (or was it?). I am not sure exactly but if I remember right ...
In the beginning, the earth was void of social media and techies everywhere searched for ways to meet without meeting physically. First was created MYSPACE, then SKYPE, then FACEBOOK, then TWITTER, then INSTAGRAM, then GOOGLE HANGOUTS, now SNAP CHAT. There are more, I am sure ... but wow! My mom never had to tell me, "now Patrick, don't type and drive!" Could you imagine??? But communications technology has made devices that previously could only exist in movies such as James Bond and Star Trek!
As parents, we would be wise to remember and apply the following verses:
Pro 22:3-6,15 A prudent man foresees evil and hides himself, But the simple pass on and are punished. 4 By humility and the fear of the LORD Are riches and honor and life. 5 Thorns and snares are in the way of the perverse; He who guards his soul will be far from them. 6 Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it. 15 Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; The rod of correction will drive it far from him.
Our teenagers and young adults are still children. They are learning for themselves but their thinking is corrupted by a serious lack of experience and understanding of the future consequences of actions taken. They need our help. We see the phrase "rod of correction" and we immediately think "spanking." That is not a wrong translation but it also includes and makes room for sound instruction and doctrine, no necessarily punitive or corporal (spankings). The word that is used for "rod" also can mean "staff, rod, and walking stick." The word "rod" is also used in ancient building as an unchangeable measuring device.
In other words, we must, aside from just spankings and such, teach our children using sound instruction based off of unchanging truths.
I tell my children all the time that if a person seems nice, but he or she is mean to the waitress, then that person is NOT nice. They just know how to ACT it. The same applies to internet behavior. I had my students tell me recently that Facebook is for OLD PEOPLE!! They are so delusional when it comes to being unique that they ignore facts believing that they somehow change. Ignoring facts does not change them. Them majority of advertisement is aimed at the young bc they are always believing they know more than their parents ... "Once I'm older, I'll never do ... or I will do for myself ..." How many times did we say that ourselves??
My mom saved my life by intruding on my privacy. When I was just 14 yrs old, I was on the phone with a girl from the other side of the neighborhood ... her parents were out of town and she was home alone. She invited me over for the obvious and I was ready to go. My mother, however, had been listening to the whole conversation (I did not know this til many years later). As I was running out the door she found some reason to ground me ... if I remember right it was bc I had not adequately vacuumed under the radiators (part of my weekly chores). I had no clue what she had heard nor can I, as a parent, comprehend the inner strength it took not to react to what she heard us talking about (I would have found another means to communicate if she had) ... I didn't get to leave ... my mother infuriated me ... in that moment, I was so mad at her. I learned a few weeks later that she had AIDS. It was new then and being passed around like a hat in certain circles I was entering. My mother saved my life ... she is a hero of mine. I will spy on my kids ... they cannot fight the urges of their bodies when they have consumed their thoughts. I had one more close encounter with AIDS a few weeks later that cracked my opinion and view of casual and open sexuality that we were being fed by educational, entertainment, and social sources on all sides
Our children need our protection at that age as much as any. I think the easiest age of children is between 4 and 9. Other than that, they are always trying to unknowingly wound themselves!
In my experience, there is no age that guarantees a person is beginning to walk in sound maturity and intelligence. But I think that when the child is mature enough to own up to past foolish mistakes and seek out the knowledge of his or her parents ... there is room for the parents to breathe a little. Until then watch like a hawk. The innocence and purity of most young people are destroyed by the time they reach the maturity to value it.
My opinion? Advise away ... if their friends are behaving online in ways that are overtly sinful I would first approach the friend ... they may simply be astray and you could help that friend get his or her head on right. BUT, if that person refuses to change ... I would advise to block that "friend." Negative behavior is contagious. If your child is still a teenager, I would have access to every social media account they have, every email, and the media use of their phones or tablets. I would do everything in my power to protect and prepare my child than to have to repair.
I am not saying, however, to block someone bc of single posts or using language that is unfavorable. I'm referring to when there is a constant trend of lewdness or profanity ... constant spurts of hatred or violence ... I would drop that person.
It is my opinion that teaching our children to confront their peers over inappropriate action provides them with a vital skill necessary for success in life. Too many adults no longer know how to confront people or to be confronted. Too many adults do not know how to filter out bad influences on their families and the cycle is getting worse. We must teach our children the value of filtering what comes close to home. We have abused the word tolerance. We are not to tolerate dangerous and destructive behavior in order to keep a false notion of peace and freedom. If freedom is defined as the ability to do what is wanted in the moment, then it cannot exist bc we so often want to do what others won't like. If they don't like it, and we do it, then they are not free by that definition. Freedom is the right to do what ought to be done, not what is wanted to be done. In that definition, it is ok for people not to like it.
Advise away ... and if they are not mature enough, or old enough ... delete and block away for them. They will thank you later. And you will have taught them to help their kids ... as my parents taught me.
Parenting is among the hardest things a person will ever attempt to do. Social media is a combustible additive to much of the difficulty. It used to be just refusing to let a person through the door or on a phone ... but now ... it is so much harder to regulate who our children are interacting with. The task is extremely difficult but worth undertaking! Whoever lived a life of ease that is worth remembering? And what great accomplishment was ever gained without great difficulty? We must be up to the task. Their future and the people in it who will share our blood depend on us.