Rules young people want to add to Social Media.

For a young person social media can be a Crystal Maze of awkwardness and mind games – full of traps and ambushes with a prevailing sense of kill or be killed!

We run training for teachers, youth workers and young people themselves on how to stay safe in social media. Yesterday we shook this this up a bit and asked a bunch of young people what new rules or laws they would add to online behaviour.

This question came from the Youth For Christ, Rock Solid Playing Cards. A great resource available here.

Here are their responses, unchanged and unchallenged. What do you think? Particularly think about what fears these answers reveal and how we could respond to them:

– You should not be allowed to comment on something if you haven’t read or watched it through.

– If you wouldn’t say it to their face in front of a crowd, then don’t comment it on their status.

– Keep your opinions to yourself – no liking or disliking it at all.

– You should only be able to publicly comment on a post with the creator’s permission.

– Fake profiles should always have a ‘this person is fake, don’t trust them’ warning on them.

– When feeling bad, you should be able to ask for help and have people reply properly without trolling or silly jokes – real help.

– All comments should be made by video.

– No comments should be anonymous.

– All ‘offensive’ trolling should be banned.

– You should be able to see who is looking at your photos.

– Can’t tag random people without their permission first – or be allowed to share a photo of them anywhere without their permission first.

– Don’t allow friends to talk to you about social media if you don’t have social media.

– Don’t celebrate something others don’t have (like Christmas) in case it offends them.

– Use your real name .

– Stop correcting people’s English.


– Ban all manipulative ‘scroll down to ignore, like or comment if you care’ posts.

– Stop trolling everyone!

– Clamp down on internet slang.

– Ban click bait pages that only make you like them just to give publicity to other pages.

– Limit on what & how much you can share – awful posts should be vetted first.

– Too many selfies!!!

– Don’t allow statuses about an ex .

– Don’t allow statuses about ‘people you know’ without saying their names – especially when it’s obvious!

– Clamp down on the crazy amount of likes people get when they have a baby.

– If you’re not a fan of a thing – don’t go on the page to knock it!

– Don’t allow anyone to change their name to ‘nobody’ – to stop the ‘nobody likes this’ gag.

– Two words: farmville requests


So there they are. Again, think about the fears and questions that these ideas reveal. I recommend asking the same question to your youth group, asking them what they think this reveals and asking how they would respond.

Social Media Safety Lesson Plan (free download)

Social Media Safety Lesson Plan.

This is the first of a 2 part lesson plan we offer to Schools on the issues of Social Media Safety for Students. This has minimal explicit religious content and is aimed at building trust for the school while providing valuable training and awareness for young people on the issues of Social Media Safety.

This should happily fill a 50 minute lesson for most secondary school age groups. It’s based around dynamic conversation and group work steered through you the facilitator. This is a far less authoritarian way of raising and taking these issues.

This is a free download and you are free to use, adapt and it as far as it is useful. Please do point people back here if it has been useful to you. Thanks!

Download Here: Social Media Safety pdf (3 pages)

Viral Youth Ministry Part 1. Online Community IS Community.

Social-media-for-public-relations1Ask FM, Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter et al – the city gates of a new century. They are what coffee shops and pubs we’re to the generation before: the hub of community, gossip, news and living interactions with real people.

“Communities have social rules, cliques, groups, hierarchies, activities and spaces. You will find all of these in the villages of social media.”

About this time last year I ran a training day on how to juggle social media and child safeguarding in youth ministry. The aim was to dovetail the two together and empower youth workers to be involved in online spaces responsibly.

The session was a success and has since been highly requested, so I will attempt to unpack some of the presentation parts of it over the next few posts.

Part 1. Online Community IS Community.

Community is defined as the condition of gathering and sharing with real people with real attitudes and experiences. Communities have social rules, cliques, groups, hierarchies, activities and spaces. You will find all of these in the villages of social media.

The inter-connectivity of social media sites within themselves, with each other and with off-community internet sites through via sharing creates a very real social digital world. Social media spaces are villages with easy public transport between them. Your avatar travels, takes photos, has experiences and leaves marks. Avatars are born and die all the time, and are not always what you think.

Digital community relates to ‘natural’ community (that which is outside the online world) in three potential ways:

1. Digital Community as Extension of Natural Community

2. Digital Community as Distinct from Natural Community

3. Digital Community as Memorabilia of Natural Community

God loves community and it is his plan to see his community ideals put into effect everywhere that community springs up. Wee need to be his fellow workers, on His team to create this in the digital world that is flourishing.

1. Digital Community as Extension of Natural Community
A foot in both worlds might be another way of putting this. One has a natural community experience then continues it on through sharing in social interactions online. Or a friendship that blossoms through meeting in reality takes on new layers and depths through online interaction.

“Ask FM, Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter et al – the city gates of a new century.”

Extension of natural community is a hi-tech way of sending notes, owning walkie-talkies or sharing scrapbooks on the life and experiences that happen to you and your friends.

This in the main is a relatively safe way of belonging to the Digital Community. It all comes down to balance – does the digital extend and supplement the natural, or is it the other way around?

For a youth group, a Facebook page is a great way of sharing memories, carrying on conversations, creating deeper friendships and advertising projects. This works as an extension of the youth group meeting in reality.

2. Digital Community as Distinct from Natural Community
This is perhaps where most unhealthy interactions with natural community crop us. Distinct is when one has a totally separate identity or life online from the one that is lived in reality.

Distinct online life be as simple as telling a few fibs to test some social waters or make yourself look cooler. It can however be as full blown as multiple personality disorder leading to a segregation of the self with some disastrous results. For instance, this is from where cyber self harm often originates.

When the two communities are thrust back together (like meeting someone in reality that you met online first) the pieces often don’t fit and at best expectations are let down and at worst you have situations that you read about in the news.

For a youth group, you can inadvertently create groups online that allow different characteristics of your members to surface unknowingly which can feel like you have an online group and a natural group of the same people but with different personalities. We need to manage and moderate content well and not be afraid to talk about the differences we see as a result.

Excursus: Digital Community as Replacement for Natural Community
In the worst case scenarios, distinct turns into replacement when again the balance shifts (just like in extension) and the individual starts to see the online world and persona as the real world and persona. For all intents and purposes they live online.

This is incredibly unhealthy as it bears all the marks of escapism and denial which can fester or awaken bipolar, mania, paranoia and other serious mental / social health difficulties.

“God loves community and it is his plan to see his community ideals put into effect everywhere that community springs up.”

3. Digital Community as Memorabilia of Natural Community
Remember the ‘find your classmates’ site? This was – for many of us in our late 20s and beyond – how social media began. Digital community can simply be a place to catch up without actually relating. You view pictures, and read what people are up to – and you share the same, but you don’t comment and you don’t seek responses. It is simply a bulletin board of memories and experiences.

For a youth group this is the safest (albeit most boring) community space to set up. A site that shares photos and stories of your group’s exploits but without having any real time, or roving avatar interactions.

All a Question of Balance
When it comes to online community you need to think balance. How do you as a youth worker keep the balance on the natural and the real, without diminishing or disregarding the digital. How do you keep a check on spaces  that you manage to ensure that real interactions are happening safely and unmolested while creating boundaries that allow only appropriate interactions.

For me, this means 9 times out of 10 I use pages rather than groups. I have several adult moderators from within and outside the youth group structure within the spaces. I avoid personal spaces (like private chat) and I avoid off wall content. I keep a daily check on what is being posted and I call people out – in person, not online – for abusing the community space.

Next time – Social Media Spaces: from the playground to the bedroom, do you know where you are?


Viral Youth Ministry.