As a Principal, I have observed how quickly children turn against one another. As a grandmother of a tween granddaughter, I have experienced her attempting to navigate this concept of ‘friendship.’
In cyberspace, our children find ‘friends.’ People they do not know. People that prey on our children’s good nature. People who will lift them one minute and tear them down the next moment, unfortunately, cyberbullying has become a way of life. Our children are blind to what and who a friend is and is not. They cannot readily discern who is or is not a fake friend. It is important to teach our children how to discern who is their friend and who is not. This lesson is on ‘friendship.’
I Corinthians 15:33 says, “Do not be misled: Bad company corrupts good character.”
Our children are misled because they do not know how to discern if their friends are of good character. According to Matthew Poole, theologian, a friend is sincere and loves you at all times. It is during difficult times that a friend reveals him or herself as something more. It is during the difficult times that a false friend forsakes you. Therefore, if your children tell you they made a new friend, but that friend began talking to their other friends about your child, that person revealed they are a fake friend. But does your child know that person is not their friend? Generally not.
Freedictionary.com defines ‘friend’ as a person whom one knows, likes, and trusts. Of all the definitions I have read, I believe this is the closest to the one God is conveying in the Bible. A friend is someone of good character. Someone you like, someone you can trust and someone who likes you for who you are.
“There are friends who pretend to be friends, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” Proverbs 18:24
Cyberspace is not the only place our children learn to define friendship. They also learn the definition of the word ‘friend’ at school through the various relationships they have with other children, or by observing other children’s actions. I have found that these friendships are fluid. One minute a friend will be loyal, trustworthy, and honest and the next minute they are telling lies about their friend, tearing them down and turning people against them. One of the main reasons children are sent to the office is because a friend’ mistreated them. The first thing most crying, hurt, children reported to me was, “but I thought she/he was my friend.” The concept of what is a friend is difficult for young children, tweens and teens to understand.
The lesson for parents is to reinforce the scriptures that define the term friend. Ask your children when they speak about their friends, do your friends meet the scriptural definitions of friends and friendship? It is important that they can determine whether their friend is truly a friend.
Regarding Social Media, it is important to check and block sites where children and tweens have access. A ‘Social Media or Internet friend’ that you have not met and approved as a friend is not a site your children should be allowed to visit. Invisible friends can be dangerous and often predatory. There are two types of cyberbullying. One that cannot be linked through the direct relationship with the child and secondly, the cyberbullying that is initiated by another young person or group of people that know the child being bullied. Now, more so than ever before, our children must be grounded in the Word.
When our children begin to understand their relationship with our Lord, daily put on the Armor of God and practice the Fruit of the Spirit/the characteristics of Christ in their daily lives, they will become empowered and no longer be identified as weak prey to (online) cyberbullying. Further, they will be expressing themselves as God’s children and stand apart from the crowd.
As Christians, we have to take the following scriptures seriously.
The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. (John 10:10, NKJV)
According to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience (Ephesians 2:2, NKJV)
The thief is here to steal our children, kill our children, and destroy our children. He is devious and uses whatever tools our children are prone to engage in to accomplish his goals. While Ephesians 2:2 does not explicitly say that the power of the air is the Internet, Satan, the thief, certainly uses Social Media as an instrument of destruction when it comes to cyberbullying and online harassing.
Our children must be taught to be strong in the Lord. Teaching them how to use Bible principles when they are young empowers them to be strong Christian Warriors throughout their lives.