I know, I know, lots of blegs and little content recently. Sorry. Life is really, really stressful.
Anyway, my church is putting together an internet policy for RE to handle issues like:
1. YRUUer writes "I had the worst day ever! I'm so depressed!" on facebook. Do you:
a. Send them a private message of concern (which might come off as creepy, particularly if they are of the opposite gender)
b. Post a "hey, hope tomorrow is better" or "you can talk to me" message on their wall (and wonder if their friends start asking who the dorky adult who hangs out on their facebook page is.)
c. Ignore it until Sunday and check in with them then (But they are hurting now, unless they are just being melodramatic, which is always possible with some teenagers)
2. If a YRUUer looks like they might be bullying another kid online or being online bullied themselves, at what point do you intervene and how?
3. When, if ever, is it appropriate to private message/IM/Text a youth? (Goodness knows being able to text "Bring your permission slip to the retreat" to the one youth who keeps forgetting makes life easier, but if we make it seem normal for youth and advisors to be having one-on-one conversations over private mediums, aren't we opening the door for something hinky to happen at some point should a conversation turn intimate?)
4. Should an advisor ever "friend" a youth or should that always be the youth's choice?
5. If an advisor starts posting to a youth's page in a way that makes them uncomfortable, is there a way to set up things to make it easy for the youth to ask them to "back off" that minimizes the intimidation factor?
6. If a youth is posting pictures or text that suggests underage drinking or drug use or sex, at what point is it the advisor's duty to talk to the youth's parents?
7. If Janet, a YRUUer, makes her status "Janet is horny," is it the advisor's job to talk to her about how that's a really bad idea, which she almost certainly knows on some level anyway? If so, what's the best way to do that to minimize the embarassment all around?
8. What about other adults in the congregation? Where do these lines differ for them, particularly in their interactions with the youth?
So basically, it's the essential YRUU advisor question "What is the proper balance between parent and friend?" applied to cyberspace, facebook in particular. One of the awesome things about being an advisor is that you are supposed to have the judgment of an adult but not the parent-child dynamic. But that's a really tricky balance sometimes as youth do sometimes get into situations where parental intervention is appropriate, yet if the youth view us as "spies for their parents" then they will be reluctant to reach out even if they really need to*.
Anyway, do any of you guys' churches have such a policy drawn up? If so, can I have a copy?
*I had a wonderful conversation a bit ago with a youth who was really concerned that this youth's Mother didn't trust him/her and constantly accused him/her of using drugs. The youth, who certainly doesn't have any of the external signs of drug use and has always seemed like a responsible kid to me, was embarassed and offended and wanted to know how best to talk to his/her mother about the mother's fears and get mom to cut the youth some slack.
It sure seemed like this conversation really helped, but it's not a conversation you can have unless the youth really believes that you're not going straight to their folks with anything they tell you.