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Social media presents challenges and opportunities

Some trivia with regards to social media. Who do you think said: “just as the Industrial Revolution in its day brought about a profound transformation in society … so today the radical changes taking place in communications are guiding significant cultural and social developments”?

Was it, a) Steve Jobs, b) Bill Gates, c) Mark Zuckerberg or d) Pope Benedict XVI?

Proving that Team Catholic is always more current than we expect, it was Pope Benedict, in his “Message for the 45th World Communications Day,” who astutely compared the growing popularity of social media as impacting society as dramatically as the Industrial Revolution.

Considering that we’ve gone from putting photos in an envelope and sending them in the mail to browsing photos of weddings posted to Facebook before the final hymn has been sung, I’d say Pope Benedict has made an astute observation.

The Holy Father continued to explain that these advances hold great opportunities for good and can “contribute to the satisfaction of the desire for meaning, truth and unity which remain the most profound aspirations of each human being.”

Those in the Diocese of Charleston can look to the presence of The Catholic Miscellany and Office of Vocations on Facebook and Twitter to see excellent examples of the utilization of social media to promote the Gospel.

However, this easy access to information sharing also requires the exercise of prudence with regards to what is shared on-line.

People of all ages should remember that anything posted to the internet — whether it’s a photo, comment, link or “like” — becomes a very permanent, searchable reflection of themselves.

Pope Benedict challenges that there “exists a Christian way of being present in the digital world: this takes the form of a communication which is honest and open, responsible and respectful of others.”

Like all Christian behavior, this requires the influence and supervision of parents.

Just like children learn to say “please” and “thank-you” because their parents initially prompt them, parental supervision of social media is not an “invasion of privacy” but a necessary life-lesson for the modern world.

Although the personal nature of laptops and cell phones can make supervision more challenging, their instant access to information and social circles means parents should see them not as their kid’s toy, but a powerful means of unlimited access to their child.

Monitoring technology is no different from monitoring live social situations like parties — it’s just a little trickier.

This idea of supervision is certainly a challenge given the ever-changing options that the internet offers for communication, but there are resources to aid parents in staying ahead.

Visit www.commonsensemedia.org for tips on understanding cell phones, social media sites and the potential dangers to younger users.

The Center for Parent Youth Understanding has also begun a “Digital Kids Initiative”(www.digitalkidsinitiative.com) that offers parents helpful tools for teaching children to use technology wisely.

Sirach 6:5-6 states: “A kind mouth multiplies friends, and gracious lips prompt friendly greetings. Let your acquaintances be many, but one in a thousand your confidant.”

Sage words, reminding us to be kind and represent Christ to all while being prudent about here one confides.






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