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4 September 2017

How to safeguard children in our world

Ben Thomas photo Ben Thomas Head of Operations
child on phone (Pixabay - CC0)

In our first safeguarding blog post – 'Why should we safeguard the vulnerable?' – we looked at this verse from James:

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. (James 1:27)

It seems to many of us in the safeguarding team that now, more than ever, there are growing challenges. The main one is that this ‘pollution’ can seep in, in more and more subtle ways. The growing use of social media, new communication platforms, and the access children now have to the internet present us all with new challenges.

In the world but not of the world

Jesus’s prayer in the upper room shows us his heart cries just before he went to the cross:

I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. (John 17:14–15)

In the heart of his prayer for his disciples, Jesus made it clear that they were not of the world, yet they were called to live within the world. Although they were vulnerable and needed protection, he didn’t want to simply lift them from the darkness, but to protect them in the darkness so that they could be sent into the world to be light, just as he was sent into the world.

What does this mean for us?

We too, like the early disciples, are called to live in the world – not to be detached from it physically or mentally, but to be present and alert.

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8)

We are called to be sober minded and not deluded about our surroundings. There is genuine pain and darkness on our doorstep and we should be awake to it.

None of this will be new information to you, and I think we’re great as a church at recognising the need on the streets or through our social action ministries. But we have to ask the question, how good are we at recognising current dangers for our children?

There is a growing challenge for us as a church as we seek to create safe and caring environments. It feels like the world we live in is becoming increasingly complicated: technology is making it easier for children to access and view things that we wouldn’t have been able to; social media and new communication channels give broader freedoms that we cannot control.

child using ipad (Brad Flickinger - CC-BY-2.0)

We care about our children, so what should we do?

Jesus didn’t want to take us out of the world and we’re not suggesting that’s what we should do. We’re not starting a new church school or suggesting banning smartphones, and we’re not recommending banning social media. But Jesus does want us to be protected.

Most importantly we need to pray, just as Jesus did. Pray that our Father would protect our children from the evil one – and when I say ‘our children’, I don’t just mean our physical offspring, but all the children connected to Above Bar Church. They are precious and vulnerable and they need our prayers.

Three basic things you can do to help to protect your child

1. Talk to them: Build bridges and chat about what they are doing in their spare time. Talk to them about what their friends are viewing and doing. A recent survey showed that 94% of 11–18 year olds use social media every day. 67% said that it made them feel negative about themselves. Click here for guidance on how to start a conversation with your child about safety online.

When you talk, try to agree boundaries: focus on what they can share, with whom they can share it, what they can view, and when they can view it. Most social media platforms have minimum age limits, which are set for good reasons: WhatsApp - 13, Facebook - 13, Snapchat - 13, Twitter - 13.

2. Set up parental controls: If they have a computer, tablet or smartphone, make sure you install some parental controls. Children have access to, and are viewing, material that can be deeply harmful to them and have a lasting impact. Click here for guidance on parental controls.

‘When it comes to keeping your child safe online, parental control can be incredibly helpful and effective. Giving you the confidence to know that your child can experience the internet safely.’ (O2 Guru)

3. Talk to us or other parents: Sometimes children view things in isolation, but often it’s two or three around one device, and they often talk about it. If you become aware of a child engaging with or viewing something they shouldn’t, then talk to other parents and feel free to let us know – we may be able to help.

What are members of the Safeguarding Team doing?

  • We talk to children and young people in ways that are relevant to them.
  • We help children and young people engage with the culture around them and give them a safe place to be within Above Bar Church.
  • We try to raise awareness with parents and young people.
  • We try to understand the culture they live in, looking at new research and information.
  • We develop policies that take into consideration the world around us, always seeking to be ahead.
  • We train volunteers to do all this too!

Ultimately, to safeguard our children and young people in this present age we need to work collectively as a whole congregation, being awake and aware to the world around us, and being vigilant in the place of prayer and on the ground.


Photo credits (from top):
© Atranias. Used under a Creative Commons (CC0) licence.
© Brad Flickinger. Used under a Creative Commons (CC-BY-2.0) licence.

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