Dear son,

You saved up your money to buy your first phone and I know you are super excited to finally join your friends online doing all the things teens do.

But before you begin the adventure with social media, video games, and surfing the web for all kinds of entertainment, I need to tell you a few things about this new world you will be entering. 

Although you will spend much of your time on your phone in the years to come, I will expect you to be fully accountable in how you behave, just like you are accountable in real life. There should be no difference between your online choices and how you act in person. You must use your phone responsibly and respectfully. The online world does not give you the right to be someone you’re not. You do not have the right to make poor decisions, simply because you are behind a screen. 

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I could give you a long list of rules for you to follow when using your phone, but you really need only one that includes them all: follow Jesus.

You see, if you truly follow Jesus every time you touch that screen, then you will be making godly choices online that are most honorable to Him. If you follow Jesus in everything you share on social media and everywhere you go on the vast and sometimes vicious internet, I can feel assured that you will be mindful of who you follow and careful of where you go. I will worry less about what you share on social media and how you interact with others. I will trust that as your world opens into an expanse that far exceeds my reach and my control, Jesus will guide your steps through it.  

As Christians, we are expected to put our faith into action with everything we do and say and this certainly involves what we do on our phones.

That’s a mighty calling for us all, isn’t it? You’re still so new to it all—your phone and your faith—so I will guide you and teach you what it truly means to follow Jesus in your life and on your phone, too. I will help you apply every Christian principle we practice to what you do on that phone. Every decision you make when your fingers touch that screen must reflect the character of Christ, much like what you do in real life too.

There will be times you are challenged to do the right thing, the kind thing, the responsible thing, the gracious thing, the Christ-like thing, but every time you honor Jesus, you will grow closer to Him and deepen your faith. Every time you face stressful or confusing situations, Jesus can be your anchor, your refuge, your strength, when you prayerfully ask for His guidance and help.

If you are truly following Jesus, then you must ask yourself “Does this honor my Savior?” every single time you touch that screen.

I know at your age, you probably aren’t thinking about Jesus every second of the day, but son, I can only pray that as your faith grows, Jesus will be on your mind even more. Having deep, abiding faith requires careful discernment with every choice you make. If you actively apply God’s Word to your life, you will receive the divine direction you need. When we make choices that take us away from our relationship with Jesus, He can’t work in and through us and guide us on the path He created for us to live. Oh son, your Heavenly Father wants the very best for you and it’s up to you to allow Him into your life to do His work and accomplish His will. And yes, that means even on your phone.

You’re just beginning to expand your world with this new access to unlimited places you can go and endless people you will encounter in the constant stream of choices you will make online. So, please be careful. Please be wise. If you remember to follow Jesus, then your decisions will keep you away from dangerous people and sites that mean you harm. You will actively choose to disengage from inappropriate behavior you see happening and you’ll be responsible enough to click away from videos and sites and people that don’t honor the values that Jesus calls you to uphold. 

In order for you to be safe, you must make choices that will often go against what others are doing. That will be hard and you might feel isolated and lonely.

Always remember that you are serving God and not men, dear son.

The godly choices you make will please Him and we want to please God most of all, don’t we? The decisions you make are fleeting here on earth, but they have an eternal impact on your relationship with Jesus.

Friends will come and go. Pictures and posts will scroll by your screen endlessly flooding your feed. Don’t buy into the hype of what is the popular thing to do! The reward for those choices only lasts a moment, then it brings the risk of destruction and danger to you and others. If you find something that is inappropriate or even illegal, I pray you come to me so you don’t have the burden to intervene on your own. It’s a whole new world out there where people feel emboldened to do and say just about anything.

Guard your heart and your mind, dear son. Don’t allow those ideas, those images, those words to infiltrate your identity in Christ. 

Son, I want you to have fun on your phone! I want you to use it to connect with your friends and learn new facts about things that interest you. I want you to find music that motivates you and videos that teach you new skills you want to learn. There’s so much good to come from the internet and social media! Having your own phone is a mighty responsibility and I expect you to take it seriously and stick to your Christian principles. It will be challenging to stay faithful in the endless choices you’ll make, but I believe in you. And even more importantly, I believe in God’s will for your life. I trust that Jesus will grow your faith and refine your character as you faithfully follow Him. 

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Christine Carter

Christine Carter writes at TheMomCafe.com, where she hopes to encourage mothers everywhere through her humor, inspiration, and faith. Her work is published on several various online publications and she is the author of "Help and Hope While You're Healing: A woman's guide toward wellness while recovering from injury, surgery, or illness." and “Follow Jesus: A Christian Teen’s Guide to Navigating the Online World.” Both books sold on Amazon.