The Internet can be a dangerous place. Scratch that… it is a dangerous place. However, we’re at a point in history where almost every vocation, task and act of communication involves the Internet and some form of online communication. The world is now communicating online by using social media. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, blogs, Pinterest… This is where online conversations are happening and you need to have a plan in place to protect your marriage in this new world. Take your Internet usage seriously. Be above reproach and protect your marriage – here’s how:
1. Online Accountability. It is always a good idea to have some kind of website activity monitor installed on your computers, Smartphone, and tablets. A program like Covenant Eyes is great for online accountability. You can install it on your computer and download the apps for your mobile devices. It tracks the websites you visit and sends a report to a person who you designate as your “online accountability partner.”
2. Offline Accountability. Author and Pastor Matt Chandler says, “To be 99% known is to be unknown.” It’s true. That 1% could be your downfall. Ask your friends to hold you accountable with the way you use social networks and the Internet at large. Ask them to check in on you. Maybe one or two of them receive your reports from Covenant Eyes and help you stay safe on the Internet. It’s always safer to walk in accountability. We weren’t created to walk through this life in isolation.
3. Does your spouse know your passwords? Make sure that your spouse has access to all of your online profiles. Let him or her know that they are free to log in at any time to see what’s going on. This doesn’t mean that you can’t be trusted. This means that transparency reigns in your relationship. Go ahead; give your spouse access to your accounts. You’ll feel better.
4. Don’t Over-share. When using social media, make it a point to NOT share your entire life and ALL of your thoughts, hopes, dreams, passions and convictions. Keep that for your spouse! Many online emotional affairs start with someone pouring their heart out in a status update. Don’t entertain that thought. Keep it simple. Keep it light. Save the heavy stuff for the people closest to you.
5. Keep it Public. Things get dangerous when you start engaging in private messages. If you’re going to use Facebook or Twitter to communicate, try to keep it out in the open and not through Facebook Messages or Twitter Direct Messages. Especially when talking with someone of the opposite sex who isn’t your spouse! Set boundaries and stick to them.
6. Keep Your Shirt On! You’ve seen them. The “iffy” pictures that your Facebook friends post and you think to yourself, “Really? Is that necessary?” Make a rule to only post pictures that are above reproach. Guys, No one wants a ticket to your “gun show.” Trust me.
7. Make it NOT about you. Choose to use social media to talk and post about the things closest to you. Talk about your spouse, your kids, your job, etc. Try not to focus on yourself specifically. Social media is a breeding ground for narcissism. Guard against this.
8. Get Your Privacy Settings In Order. Make sure your social network privacy settings are configured in a way that protects you and your family. If you only want your friends seeing your status updates, make the switch! The privacy settings of Facebook and other social networks are easy to navigate.
9. Be visible. Make sure that your family computer is in a visible place. If you use a laptop, make a family rule that it can only be used in the Living Room or Den.
10. Be prepared and Have a Plan in Place. You can control the way you use the Internet and specifically social networks. However, we can’t control the way others use it. Make sure to have a Family Plan in place for when online predators come “knocking on your door.” Maybe it’s an old boyfriend or girlfriend, a co-worker, or just an acquaintance trying to contact you. Will you try to hide it from your spouse and pretend like it never happened or will you bring it out in the open and discuss how you as a family will respond together in unity?