Bishops Offer Helpful Guidelines for New Media

Do you feel like a fish out of water when it comes to what has been referred to as the new media or the social media? Do you even know what someone is referring to or do your eyes glaze start to glaze over when they use those terms or ask you how many “friends” you have on-line?  Do you wish you knew how to evangelize more effectively through the Internet? Or maybe you have some concerns about keeping your parish, your youth minister, or your own family accountable when it comes to communicating on-line. 

If any of these questions grab your attention then head on over to the web site of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops ( and check out the document issued by the bishops concerning their new social media guidelines ( ).  It’s an excellent resource that can help any one looking not only to learn more about social media but those of us who are hoping or trying to approach a very powerful communications tool from a Catholic perspective.   In this document the bishops give us an overview of the Church and social media looking at such issues as visibility, accountability, and community. There is an entire section of definitions of common on-line terms for new media neophytes.  There is also, within the guidelines, the understanding that with some 400 million users on Facebook alone, the Church needs to be a part of the social media community because if not, it could miss out on a major evangelization opportunity.  The bishops also see the potential dangers and pitfalls if some instruction is not offered on how to engage the community through these on-line venues.

“The key question that faces each church organization that decides to engage social media is; how will we engage? Careful consideration should be made, to determine the particular strengths of each form of social media (blogs, social networks, text messaging, etc. and the needs of a ministry, parish, or organization,” the document reads.

The USCCB insists that appropriate boundaries have to be established and need to be in sync with diocesan codes of conduct especially where the area of protecting children and young people is concerned.  They’ve even including several paragraphs on “Social Networking with Minors” which is a definite must read for Moms and Dads as the bishops encourage parental monitoring and involvement in their children’s social media activity.        

“Parents must have access to everything provided to their children. For example parents should be made aware of how the social media are being used, be told how to access the sites, and be given the opportunity to be copied on all material sent to their children via social networking (including text messages).

This is helpful material for parents trying to cope with the many challenges of raising children in the digital age.  In my work as a speaker addressing media issues I find unfortunately the majority of parents fall into one of either two extreme categories; they are overwhelmed by the technology and leave their children to navigate the Internet on their own.  Or they severely restrict media usage, especially when it comes to the computer.  The bishops and the Catholic Church starting with Pope Benedict, say there is a middle ground to be found here.  The latest USCCB document even contains links to the Holy Father’s two most recent World Communications Day statements from 2010 and 2009.  Both World Communications Day message are packed with great insight on how all Catholics, whether laity or religious should approach this medium of social networking.

The Church is our Mother ship, there to help us navigate through life and hopefully make it safely to the other side. Thanks to the solid media teachings of the Pope and the bishops we now know we don’t have to set out alone in the vast sea of ever-changing computer technology.  It’s a good feeling to know these new guidelines are only a click away.   I for one am grateful.

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About the Author

Teresa’s latest book, God's Bucket List: Heaven's Surefire Way to Happiness in This Life and Beyond is available on Amazon and one of her other popular books, Extreme Makeover: Women Transformed by Christ, Not Conformed to the Culture has been on the Catholic best-seller list since its release in October, 2011.

Teresa Tomeo is an author, syndicated Catholic talk show host, and motivational speaker with nearly 30 years of experience in TV, radio and newspaper.

In the year 2000, Teresa left the secular media to start her own speaking and communications company. Many of you remember Teresa from her days in the Detroit media, especially her awarding winning radio work and her many years on Channel 7 and Channel 50.

Teresa’s daily morning radio program, “Catholic Connection”, is produced by Ave Maria Radio in Ann Arbor, and now heard on over 150 Catholic stations nationwide. Her talk show is also carried on Sirius/XM Satellite Radio.

Teresa is a columnist and special correspondent for the national Catholic newspaper, “Our Sunday Visitor”. She appears frequently on EWTN Catholic Television, most recently covering the March for Life in Washington D.C. Teresa has also been featured on “The O’Reilly Factor” and Fox News.

In 2008 Teresa was chosen as only one of 250 delegates from around the world to attend the Vatican Women’s Congress held in Rome marking the 20th Anniversary of John Paul the Second’s Letter entitled “On the Dignity and Vocation of Women.”

As a speaker Teresa travels around the country addressing media awareness and activism, as well as sharing her reversion to the Catholic Church. Her first book, “Noise—How Our Media Saturated Culture Dominates Lives and Dismantles Families”, published by Ascension Press is a Catholic best-seller and now in its second printing. Her second book, “Newsflash! My Surprising Journey from Secular Anchor to Media Evangelist” was published in September of 2008. Teresa has also co-authored a series of best selling Catholic books called “All Things Girl” for tween girls focusing on modesty and chastity.

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