Social Media: A Clear and Present DangerJuly 14, 2023
The facts are coming in fast: social media is harmful. By definition it is a "clear and present danger". Some of us have teenagers and some of us have newborns. Some have grandkids. Who knows how integrated social media will be in our lives in 12 years when they are teenagers? We need to think carefully about this multi-billion dollar global market as our kids are entering into. It is not the neutral get-to-know-you medium we first exerienced in the early 2000s. Having heard much more in recents months than I could compile here, I felt compelled to pass this on to our church. Consider social media in your home carefully. Be aware. Be involved. Be intentional. Plan.
Older Teens (15-19)
Self Harm Hospital Admittance up 62%
Suicide up 70%
Self Harm Hospital Admittance up 189%
Suicide up 151%
Your kids want social media? Show them this video (if appropriate). Tell them you love them. Plan accordingly.
“Gen z — kids born after 1996 or so — those kids are the first generation in history that got on social media in middle school. How do they spend their time? Come home from school and they are on their devices. The whole generation is more anxious, fragile, and depressed. They are much less comfortable taking risks. The rates at which they get drivers license are dropping. The number who’ve gone on a date or had any romantic interaction is dropping rapidly”. - Jonathan Haidt, NYU Stern School of Business
See Longer Quote Here: https://twitter.com/MattSmethurst/status/1679855800162963457?s=20
Claire Morell talks through more in our Milwood Famiy and Tech Seminar.
FAMILY AND TECH SEMINAR
What do I do?! I urge you to check out our own Family and Tech Seminar for theological and practical info. In January Caleb and Claire Morell joined us from Washington DC. Claire is a Senior Policy Analyst at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, where she directs EPPC’s Technology and Human Flourishing Project. She, Caleb, and Ben Wright gave us invaluable insights.
As a starter, I would say children and teens do not need social media at all. Neither do adults for that matter. You could live your whole life as a faithful husband, wife, etc and never have a social media account! Children and teenagers should not be given free reign on devices for hours on end, freely searching and consuming media of all kinds. The results are depression, anxiety, self-harm, addiction, inability to concentrate, fidgeting, and more.
A few thoughts from memory:
— Having children with social media means monitoring social media. Its high tension between children and parents on this. Its exhausting for parents and constantly frustrating for children.
— Monitoring social media is a technological challenge. It requires familirarity with platforms and policies. Will take research to engage safely.
— Social Media and screen time in general are proving to have seriously detrimental affects on mental and social well-being.
— Algorithms are in control. You might think that you are tailoring your children’s experience. But social media is built on algorithms designed to get and keep mindless attention. It chooses the content for you.
— Your children are the product. Social media seems like a fun free product. But actually social media is a business and they are selling your time, attention, and information to businesses. They profit off our detriment.
— The affects of social media and screen are not only social, but neurological and physiological.
— The connection between introduction to pornography via social media are well documented.
— Social media can be used for good. But the increased wave of studies suggest the good is significantly minimal compared with the dangers and damage.
IN THE NEWS
These focus on TikTok but there is similar documentation and concerns for other social media platforms.
Social Media and Mental Health | Special Morning Wire Sunday Edition
How TikTok Serves Up Sex and Drug Videos to Minors
TikTok's Algorithm Pushes Harmful Content to Kids
Questions for Parents to Discuss
— Are we fully informed on the nature and risks of social media?
— Have we adequately considered healthy social media plans and setup?
— Have we considered our child's propensity for certain behaviors in relation to social media?
— Have we seen the affects of social media or screen use on our child/children or others?
— Have we set an example of social media use that we would like to see reflected in our children?
— Do we know what our children are seeing on screens/social media? How can we be sure?
— Have we sought counsel from any other parents for their experience?
— Are we sure we are able to navigate technology in a manner that keeps our child/children safe?
— If we are going to allow social media in our home, when and how is the appropriate way for each child?
— Are there safer options for communication between children than social media?
— What do we understand to be healthy social interaction and engagement?
— What are the best next steps to take regarding social media in our household?
— What good functions or purposes do screens serve in our house? How do we exemplify that to our children?
— Are we willing to fully embrace, accept, and endure our children thinking we are “stupid, mean, and old fashioned” for doing what we decide is best for them?
— Is our family screen time planned on the basis of our personal comfort and freedom or is it designed for the well being of our children?
Simply telling our children “no” and fencing off a danger is not the fulness of parenting. Helping our children understand our reasoning is important too. Helping children navigated dangers is another. It also comes down to providing a Godly example and alternative. The rubber meets the road real quick on this one! The other night I came through the house and announced, “Ok, everyone off screens”. Jayne immediately replied, “Dad, you want to play Clue”? No, no I don’t want to play Clue. I’m tired. But I did play Clue. Other nights I’m not such a glowing example. On another night I announced, “No screens, guys” only to immediately sit on couch and open my own phone.
The goal of parenting is not merely to say “no” to all the bad stuff. It is to teach our children the good of Psalm 19: that God's law, commands, precepts, rules, and warnings are good. It is to show and exmplify the gospel when they sin. We are to help enrich our children’s lives with that which is good, beautiful, righteous, and awe-inspring according to God’s word. Social media has the capacity for that. But we are learning now that its capacity for evil influence worse is greater than we thought.
Hoenstly, this all requires doing something harder as parents. It means time with us when screens would be easier. Sometimes that means making sure our children have personal friend time in the flesh. It certainly means healthy, biblical family rhythms of being together face-to-face. It means having time togehter with our Bibles open. It means exemplifying what we wish to see. You want to listen to Talk 2 by Caleb Morel on the instruction to parents in Deuteronomy.
The influence principal: time, authority, and common orientation.
Discipleship: A Significant Help
The simplest definition of discipleship is: helping each other follow Jesus. Parenting through the tech age is a paramount reason for personal discipleship. This stuff is frustrating, tiring, confusing, and can be intimidating. Its not easy! Having someone else to bounce ideas off, read the Bible together, and pray together is a huge help. They don't need to be a tech expert. But someone to be a spiritual help. Being able to share how you have failed, struggles you have, and regain strength through fellowship is key to parenting. Meet with someone regularly to share your personal struggles and pray together.
I’d be happy to speak with anyone who has questions or concerns! This is a wrestle I'm currently in. Hang in there parents and grandparents!
For His Glory,