Questions we ask
- Based on your field of study and expertise, can you help us understand how the use of social media is shaping the next generation? How is it affecting parent/child relationships? How is it affecting peer-to-peer relationships?
- In your observation, what emotional and psychological effects are being seen as side effects of social media use by teenagers?
- An important place to start, regardless of your children’s age: PARENTS program their kids to share everything they do. PARENTS instill the idea that “everyone cares about everything you’re doing” in their children. The harsh truth of that is that PARENTS are using social media for their own significance, feedback, and to fulfill their need to feel known and cared for.
- Kids growing up in this digital age are fighting a daily war. The conversation needs to turn away from “what’s wrong with my kid” and turn toward the fact that the anxiety they feel in this digital age is a form of PTSD. They’ve been through an incredibly difficult time in history, they’re being asked to function in a world where they’re never going to “win,” and they still have real-life responsibilities, needs and issues that they have no equipment to handle, because their energy is spent trying to survive in these digital spaces.
- Before you even start assessing what your child’s relationship is with their devices and social media, check what priorities YOU are communicating. When your kids are in your physical space, are you communicating “my screen is more important than you,” or are you available to them? If you have to be on your phone, go to another room. If you can’t be with your kid, don’t look like you can be with your kid. If you’re physically in their space but not available, it communicates to your child it doesn’t matter they’re there.
- The loneliest thing in the world, right now, is to be the only one in a group of people who doesn’t have a phone. If there is one person who is looking for connection, nobody’s looking back.
- If there is a parent who is not on a phone and who is available, most kids will choose to connect to the parent over their devices. You are the solution. Your presence is the solution. The most important attachment figures in your kid’s life (primarily you, the parent) do matter more than this massive cultural pressure to be a part of the digital world. You are the number one antidote to the trauma your kids have gone through.
- If you want real friends, if you want real connection, just look up. You’ll see who else is looking up. Someone else IS looking up.
Erik Erikson's Stages of Development
- 0-2 year olds | Essential question: “Can I trust the world?”
- Children in this age range are earning trust vs. mistrust. They look for their caregiver to meet their needs. They learn about the world by how their cries for help and comfort are met.
- If a child in this age range is given an iPad when they cry, the technology becomes their pacifier, and their primary attachment figure. Does it meet their needs? Does it see them, and give them what they need? This child will come to the conclusion that they cannot trust the world.
- 2-4 years old | Essential question: “Is it ok to be me?”
- Children in this age range are looking for affirmation, attention, and acknowledgement. Parents will hear a lot of “watch me!” and “Daddy, look!”
- During this stage, parents tend to utilize technology as a babysitter rather than a pacifier. Parenting toddlers is hard, and it’s natural for your child’s incessant chatter to annoy you. But for a child at this age, these noisy times are when they’re trying to tell you things about themselves. If you respond to this by distracting them with technology each time, and don’t want to hear them, you’re communicating “no, it isn’t ok to be you.”
- 5-8 years old | Essential question: “Is it ok for me to do, move, and act?”
- Children in this age range are learning initiative vs. guilt. Exposure to media can dramatically affect their motivation to do things, how they gauge approval, where they look for self-worth, and how they determine if their participation has value.
- During this stage, kids are realizing the creation they’re capable of, and the hope is that they do so because it delights them. They need to be learning HOW to do, HOW to make, HOW to act, how to be FULFILLED by what they do. Exposure to social media shifts that motivation to doing, moving, and acting for OTHER people to see. They begin to be fulfilled by someone seeing what they did, and are unable to be gratified by the work they do without the approval of others.
- This age group is the sweet spot for technology - they are innocent enough to be fascinated by the possibilities technology provides, eager to explore, and see it as an outlet for their creativity. This innocent enchantment with and genuine interest in technology gives parents the false perception that things are ok, and will be fine. It is important to acknowledge that they will NOT remain in this phase. The more attached they get to the digital space during this age group, the faster it can turn on them when they reach the next stage of their development. Your child has got to have as many resources available in their real reality as much of the day as possible. Because when things do turn bad, if their technological world is the only world they know, they’re lost.
- 9-12 years old | Essential question: “Can I make it in the world?”
- Children in this age range are constantly comparing how they measure up to the world around them. They are very aware of what others are doing, very aware of who is being celebrated, they notice differences and weigh those against what they bring to the table.
- The current trend is that is the age range when a lot of kids are given their own devices and allowed to have their own social media accounts. When kids are exposed to social media during this phase, they will be affected by the highlight reel they see from their “peers” and can develop an inferiority complex. Think about what it means for these kids, long-term, when they live in a digital world they think it is the real world, and they can NEVER measure up.
- 13-19 years old | Essential question: “Who am I? Who can I be?”
- Teenagers in this age range are wrestling with their identity vs. role confusion. They’re asking what they’re going to do that matters, and what to do to be defined as a success. A parent’s job, and the church’s job, is to teach them to identify with Christ and to understand they are made in the image of God. A healthy version of this is for them to be confident in that, and look around themselves and celebrate those things in other people, as well.
- The visual nature of social media gives a very narrow definition of what is beautiful, what is smart, and what a winner looks like. It can cause us to try to be someone God didn’t create us to be, which will cause anxiety and depression 100% of the time.
- Consider that teenagers really do not have much of a choice in whether or not to be on social media. Depending on the place they live, where they go to school - in order to function it does not seem to be a choice. Teenagers are trying to build an identity in a world that will only tell them their identity is not going to be enough, and which is just going to abuse them. We have to give care to that. Even if you get them off of social media, they need care to compensate for what has happened.
- Simply Psychology | Erik Erikson's Stages of Psychosocial Development
- The Social Dilemma documentary
- How To Be Human In A Digital World | Jenny Black
- Media Trauma Care website
- Topical Index: Social Media & Technology
From our Parent Resource Page, this index provides suggested scriptures, articles, kids' books, adult books, and other podcasts to help your family learn more about and tackle this tough topic.