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5 ways social media and devices are affecting our kids

Unsplash/Creative Christians
Unsplash/Creative Christians

In this fast-paced digital era, the allure of media has woven itself into the very fabric of our society, permeating the lives of our children in ways unimaginable just a few decades ago. With the power to entertain, educate, and connect, media has undeniably become an integral part of our children's lives. The constant barrage of notifications, comparison culture, and addictive nature of social media can lead to feelings of inadequacy, anxiety, and even depression.

Whether it’s an iPad used to keep a toddler occupied or a phone used to keep in constant contact with the outside world, digital devices are not so much tools for Gen Z to use as they are virtual extensions of their bodies. As one student told me, “I break out in a panic if I don’t have my phone with me.” Another one said, “The first thing I do when I wake up is to check my phone.” Having a device in their hands is all Gen Z has ever known. They have grown up downloading games, streaming movies, and posting pics.

As Christian parents, we strive to raise our children in a world that aligns with our faith, nurturing their spiritual growth while arming them with the tools to navigate the temptations awaiting them outside our homes. Yet, as we guide them through this ever-changing landscape and embrace these technological advancements, we cannot afford to underestimate social media's profound influence on our children's developing minds and precious souls.

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In this article, I would like to explore five devastating ways in which social media and devices are shaping our children and what you can do to reverse the trend. My hope is that by becoming more aware of our children's obsession with their devices and our own addictive patterns, we can work together to disconnect from the virtual world and regain control over our families' well-being amid all the digital noise.

First: Devices are bringing out negativity

It is no surprise that most teens spend more time on their phones than doing anything else. But what really stood out to me was that when asked what their top negative influences were, 67 percent of teens answered, “social media,” 41% said “friends,” and 40% said “YouTubers.”

Although teens admit that social media consumption is harmful, they still willingly spend most of their free time watching YouTube videos and viewing content on social media as their entertainment of choice.

Tip:  Monitor what your child watches and consumes, and have regular conversations aimed at helping them overcome negativity and finding ways to positively impact their lives by speaking truth into them. When parents take the time to understand their teens' feelings, it allows them to offer support and guidance. This, in turn, helps to create a positive home environment where teens feel comfortable expressing their thoughts and emotions. So, open lines of communication and validation of feelings are crucial for parents to help their teens navigate the complexities of adolescence.

Bible Verse:  “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope” (Romans 15:13).

Second: Devices are fashioning distracted minds

Common Sense Media reports that the average daily media use of tweens (8 to 12 years old) is six hours, and the average for teens (13 to 8 years old) is about nine hours. And that's excluding the amount of time they use media for school.

Social media saturation means that teens are easily distracted and often find it challenging to focus on things that really matter. Another common trait among teens and college students is that they communicate in small, “bite-size” morsels of information.

This doesn’t apply to every member of Gen Z, of course, but I know many Gen Zers who struggle to find real depth and meaning in their conversations. One reason is that many Gen Zers are overexposed to information yet underexposed to real-life experiences.

Tip: Encourage your child to engage more in real-world experiences during these intervals, whether it's a face-to-face discussion, reading a book, outdoor activities, or a hobby. Keep in mind that whatever rules or guidelines you establish, it is essential to set an example by doing these behaviors yourself, as children often copy their parents' habits. Demonstrating a healthy relationship with technology can positively impact your teenager's behavior.

Bible verse: “Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name” (Psalm 86:11).

Third: Devices are producing more anxiety

Although social media addiction can affect anyone, teenagers are more prone to obsess over how others perceive them. They may constantly check their online profiles to see if their posts have received likes or comments as a way of seeking validation and assurance that they are being noticed and accepted. Often, it's not about people agreeing with their opinions or beliefs but rather seeking acknowledgment and validation for their very existence.

Social media platforms are not an adequate source for self-discovery.

Tip: Discuss with your child the benefits and risks of social media and encourage them not to compare themselves with online personas. Encourage your child to spend time each day in prayer and reflection, so that they can soak in God's love and feel His approval as His child.

Bible verse: Psalm 63:6-8, “When I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night; for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy. My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.”

Fourth: Devices are Creating the Craze to Cancel Others

In the age of social media, many teens feel the need to shut down (or even “cancel”) those who say or post anything they consider offensive. Media platforms give young people a sense of power and control. So, when they see something pop up in their feed that they disagree with, they believe they have a right to reply without apology.

Tip: Young people who are close to their family and accept correction from their parents are less likely to bully or shut down another person's free speech. Establish a regular family prayer or devotion time where everyone disconnects from technology to focus on faith and each other. This cultivates bonding and creates a shared understanding of the importance of setting technology aside in favor of family connections and spiritual well-being.

Bible Verse: “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor” (Romans 12:10).

Fifth: Devices are depriving sleep

If there is one thing your child needs more of is sleep. Yet, that can be pretty challenging with all the devices at their disposal. It's not just the light from digital screens that act as a stimulus to the brain; it's why your child remains on their device that is the real cause preventing them from relaxing and falling asleep.

Tip: Establish reasonable restrictions. Here are some that my wife and I have implemented in our home with our four children: 1. no computers, tablets, or TVs in our kids’ bedrooms, 2. no devices during dinner or while doing homework, 3. time limits on gaming and screen time each day, and 4. no-devices before bedtime to ensure a healthy sleep cycle.

Bible verse:In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety” (Psalm 4:8).

I always like to remind parents not to get ahead of themselves.

The use of media devices can have a profound impact on children, and it is crucial to understand that each child may respond differently to its influence. As parents or guardians, it is essential to be patient, prayerful, and productive in setting a positive example for your kids regarding how to use social media responsibly in their daily lives. By showing them how to manage screen time, engage in meaningful conversations, and promote healthy habits, you can help your kids develop a healthy relationship with technology. Over time, you will notice a positive change in their behavior and demeanor, which will undoubtedly benefit them in the long run.

Jason Jimenez is the founder and president of Stand Strong Ministries and is a respected Christian-worldview speaker, and faculty member at Summit Ministries. He is the best-selling author of Hijacking Jesus: How Progressive Christians Are Remaking Him and Taking Over the Church, Challenging Conversations: A Practical Guide to Discuss Controversial Topics in the Church, and Parenting Gen Z: Guiding Your Child through a Hostile Culture.

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