A resourceful youth leader in South America brought together the teens in his church for a weekend retreat at a camp in the forest. These were disadvantaged teenagers, and the sole purpose of the retreat was to encourage them to dream: “If you could,” he asked them, “if there were no problem of resources or any other hindrances, what would you like to do with your life?” Every teen should be encouraged to consider this question. It is important to have goals.
It is also vitally important to ask “Who is important to me, and how do I show them they are?”
This is the first step in teens’ taking control of their use of social media rather than just mindlessly responding to notifications and sending meaningless messages.
The second step is believing they can exercise self-control. As Alex and Brett Harris, teens themselves at the time, said in Do Hard Things: A Teenage Rebellion against Low Expectations, we should not underestimate the ability of Christian teens to exercise self-control. We should rather encourage them to do so.
Practically, how can teens take control of their use of social media?
Spend time in reading the Bible and prayer
The Bible tells us that Jesus’ death and resurrection destroyed sin’s power over us. The Bible also tells us that if we are following Jesus, he lives in us through the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19). If we choose to resist temptation, we can, with the help of the Holy Spirit. He enables us to exercise self-control (Galatians 5:22).
In the Bible we also have examples of young people who did exercise self-control. Read about Joseph, who resisted the sexual advances of his boss’ wife (Genesis 39) and compare his attitude and actions with those of the “foolish young man” who didn’t (Proverbs 7). The Bible tells us that day after day Potiphar’s wife said to Joseph, “Come to bed with me,” but day after day Joseph “refused to go to bed with her or even be with her.” The young man in Proverbs 7, in contrast, chose to go where he shouldn’t have been going, at the time of day when it is easiest to be tempted because sin can be hidden by darkness. He allowed the woman he met to kiss him and “seduce him with her smooth talk,” and “all at once he followed her like an ox going to the slaughter.”
Tell your “thinking brain” to take charge
In Good Pictures Bad Pictures: Porn-Proofing Today’s Young Kids, Kristin Jenson talks about the “feeling brain” and the “thinking brain.” The “feeling brain,” the limbic region of the brain, deals with emotions, memories and arousal (or stimulation). This part of the brain leads us to act on impulse, to do what gives us pleasure, but it doesn’t know right from wrong. The “thinking brain,” the prefrontal cortex, can learn right from wrong, and it can make plans, solve problems, and make good decisions.
Make up your mind to limit the time you spend online, to think before you post, and to send meaningful messages. Make a conscious decision to do what you will later consider time well spent rather than time wasted and to use social media to deepen relationships and to “encourage one another and build each other up” (1 Thessalonians 5:11).
To be continued …