What can be done, as Tristan Harris puts it, to “fix the way kids’ minds are getting manipulated into sending empty messages back and forth” and to free them from social media’s control over their time, their attention, their thoughts, and their feelings? We don’t want them to be controlled this way.
Normally teens don’t want to be controlled either. Dr. Julie Carbery, an American adolescent and child physiotherapist, says, “Freedom is cocaine (emphasis in original) to a teenager. It’s intoxicating. It’s addictive. And it’s often their biggest motivator. They will do anything to get it, and they are terrified of losing it” (quoted in Shaunti Feldhahn and Lisa Rice, For Parents Only: Getting Inside the Head of Your Kid, 15)
Why, then, are teens being manipulated by social media? And what can you do to help them break free — to be molded instead by God’s Word and by the Holy Spirit, Christ living in them?
- You can challenge them to realize what is happening and to ask questions
Teens should ask themselves:
Q 1. Why do social media sites keep tempting me to stay online?
Q 2. Do the things I do and share on social media make my life and my relationships better?
Q 3. Do they draw me closer to Jesus?
Q 4. What does the content of my interactions and the time spent on social media say about my character?
2. Help them to understand why addiction to social media happens
They should ask:
Q 5. Why do I allow myself to be drawn in? I could refuse. Why don’t I?
Their answers to this question would probably include:
- I don’t think about it. Everybody just does it.
- I know I spend too much time online, but I don’t know how to stop.
- What if I miss something important by not checking (FMO — fear of missing out)?
Research shows that 56% of teens in the United States get online every day with the intention of doing one thing and get sidetracked doing something else for an extended period of time. Also, that 65% of teens “wish they had a greater ability to self-limit the amount of time they spend on their phone” (Axis, Social Media Conversation video).
To be continued . . .
“I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but I will not be mastered by anything.