". . . and having done all . . . stand firm." Eph. 6:13


Children Turn to Social Media Before Their Parents, Poll Indicates

December 14, 2023

Mental health experts say social media has fueled an “epidemic of loneliness.” This, however, is no new discovery. For years, studies have revealed the dangerous effects social media casts on the mind. And lately, it’s only grown worse. This isn’t to say social media in and of itself is pure evil. It can be used for good purposes. It just happens to be used in ways that hurt us as human beings.

Along with the rise of social media use has come an increase in isolation, anxiety, depression, and suicide — specifically among young people. But any age group is susceptible to the tyranny of technological terror. The culture has grown fragile, and people can hardly go a day without their noses stuck in their phones.

Food goes untouched until a picture is taken, and live performances are seldom enjoyed hands free. Social gatherings are often plagued by a room full of friends looking at their phones. The online community makes it easy to compare ourselves to those on the platforms who seem more successful, beautiful, and popular. Minors are exploited by ill-willed criminals and exposed to explicit content daily. And dialogue can be as harsh, crude, or inhumane as possible because, after all, who actually thinks about the person on the other side of the screen when they have an opinion to share?

Perhaps social media was once mere entertainment or a way to stay closely connected despite physical distance. But now, it’s an addiction. The lines between reality and the cyberverse have been blurred, and we easily identify with (defer to) our online connectedness. Our routines are governed by waking up and checking the socials, going through the day checking the socials, and checking the socials before closing our eyes to get some much-needed sleep. If this doesn’t describe you, then take note of the roughly 3.8 billion people worldwide it does.

To add to the harms, a recent study raised concerns that social media is assuming the role of parental guidance. Not necessarily because parents have stopped caring for their children, but more teens have become desensitized to the value of their parents and turn to social media to learn “life lessons” instead.

According to a Pew Poll, which surveyed 1,453 teens aged 13 to 17, social media platforms such as YouTube, Instagram, TikTok, and Snapchat were found to be used “almost constantly,” which further “paints a picture of a rising generation whose lives are dominated” by technology, Axios reported.

Here’s why this “constant” use is a problem. Every subsequent year, kids are turning away from expert teaching, books, and engaging with family and friends through genuine interaction. Instead, at an alarming rate, teenagers are getting their information about news, current events, social trends, political trends, dietary “advice,” and whatever else you can think of from a whirlwind of random people classified as “influencers.” From my experience, these influencers are not professionally trained experts. Yet, they are what these kids are “almost constantly” exposed to, and they are the ones teaching our children things about life.

Ultimately, at the end of the day, parents are the ones responsible for whether their child has a phone. Often, a seven- or eight-year-old has a phone and access to multiple social media platforms because the parents allow it.

Mary Szoch, director of the Center for Human Dignity at Family Research Council, shared with The Washington Stand why she quit using social media. “I used social media in its very early stages,” she said. “I graduated college before Instagram was popular, so Facebook was the main social media platform I used. By the time I graduated from college, I realized that Facebook detracted from, rather than added to, my life.”

Even before social media dominated the average person, Szoch felt the negative effects of it. The comparison, jealousy, and insecurity media platforms trigger were what she experienced back then. She added, “I quickly realized the false reality Facebook presented was challenging for me to handle.” After noticing the mental impact it had on her, as well as how often she found herself consumed by its allure, Szoch ultimately decided to delete the accounts and direct her focus elsewhere.

She continued, “As we raise our children, our hope is that they won’t use social media — and certainly that they won’t use it while their brains are still developing.” For Szoch, a mom of two, she doesn’t want her children to grow up experiencing the temptation to identify with how many followers they have or how many likes they get. “My husband and I want our children to find their identity in Christ — not in their number of Instagram followers,” she said. “We want them to follow the example of the gospels, not of influencers.”

Szoch concluded, “We know that as children, our kids aren’t capable of regulating their social media use, so our belief is that it’s best for them to avoid it completely.” And that’s really what it’s about, isn’t it?

Children need their parents to guide, instruct, protect, correct, and love them. Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” Now, this verse is not meant to be an assurance that how you raise your child is guaranteed to stick. However, it sends a very clear message: parents are responsible for bringing up their children in truth and love. And the child who is brought up in a faithful household, with engaged parents, is far more likely to walk in the way he or she should. It all starts with the parent.

And so, with social media, there are countless examples of why it’s often not in the best interest of a child to have it. Additionally, there are countless examples of parents who have stood their ground, kept their children from social media despite all their friends having it, and reaped benefits from doing so. In most cases, the child grew up to appreciate it as well.

For those who decide to allow their kids to have access to the endless realm of connectivity, it’s important to be aware of all that entails. Evidently, there is a lot to consider and monitor if you want to be the one to raise, protect, and teach your child.

Sarah Holliday is a reporter at The Washington Stand.