The Pros and Cons of Social Media For a Teenager

With the rise of smartphones that are out there now and the advancement of technology, we are greeted with a plethora of apps to enhance the connectivity we have with one another. But with this rise of connectivity via a screen, in the long run, does it help or hurt the user? Recent data has surfaced that though we are more connected than ever before, we are actually more alone than ever before too.

My wife Alyssa and I do not have any teenagers yet but our daughter is approaching that age quickly. Today she even asked if she could create Youtube videos! I am excited about her creativity and ambition, but I am nervous too. What are the pros and cons of social media for a teenager? As a parent, we need to think about the use of social media and the effect it as on us before we are so quick to answer with a yes or no.

Pro #1- Connectivity

“The world is flat” as David Friedman declared in his book of the history of the 21st century. He was using this statement to show that we are more connected with the world than ever before. We can communicate instantaneously with others around the world. This is amazing instead of waiting for a letter which takes days, weeks, and even months; we wait seconds.

Teenagers today can communicate with family and friends who live in other states and even different countries. They can see pictures of those loved ones, comment on them, and share their own pictures with others.

Pro #2- Awareness

Not only can we connect with the world faster than ever we also receive news faster than ever before. The major news conglomerates now utilize social media as the main source of reporting news. The news is not only produced quickly but is rapidly being shared. We can know more of what is going on around the world than ever before, faster than ever before.

One can easily see a live car chase happening by just going on Facebook rather than turning on the T.V. and trying finding the right news channel covering it. We can hear the news to be more aware of what is going on and be more mindful of others because of this awareness.

Pro #3- God Glorifying

With all the technological advances that has happened throughout history such as the roads that Romans built, the printing press, and now the internet there is so much potential to share the Gospel with the world with whom we are connected with.

We can and should use technology for the sake of God’s glory. I have written in the past about how we can do this here. The believer uses the tools at his disposal to share the Gospel and point to God’s glory. A post can be used to share an encouraging Bible verse or share the Gospel.

These are a few of the pro’s but what about the con’s?

Con #1- False Reality

The danger with social media is the idea of what you see is the reality. The truth is most of social media is a partial reality or an enhanced reality. The user can manipulate what others see. I would suggest girls would struggle with this more than boys. The images that are being portrayed is not real but enhanced by filters.

When image is already a sensitive subject for teenagers, social media can pour gas on the fire of comparison. The danger of coveting comes into the heart. What you see is not what you get, but an enhanced version. One may be tempted to compare to that reality and then look at their own life in despair and discontentment.

Con #2- FOMO

FOMO (Fear of missing out) is a real thing that has been studied because of the rise of social media. I have written a little more extensively on FOMO.

Because of the connectivity and the awareness that social media offers there is also the fear of missing out on something. This can be when one was invited to something but unable to attend because of other obligations so they miss out. There is also the fear of missing out because one was just not invited. This is when you feel left out or not part of the group. You missed out!

There was still the fear of missing out before social media existed, it can not be used intentionally or unintentionally to celebrate what was one part of and bragged about what you missed out on. Social media has now magnified this as we can see the highlight reel of everyone’s life.

Con #3- Loneliness

Though we are more connected than ever before research has shown that we are also more lonely than ever before. Giles Slade shares in his book The Big Disconnect: The Story of Technology and Loneliness, that with the rise of different technological advances that make life easier, we have not moved away from personal connectivity. Talking in person is less and less while screen communication is expected more.

With the rise of social media there is an interesting link between the rise of depression among teenagers. Jean Twenge, author if iGen offers a correlation with the rise of social media there is a rise of depression and suicide. This rise has impacted boys but significantly girls. From 2011 is has grown rapidly where one out of every five girls reported symptoms of a major depressive episode.

Con #4- Danger

There is also the danger of pedophiles and cyberbullying. Teenagers who can be suspectible to these predators online. That is why it is important for parents need to be involved in their teenagers social media lives.

The rise of cyberbullying is a serious threat. The autonomy of being able to hide behind a screen and yet threaten someone without any regard is disturbing. These are realities that come with social media.

The Bigger Picture

Before we storm into the rooms of every teenager and delete their accounts it is important for parents to teach through this. There is a proper balance where we protect children from danger and malicious behavior but we also want to teach children how to handle these con’s to social media.

The best way to teach a teenager in response to all of this would be to remind them and show them that a believer’s identity is founded in Christ (Gal. 2:20; Eph. 2; 1 Peter 2:9). Remind them that a Christian’s worth and purpose is defined by Jesus and not by us or others. This reassures them that they do not need to compare nor worry about missing out. Yes, that happens but how do we respond when those moments occur? We run to the Lord!

A parent is a disciples their children. The best way to help our children who are growing up with screens as part of life is to teach them how to handle them safely, mindfully, and God glorifying. Again, be involved, have those conversations, have access to their accounts, be their friend on their account to monitor.

Lead With…

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A pastor is a leader. A pastor is a shepherd who is called to lead a group of people in growth with the Lord. He is to equip them for good works, and to live out the Gospel in their communities.

There are many great resources regarding Christian leadership. Pastor Craig Groeschel has a wonderful podcast on it. The President of Gateway Seminary, Jeff Iorg also has books and a podcast on leadership. Both I highly recommend. I do by no means have all the answers but wanted to share a new blog series called “Lead With.” I will describe important leadership convictions that I have learned through the years of pastoral ministry.

1)    Teach change to make change

I am convinced that the Biblical model of church which is shared in Acts 2 reflects this. The early church was faced with some insurmountable odds. The culture was against them, the Jewish religious leaders were against them. Despite the resistance, what mattered was the Word of God being taught.

When we worship the Lord through the corporate reading and teaching of God’s word something happens; there is unity of hearts and minds. We stir one another up for good works as we meet on the Lord’s Day (Hebrews 10:25). Teaching change leads to change. True and lasting change takes time. The Lord does a change in the heart when the “why” is biblically taught.

2)    The Gospel is attractive enough

We do not need to add more to this great truth! There is enough competing to get their attention of the people in your church. Pastor Dustin Benge tweeted recently, “Your people have been entertained to death this week. 27 hours of television, 24 hours of computer, 15 hours of cell phone, and 12 hours of radio.” The church has Jesus, the risen Savior who loves the church, died for the church, is for the church. We have that message to share with the community that Christ came to save sinners. This news out weighs, is greater than, and better than anything they will eve here. Jesus is enough!

Remember, what you win them with you win them to. This means you may get a crowd but you will constantly live in this cycle of having to outdo yourself each time to keep them. Yes, you may get people at the church but most events do not keep people at the church. What keeps them is the life-giving message of the Gospel taught and then shared through relationship. This fuels the flames of evangelism.

Jesus is and the one who builds His church (Matthew 16:13—26). Seek this great truth as you love one another and those in the community. As you live out the Gospel and are changed by the Gospel that is attractive to others (and can be offensive to some, Matthew 13:57).

4)    Trust takes time to build, can easily be lost, and shouldn’t be taken for granted

I have been placed in new situations with new people before and I know trust is not always given quickly. It must be earned and proven. Trust develops through relationships of honesty and transparency. The serious role of a pastor comes with great responsibilities that should not be taken lightly. The pastor is the under-shepherd to the Chief Shepherd, Jesus. The pastor is to steward of the flock that God has given him. I am reminded that I am held accountable to God for not only handling the word of God but with how I shepherd the flock God has given me. 

Trust is built and takes time; it can quickly be lost. Surround yourself with those who hold you accountable and encourage you to go forward. The message of the Gospel does not need to be given a black eye. The world is watching and we strive together for God’s glory through the relationship that the church has with one another. The bride of Christ is the church (Ephesians 5:32).  

What’s Your Resolution?

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It is a new year and with that comes a time of excitement for what lies ahead and thankful for what is behind you. At the beginning of every year I try to look at goals and resolutions that I may have. I reflect on the ones I made the year before and look at how well I kept or failed with those resolutions.

What is it with a new year and thinking of a new start? The most common resolutions are to lose weight, quit some kind of addiction/habit like smoking, and getting out of debt. These are not bad but I try to focus more even on the root of the problem such as idolatry and a misguided heart.

Jonathan Edwards, the famous New England pastor and Theologian of the eighteenth century would always write and add to his resolutions. He ended with 99 different resolutions that he lived his life by.

I have chosen a few of his resolutions to focus in on for this year. (The numbers represent the order they appeared on his list).

#19-Resolved, never to do anything that I should be afraid to do if I expected it would not be above an hour before I should hear the last trumpet.

Personally, I have never been physically close to death’s door but as a pastor, I have had my fair share of experiences of the death of others. At times it was expected because of their age or health. But, then there are the unexpected moments that an accident or unforeseen event took place. Either way, it is hard and when you are around death you can’t help but contemplate your life and purpose. Here Jonathan Edwards thought is not only about death but living in the moment of death. Would this be acceptable to God if I were to do this, talk this way, or think this way?

I want to live in such a way, every moment, where God will say, “Well done, my good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:23)!

#34 Resolved, never to speak evil of any, except if I have some particular good call for it. 

The Apostle Paul reminds us, “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:31-32). 

I never thought of slander as speaking ill of someone which comes from a bitter heart. I thought of it as making a false allegation about someone. But as Paul points out, it is speaking ill from a bitter heart. There are times that I complain about someone or something they did. That is slander. And, sometimes my complaint is not just to myself but to other people. At that moment I not only slandered but also gossiped when it wasn’t necessarily needed.

This doesn’t mean that I assume that everyone is good nor calling someone out is wrong. What it does mean is that I will need to choose what I say more carefully. And, most importantly look within about the motive of why I am saying what I am saying. Does what I am saying glorify God? Does it help that person? Does it bring that person closer to the Lord? Will the person hearing this news be brought to glorify God?

#28 Resolved, to study Scripture so steadily and constantly and frequently as that I may find, and plainly perceive myself to grow in the knowledge of the same. 

God’s word is Holy and inspired. It reveals to us the character of God and what He desires. The Bible shows us God’s heart for mankind. God’s word is a lamp unto my feet and light unto my path (Psa. 119:105).

Not only as a pastor but as a Christian I desire to know God more and the best way to do that is to study the Bible. As a Christian, I also desire to grow in understanding which comes by the Holy Spirit illuminating the Bible.

Do you spend time each day to read and study the Bible? I am thankful that this habit has been instilled in me early on in my Christian life.

#43 Resolved, never henceforward, till I die, to act as if I were on my own, but to act entirely and altogether God’s.

Our lives are in the hands of God. I can try to live independently of God but regardless of that, He is still in charge. As Jonathan Edwards wrote this resolution to live and act knowing that God is sovereign so should I. I am God’s child, His servant, and friend (Galatians 4:6; Mark 10:45; John 15:14).

Every breath I take is from God and he is aware of it. With every step I take, God knows. When we walk circumspectly as a Christian we are knowing that we are God’s and He has us in His hands.

These are just a few of the resolutions that I have written down for this year. I want to reflect on these often and then inwardly watch how I have followed or grown complacent in these areas.