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The Battles of Raising Today’s Teens 1: Battling Social Media

The Battles of Raising Today’s Teens Day 1: Battling Social Media

For this child I prayed, and the LORD has granted me my petition that I made to him. Therefore I have lent him to the LORD. As long as he lives, he is lent to the LORD. (1 Samuel 1:27-28, ESV) 

Maybe you didn’t plan to start a family yet when you found yourself expecting. Maybe, like me, you experienced loss before you held your own child in your arms. Maybe you’re still anxiously waiting for the day you have your own children and you feel unfulfilled until that day comes. Or maybe you adopted an older child and find yourself immediately in the thick of parenting a teen. Whatever your background may be that led you to this place of parenting teens, it likely didn’t quite prepare you for what you’re experiencing daily. While there are many, many joys of parenting teenagers, there are also many difficult challenges.

My children are in their mid-20s. Parents older than myself did not have the added challenge of cell phones and social media. We were the guinea pig parents, and it’s only gotten worse as time goes on. Newer parents of teens have even more struggles than I faced when in the thick of raising my teenagers. We dealt with MySpace (remember that?), Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and texting. Today there are a slew of newer apps that make tracking kids digitally even more challenging. 

The statistics for phone ownership is relatively alarming. Considering the data I found in my research surrounding ownership of smartphones (meaning access to the internet and social media platforms), the numbers are certainly unsettling. Many US children own a smartphone by age 7, with most children having their own phones by age 11. Two percent of children have their “own phone” by the age of 2 in order to keep them entertained. This means that by the time the majority of children hit the teen years, phones are a way of life for them, opening them up to the dangers they offer.

What dangers are children exposed to when they have access to a smartphone? While there are many, we will point out just a few: pornography, sexual predators, unhealthy comparisons, cyberbullying, and promiscuity. Parents often believe they are properly monitoring their children’s phones, but there are so many ways around this if the child has the skill or means to hide their actions. Many parents also believe it isn’t their “right” to stalk their kids’ activity on their phones, but by being naïve many kids end up in dangerous situations that are too big for them to handle on their own. While older teens may earn more freedom as they age based on their trustworthiness, parents footing the bill for the phone have leverage for keeping them safe. 

Christian families are up against the same struggles as everyone else. Our kids are tempted by the things they see on social media no differently than those in unbelieving families. The pressure is real for our children, and the desire to fit in by looking, saying, or acting a particular way often leads them to make poor choices. How we handle social media ourselves sets an example for our watching offspring. Do you make posts in order to brag, get attention, or put others down? We must remember before we post that we are role models for our kids. What do our own posts convey? Would we want them to imitate us?

It’s not being a “stalker” to follow your kids on their social media platforms. It’s not intrusive to have access to their location. It’s not wrong to check texting threads if you feel something is off with them. There are many areas where freedom can be earned, including their phones when you gain confidence in them as they grow older. Your child is your responsibility. We are often too concerned with our child liking us, when what they need most is an involved and educated parent. Friendships with your children will hopefully come when they are young adults, but when they are kids, being their friend isn’t really the goal. Kids need parents who are willing to take a stand to make them the best they can be and remain safe and emotionally healthy. 

I sure made mistakes, and you will too. I don’t have all the answers, and neither do you. But our kids are our heritage from the Lord—a gift to be treasured. If we fail to give them the necessary guidance and instruction, we are setting them up for failure. Perhaps the best course of action for all parents is this: pray about it and don’t make decisions until they align with scriptural principles. Be willing to admit mistakes and revisit areas that need your attention. Our children need to hear us admit we were wrong, apologize for it, and try something better. 

My heart goes out to parents of teens; it’s a tough season and one that will stretch you further than you imagined. It’s humbling work and we won’t always see the results we longed for. Validate your kids so they won’t longingly search for it in the wrong places. Be a great listener when they’ve had a hard day. Engage them as much as possible in conversation (even though it can be like pulling teeth). Spend time with their friend group. Don’t be afraid to say no. Don’t feel pressured to give in too early to provide a phone for your child—phones are a privilege, not a requirement. Give clear parameters regarding their cellphones, and allow no excuses for consequences when they disobey. 

While the Bible obviously makes no mention of cellphones or social media, it does give us all we need for the decisions at hand in our modern-day era. For anything posted or texted, this is one of the best guidelines there is:

Finally, brothers [or sisters], whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:8-9, ESV) 

Further Scripture for thought:

For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. (Hebrews 12:11, ESV)

Seek the LORD and his strength; seek his presence continually! (1 Chronicles 16:11, ESV)A fool despises his father’s instruction, but whoever heeds reproof is prudent. (Proverbs 15:5, ESV)

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