Just off my latest Road Trip adventure… over 8200 miles in 22 days. We visited 14 states and two Canadian Provinces. Six people crammed into a Ford Expedition, it was tight… and it was tough.
The Shock and Awe tour (The Rubyz, Alexis Slifer) with the Tween Gospel Alliance (TGA) was what brought the six (later seven) of us together along with a world-class Illusionist (Tom Coverly), Christian pop group (1GN), a film star (Abigail Duhon – Gods not Dead) and even an emerging Christian hip-hop artist. (TJ Prodigy of Baltimore.)
Quite the crew.
Over the past summer we logged 12K plus miles, performing at each of the Creation Festivals for 2016. On stage and in front of thousands of fans, we did our best to share the truth of Christ to a new generation. The shows were plagued by a variety of technical challenges, weather, and last-minute scheduling issues. Relationships were strained and tempers flared, but we persevered.
In between the 3 day festivals we drove and captured new video for our new Shock and Awe curriculum. (due in early 17′) The moments in-between were the most intense of any tour I’ve ever participated with.
Several major issues needed to be addressed on our little adventure. Relationships, attitudes, respect, honesty, and personal faith. All were put to the test. But one overshadowing concern captured my parental attention…
The pull of Social Media!
My charges (mostly girls) were consumed by an addiction to social media beyond any scale or scope I had imagined. Having raised three children of my own (college age now) and President of the largest Tween focused Media Group in the Christian marketplace, I thought I knew what was up…
I was wrong.
The current media studies & stats are wrong…the study #’s are way lower than what I witnessed firsthand. Our kids are being CONSUMED by a NEED to be on and respond to their social media. Like some unholy umbilical, our tweens are literally attaching their personal identities and self-worth to the success or failures of their social media feeds.
It’s disturbing how intense their need to be on Social Media is and it should gain our fullest attention as parents, pastors, and role models.
In the six or seven years between my kids adolescence and this tour… it’s clear the digital revolution has not slowed or lost momentum. It’s in fuller force than ever and it’s affecting our kids emotional, physical, and spiritual development.
Without going into details, I can say from what I observed , the level of connectivity for tweens to social media is directly forming their self-esteem, attitudes, and opinions about EVERYTHING else in their lives. They plan and arrange their entire day ‘around’ their access to Social Media. (a true sign of any unhealthy addiction or co-dependency)
Social Media has gained ‘1st place” in their priorities. Ahead of school work, pleasing their parents, friendship, sports, even their faith.
Don’t believe me? Try taking your kids smart phone away from them for an hour or two 🙂
After close-quarter living with our tour tweens I came away with new concerns and fresh observations for parents and pastors.
Social Media and it’s first-place presence in our kids lives is going to impact them in major ways if not slowed or reduced. (I’m sure in more ways than we can know)
1- Anxiety and Depression; It’s clear in the next decade society will face significant challenges with maintaining healthy relationship boundaries and self-worth due in part to the huge influence of Social Media. It’s propensity for abuse and criticism can’t help but increase the frequency and severity of emotional turmoil… anxiety, depression, and self-image issues.
2- Communication: Unchecked use of social media robs us of our social development! Our kids dependence on Social Media instead of actual personal interaction is likely to show up later as a basic lapse in social skills and reduced ability to function within a group or ‘team’.
3 Adolescence likely won’t end at high school (something already noted by psychologists) … instead an entire generation may enter the world unprepared for adulthood. Our social media influenced teens may soon be thrust into society with an entirely different perspective on life and their role as being at the center of it all.
4- Faith as a guiding principle may be lost in the sure to emerge, surge of adolescent narcissism and personal preferences. Faith will have to be customized to fit an individuals comfort level and not allowed to interfere with their personalized’ world view.
5- Relationships (martial & friendship) will risk being serious casualties of distracted social media junkies, wooed to the digital promise of fame and celebrity and under the pressure to be attractive all – the – time….Who can compete with the perfect social media post, a line of never-ending beautiful images… Who can withstand the instant regret of the real-time flashes of digital anger, jealousy, and shame? Relationships will be under intense pressure – unlike any generation before.
6- Reality will fade and digital fantasy will invade. Our kids believe what they read, see, and hear on Social Media. The ‘other’ voices in their lives are fading…. FAST. Their reality isn’t our reality anymore.
Parents, sorry for the ‘downer’ of a blog today… but this stuff is heavy on my heart. I’m sure your already aware…. my encouragement to you is to seriously consider limiting our kids social media consumption.
It’s worth risking the rejection sure to come… be courageous and endure their anger, ire, resentment, and even hatred to slow this social media buzz and it’s hypnotizing affect on our kids.
I believe we as parents need to provide a buffer of screen-free space and time every day. A reprieve to allow our tweens to develop their own values, identity, and purpose in our families and communities of faith.
I’m not an advocate of extreme or rigid Christian parenting at all, what I’m suggesting today isn’t a total boycott of social media. Not at all….
Instead I’m asking you to prayerfully consider what level of consumption is appropriate for your tween and young teen. Once you and your spouse have a sense of what’s healthy for your kids… set the digital boundaries in your home and determine to maintain them.
I believe no other single issue will affect your kids development, faith, and character more than cutting the social media umbilical in their tween years.
For tween ministry resources and help, check out the TGA website. (Tween Gospel Alliance)