Navigating the pros and the cons of social media with your tweens and teens" by Maggie Kavanaugh

Updated: May 22

Recently, I spoke to a group of my peers at Christian Women in Media event about social media's pros and cons for our families, especially our tweens and teens. I am passionate about bridging the generations and have firsthand seen the changes in behaviors with social media. First, being a grandmother of five ages ranging from 7-to 21. Second, teaching and leading a small group of middle schoolers at my local church. Third, teaching middle school and highschooler in a homeschool tutorial. Finally, where I have seen and heard the most difficult things about social media while coaching tween and teen girls through our non-profit Moving Forward Ministry with the GODfident movement.

In life, we tend to list the pros and cons of things we are facing. Unfortunately, the cons outweigh the pros. Let's review the pros of social and what we can do to help generation z navigate the digital world.


Please note this list is not an exhaustive list:

Pros

  1. They can connect with family outside of the area, with photos and videos, keeping them up to date on important landmarks in their lives.

  2. It can be a creative outline to grow and express themselves in a community of others with similar gifts and talents.

  3. There can be connections for accountability, with their youth group friends, who they only see once a week, or their coaches and teammates for athletic events.

Cons

  1. Increase in depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues.

  2. FOMO (fear of missing out) and changing their perspective to live up to unrealistic expectations.

  3. Distorted body image and damaging effects emotionally with filters and selfies.

  4. False sense of self-image of using likes and hearts to seek attention and value.

  5. Traffickers online possing to be teens with fake accounts

  6. Cyberbullying

  7. Exposure to porn

  8. etc

Here is a list of concerning stats! The following list is from Smart Social Statistics.

  • 85% of Americans own a smartphone (Source: Pew Research)

  • 87% of American teens own an iPhone, and 88% expect an iPhone to be their next phone (Source: How-To Geek)

  • Non-school related screen time among teenagers doubled from pre-pandemic estimates of 3.8 hours per day up to 7.7 hours (Source: Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Pediatrics)

  • 95% of American teens have daily access to a smartphone

  • 46% of teens report being online almost constantly (Source: Pew Research)

  • 34% of U.S. teens picked Snapchat as their favorite social media network in the fall of 2020 and ranked TikTok 2nd at 29%. (Source: Statista)

  • 48% of U.S. internet users between the ages of 15 and 25 years use Snapchat (Source: Statista)

  • In 2020, TikTok overtook YouTube as the most used app by American teens and pre-teens with 105.1 daily usage minutes (Source: APnews)

  • TikTok had a total of 78.7 million users in the United States as of 2021

  • Around 37.3 million of these were between the ages of 10-25 (Source: Statista)

  • Female users between the ages of 10 and 19 make up TikTok's most prominent user demographic (Source: Statista)

  • Only 8% of Instagram users are between the ages of 13-17 (Source: Statista)

Their brains are being rewired with social, and their attention span is shortened. When a teen has a dopamine release when they get likes or hearts, it is similar to the effects of gambling and drug abuse; therefore, they become addicted to their screens.

According to the American Association of Psychology, We know that social media activity is closely tied to the ventral striatum," said Mitch Prinstein, APA's chief science officer. "This region gets a dopamine and oxytocin rush whenever we experience social rewards." (Prinstein 2021).

One recommendation is to have a social media agreement/contract for your home. This will address the rules of the phone, the when, what, and where. If you are unsure where to start, consider these rules and adapt as you see fit for your household.

Examples of potential boundaries:

  1. Passwords are known by parents for all devices

  2. No cell use during school

  3. No phone at the dinner table

  4. No sharing of personal information

  5. Don't take pictures or post things that would be embarrassing to show parents and teachers

  6. No downloading unless permission is given

  7. Phone after school work, chores, etc.

  8. Turn off phones and turn in to parents at night

  9. Set time limits and reminders

Of course, there are more that are not listed, but this will give a few ideas to start. Safety is the primary key for both their physical safety of not engaging with people they don't know who could be traffickers and the emotional safety of tearing down their self-image and reducing cyberbullying.

The second recommendation is filtering software like Bark, Quesodio, and NetNanny. These will help set boundaries and give reports of online usage. Parents ask me frequently what they can do to manage their youth's social media exposure. I am an advocate for software filters to monitor their online world. Some would say it is invading their privacy, but we deal with the world's influence on the Christian home. Our number one job in training the next generation is also protecting and educating them from the dangers of the online world. I use the analogy of your parents would not put playboy, hustler, and people magazines on your coffee table growing up and stating, "well, I don't think they will look at those porn magazines; I want to protect their privacy if they do" The temptation to engage in unacceptable behavior is rapid on the internet. Helping your teen make the right choices by having open dialogue that this is for their protection not to police them all the time.

Third, do phone checks and look for fake apps that hide things under fake calculator apps and GPS apps that show fake locations. I know it sounds crazy, but there are so many ways kids work around parameters. Random phone checks let them know that you care and at any time you will look; therefore, it decreases sneaky behavior. I am not saying your kids are sneaky, but the culture is contently telling them they can be who they want and disregarding parent boundaries. Because 54 percent of parents have no boundaries on their kid's phones, your teen could learn more than you expect from their peers.

Based on these disturbing stats, what can we do as parents, grandparents, and educators? First, we must pray for this generation and understand that social media is not going away, so we must pray for laws to protect our kids. Second, we can sound the alarm and become advocates for this generation by educating those in our spheres of influence. Third, we can have healthy discussions with adult children as well as youth that are at home. Discuss these concerns with youth pastors and find out if they have a phone rule during youth group.

In conclusion, social media does not appear to be going anywhere; therefore, communication with your tween/teen is important. I have an upcoming series of short videos on this topic on our Youtube show called "Godfidence Today," show which can be found on Youtube "Keys to your BEST life with Maggie Kavanaugh ."It can also be seen on Creative Motion Network on Roku!

Please know we understand the struggle and hope you will tune in to get more information to help you and your teen grow together. If you are the mother of a tween daughter or mentor, please join us for our annual Godfident 4.0 "Communication Navigation" on August 20th. We are standing with you and praying for you and your family!



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