How Social Media Steals our Kids From the Church. Chuck Mason February 12, 2024

How Social Media Steals our Kids From the Church.

London, UK - 03 17 2019: Social media icons printed and placed on computer keyboard applications Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube, Pinterest, Snapchat etc.

Our children’s flight from faith is a genuine phenomenon that’s devastating the church and our homes, as two-thirds walk away from God when they leave home for college and careers. It’s a “quiet leaving”; parents are unaware their kids are disconnecting and are shocked when their young adults stop attending church, choosing lifestyles that are incompatible with our faith when they get their freedom.

 

It’s a complex process, but social media has the most significant influence on their flight. We only now understand how powerful social media is and how dramatically it’s reshaping our kids. Surprisingly, its most significant influence comes in a form that most parents and pastors wouldn’t predict.

 

As Christian parents, we’ve always been wary of smartphones and social media, and for good reason. They’re the perfect vehicle for every negative influence that erodes faith in our children. We install the latest apps that give us high levels of control over content from sites that bring the worst influences into their kids’ lives. We get instant reports telling us precisely what they are up to. It’s an absolute necessity if we’re going to put a smartphone in the hands of kids who haven’t developed self-control and the desire to protect their walk with God and

 

This gives us confidence that we have our kids’ online lives under control. But we reluctantly give in to social media because our kids want to stay connected with their friends. It seems harmless enough, but that’s where the trouble begins. Social media has a dramatic negative impact on kids nationwide and a unique effect on Christian homes that parents and pastors can’t see.

 

Jonathan Haidt, a psychologist and social science researcher at NYU, has studied social media’s negative impact on kids for decades. His recent interviews ahead of his upcoming book, The Anxious Generation: How the Great Rewiring of Childhood Is Causing an Epidemic of Mental Illness, demonstrate how social media’s hostility toward childhood development is becoming a national health crisis for all kids across America. Haidt presents the effect in detail, and it’s one all parents need to understand.

 

The adverse effects are predictable. Social media exposes kids to a toxic mix of unrealistic standards and body image expectations that they are unable to attain, and the pressure to conform is far beyond their emotional ability to navigate. Peer pressure demands conformity to an adolescent life that’s impossible for anyone. It’s easy to see how the unbearable pressure negatively affects a child’s development, leading to an alarming rise in mental health issues and suicide.

 

The good news is that our Christian kids understand this life is incompatible with God. Kids who come from faith-based homes are not suffering the significant levels of depression, mental illness, and suicide that we see in society. Our kids are still affected, and Christian parents need to be aware that our social media is far more toxic than we imagined.

 

As bad as this is, it’s not where social media has its most significant influence on our kid’s flight from faith. It’s more subtle and complex than we could imagine.

Social Media becomes the communication medium that socializes our kids into alternative worldviews and replacement spiritualities for the Christianity they are leaving behind. Parents don’t realize that when they give a kid a smartphone, they offer their kid nearly unlimited access to peers and social groups that socialize them into lifestyles and worldviews that are openly hostile to Christianity.

A phone gives your child incredible access to the kids you’d never let them spend time with; giving them a phone is like letting them hang out together unsupervised.

As parents, we monitor our kid’s friends and social circles because we know the power of peer pressure and socialization into groups has on them. We like to think we can filter who influences our kids because they’re not physically together with kids who are bad influences. Back in the day, when phones were attached to a wall, geography was an effective boundary because kids weren’t allowed to spend all night on the phone and had to get transportation from their parents to spend time with any social group. Parents said no if they didn’t want them to go somewhere, which isolated them from negative influences.

Today, geography doesn’t define or limit community as it once did. We naively think that our kids are isolated from negative influencers because they don’t share the same physical space. Today, community is digital, and its influence is as powerful as getting together. That’s why most kids don’t travel to meet up with friends; they don’t even leave their rooms. They don’t need to; they have all the social connections they need through their phones. This is where the unforeseen trouble begins for Christian parents.

It’s a subtle yet complex process. Here’s how it works.

First, we must understand how crucial social affirmation and group inclusion are in our kids’ development. Socialization is a complex and fluid process that is necessary for any person’s ability to function within the world. They must learn how to work in a complex social world—making friends and becoming included within social groups is their best indicator that they have value and are doing well. Social currency is vital for kids; they’ll do almost anything. Kids see affirmation and inclusion as evidence that they are successful as human beings, which is often the best marker of their self-worth. Social currency is like oxygen to kids during their teens. Acceptance and affirmation confirm their social and emotional development, and they’ll do almost anything to get it.

This includes abandoning their walk with God to adopt the beliefs and lifestyles of the peer groups from which they seek acceptance.

Adopting the beliefs and practices of any group has always been a condition of inclusion, even for us as adults. Before joining your church, you most likely attended a new members class to learn the belief statements you had to accept before becoming an official member. Our kids are going through the same process as they are socialized into peer groups, except these peer groups have worldviews and belief systems that are openly hostile and antithetical to our Christian faith. Our kids are willing to jettison their faith to adopt the beliefs of peer groups to gain acceptance. This process begins the moment they get a smartphone and connect with classmates over Snapchat, text, direct messaging on Instagram, and any other social media platform.

And it all happens in the quiet of your home while they are buried in their phone throughout their teenage years.

Today, kids can spend over forty hours weekly in almost continuous communication with their social groups. On average, they spend less than fifteen hours per week directly communicating with parents and getting biblical education in the church. The difference in time is staggering, and the message of the Gospel is drowned out by the message of culture by the difference in time. Our kids slowly discard what they feel are the narrow and exclusive confines of Christianity’s morality and doctrine for the freedom and tolerance of their peers’ egalitarian sex-positive world. It’s a process as everything seems good until they make what appears to be a dramatic disconnect from God overnight. Their leaving has been a long, hidden process facilitated by their smartphone under the roof of our house.

Here’s what Christian parents do to minimize social media’s impact and keep their kids connected to God.

Jonathan Haidt recommends that kids don’t get access to social media until they’re sixteen. This is a national recommendation on his part, which speaks to the significance of its impact. This is an even greater imperative for Christian homes as we seek to protect the exclusive truth of the Gospel with the hearts of our kids. If your kids already have social media, discuss restricting access because of your concerns. Consider creating a social network with other churches to provide larger peer groups that offer relationships with other Christian kids.

Here’s the most crucial step: Start spending time with your kids. Hang out talking, praying, and studying the Word with them. We aren’t doing that nearly enough, and if we don’t pray with them and lead them, the world will continue to steal them away.

If you want help keeping your kids connected to Christ, you can find more resources here on our Battleground: Ideas website. Start with these podcasts: The Why Behind the What Keeps Your Kids Connected to God (youtube.com), Social Media and Christian Teens (battlegroundideas.com), My Kid Rejects the Bible – Now What?? (battlegroundideas.com). Let us know what you need and what you think. We are here to help.

Peace be unto you…CM.

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