Our phones allow us to convey a variety of emotions on social media. Emojis, praise hands, GIFs, and fist bumps make it easy to display feelings of happiness, excitement, pride, and even goofiness. Typing an encouraging comment on a friend’s Facebook post can be a great way to build a friendship.
On the other hand, it can be extremely easy to destroy relationships or devalue our worth on social media. Have you ever read a Tweet or Facebook status update that makes you angry? What about that picture of your friend living it up on the beach somewhere while you are stuck at home with grumpy teenagers who seem ungrateful for all the work you do for them? Do you ever feel like everyone has a better life? It’s easy to scroll through your social media feed and feel discontent, annoyed, and unhappy.
Now, place yourself in the shoes of your teenager. What kind of emotions is he or she feeling each day as he interacts with others on social media? I imagine teens are even more prone to feel inadequate.
“That girl has prettier hair than me.”
“That guy has tons of friend.”
“I wish my parents took me on lavish vacations.”
It’s also easy for people to say unkind things to others online because most feel braver behind a screen. Your teen may not yet have the emotional maturity to know how to handle the various emotions he or she may feel while scrolling through her social media feeds.
Leading your teen
So how can you help your teen stay emotionally healthy while entrenched in the world of social media? Here are 3 things to keep in mind:
- It starts with a reminder about the gospel. If your son or daughter has already trusted in Christ as his or her only hope and the savior for his or her sins, remind your child of the gospel. Jesus paid the ultimate price so that we might be free of sin and holy before an almighty God!
- Watch for signs of depression. If you notice your teen acting more withdrawn or sad after looking at her phone, you may want to ask if she was just on her favorite social media platform. When he is feeling down about a post he read on social media, remind him that is hope is not in what people think of them on social media. No teen will feel better if her life looks like her friend’s fake Instagram life. You, as the parent, must remind him of the truth of the gospel because a lot of his social media feed will tell the lie that he can find happiness and hope in fame, popularity, followers, likes, extravagant living, or even a snarky tweet that is retweeted a hundred times.
- Provide boundaries. Many households have a certain time of day when no one (not even Mom and Dad) can be on their phones. We have a rule of no phones at the dinner table or in the bedroom. It’s important for your teen to have time away from her phone so that she doesn’t become addicted. This is especially important as phones become seemingly necessary for our day-to-day lives.
Check in with your teen today. Ask him to show you his Instagram Facebook feed, and see if he will tell you what he thinks about each post he sees. This will give you insight into your teen’s emotions so that you can know how to point he or she back to the gospel—the only source of true hope.