By Alecia Bryant
If you have a preteen, then you know cellphone addiction is very real. It is painfully apparent how much this device rules our kids’ lives. How can something so small, something so insignificant, hold so much power over them?
I can tell you that a lot of our kids are going to school exhausted. Why? They are on their phones all night. How do I know this? I’ve been a high school English teacher for just over 15 years, along with serving next to my husband in student ministry. I want to share with you what I see. I want to share with you what social media is doing to our kids, and I have the privilege of sharing some of their own words. I want to recount some raw conversations which occurred in my classroom. A few of my students also recently allowed me to interview them about social media, and what they had to say was eye-opening.
I’ve witnessed social media almost single-handedly destroy kids’ lives. I’ve seen it consume, overpower, and destroy childhood. I’ve seen a sharp rise in anxiety and depression, and you’ll never convince me it isn’t linked to social media. I’ve seen it play a vital role in deceiving naïve parents. And while it can be used for good, right now, it is luring many kids down a destructive path. Phones quickly become an idol for our kids, and sadly, it is one we place in their hands out of “necessity.” Please, if you are a parent of a preteen or if you work with kids and preteens, hang with me until the end of this article.
I asked some of my kids what their biggest struggles are with social media. Based on their answers, here are 4 ways we can help our kids as we navigate the world of social media:
- Hide like count on Instagram and unfollow people who cause them to fall into comparison.
This takes away the pressure to constantly post for attention, and it also helps them to stop the comparison.
- Wait on phones.
This was their overwhelming response. My 11th graders admitted that their parents gave them phones too early. They admitted they were too young to understand the risks. They also knew from the very beginning that their parents were clueless about the possibilities awaiting them on their phones; they knew it would be easy to hide their lives from them. Some of my teens desperately wish their parents had waited to give them phones because it could have spared them heartbreaking mistakes.
- Use parental limits.
Check out something like Bark-Parental Control, which is an app that has a ton of great information. Set limits for the number of hours allowed on apps. Spend time together completely phone-free. Let’s show our kids that we can lay it aside as well!
- Take up their phones at night.
This is a big one. Most inappropriate content and conversations take place once parents are in bed. It takes place behind closed doors. They literally have access to the world, and the world has access to them. There is no reason for our kids to have their phones at night. Take them. Charge them in your bedroom. This was the biggest piece of advice my students offered for fostering a safe relationship with social media. Believe it or not, they desire this boundary.
Our kids need us more than we know. It is our job to take them by the hand and show them a better way. This matters too much. They may fight you now, but one day they’ll be grateful. And you’ll be grateful, too.
Alecia Bryant lives in Louisiana with her husband, Chris, and their two children, Parker (8) and Avery (5). She loves studying God’s Word, writing, and leading worship. Alecia has a passion for discipleship and believes God’s Word is a life-changing gift. She serves alongside her husband, the Discipleship Pastor at their church. In her free time, she is likely hunting down her next favorite Mexican restaurant or curled up on the couch with her kids.