calendar May 14, 2014 in 2014 Assembly, Congregations, Youth

Ignorance is Not Bliss

Social Media for Adults Who Care about Youth

Summary of an Assembly 2014 Forum led by Molly Beck Dean, Assistant to the Bishop/Youth Ministry Specialist. Contact Molly by email to arrange a presentation in your area.


Factoid:  80% of internet-using teens say they are active with social media, engaging with it on a regular basis.

Factoid:  74% of parents surveyed say they don’t have time to keep up with the technology their kids are using, so they just hope for the best.

Young people today just don’t remember a time without computers and handheld devices.  Conversely, those older than 25 or 30 don’t know what its like to have everything you do tagged, photographed, and posted for all to see.  Youth don’t have a choice whether or not to engage in social media; it’s their reality.  So how do caring adults nurture their children and live as God’s faithful people amid this?

Social media is defined as “Interaction among people in which they create, share and/or exchange information and ideas in virtual communities and networks” and includes:

  • Texting — Though not strictly defined as “social media”, all the kids use it.
    Factoid:  Average teen sends 3,413 texts per month
    Factoid:  Average 30-40 year old sends 709 texts per month
  • Facebook — Even though many teens now consider Facebook “for old people”, more than a billion people worldwide have a Facebook account, and teens even if not posting as actively as before are still “trolling” and “lurking”
  • YouTube — A video sharing website, YouTube’s byline is “Broadcast Yourself”.  Videos on virtually anything can be found there.
  • Instagram — A photo sharing and mini-video sharing website with 150 million active users.
  • Twitter — Famed for it’s limit to 140 characters for a tweet.  While Facebook encourages you to be you, in Twitter a user can create several accounts and be whomever they want to be.
  • SnapChat — A new social media site, SnapChat allows photo, video and text sharing.  It is unique in that a post disappears 1-10 seconds after it has been sent and viewed.  However, a screen capture can be accomplished even in that brief time resulting something that can be shared on and on.
  • Tumblr — A short blogging platform, used largely by high school to 25 year olds.  Blogs can be about anything from cooking to the ups-and-downs of one’s life


Good Conversations to Have in Family And Youth Group Settings

As caring adults, we want to see to our youths’ safety on social media.  Rather than just saying no, it is important to have conversations with youth, teaching responsibility.  Share with your youth that:

  • There is no such thing as internet privacy, only perceived privacy
  • Everywhere you go is tracked
    (Give only enough information for your friends to find you, such as your name and general area.  Never share a cell phone number, address or your physical location!)
  • You can’t delete anything
    (Though you think you are deleting a social media posting, it is still available somewhere in the Internet’s “underbelly”.  Someone tech savvy could find it.)
  • Employers and colleges will look

One discussion that’s been made easier for parents concerns the age at which youth can have a personal social media account.  The federal Children’s Online Privacy Act states that it is against the law for kids under the age of 13 to have their own account.


Create a Covenant:  WHO – WHERE – WHEN – HOW
  • Create a covenant with your youth.
    It should include guidelines as to who may engage with social media and under what circumstances
  • Decide where engagement with social media is OK
    Kitchen?  Family Room?  Bedroom?
  • Decide when social media may be used
    Perhaps kids (and adults!) disconnect at bedtime.  Perhaps all in the family plug in and charge their devices in the kitchen at 10 pm and go back to using alarm clocks in the bedroom
  • Decide how to stay constantly connected with your young people over this issue
    • At least once a week ask them something about what they’ve posted, such as “How did your friends like that picture you posted about . . .”  But don’t embarrass them; ask if it’s OK if you “like” their postings.
    • It’s a good idea for parents to have all account passwords, allowing access to home pages and settings rather than just postings in news feeds


A Blessing, Too

Despite adults’ concerns over safety, remember that social media has brought us good things as well:  The excited real life conversations that were spawned after pictures from a youth retreat were posted.  The fun interactions between an 80-year-old congregant (who used to send paper birthday cards) and the youth to whom she now posts Happy Birthday wishes on Facebook!

— Irma Kelly