You might have landed on this page because you're asking yourself, "Why on earth is my kid so obsessed with [insert app here]?!" TikTok, Snapchat, Instagram, oh my! So many options, so much potential for harm. We’ve got the lowdown on why Gen Z loves social media and ways to help your kids develop a healthy view of social media.
Gen Z: The Social Media Generation
Social media and teenagers go together like southern grandmas and apple pie. So if we want to disciple our kids and train them on how to use social media well, we need to start by acknowledging what’s good about it. After all, there are reasons why billions of people are on at least one social media platform. If we only ever demonize it, two things will happen: 1. We’ll alienate them; and 2. We’ll fail to prepare them to thrive in—let alone bring restoration to—today’s world.
So why does Gen Z love social media? Here are the top 5 good things that draw them in:
- Connection and Communication. When in history has a person been able to communicate with someone across the world in a few seconds?! However, as with all good things, if this type of communication is used poorly (DMing instead of having a face-to-face disagreement, for example), then its benefits diminish.
- Education. Indeed, YouTube is a great place to find educational content, assuming that viewers know how to be discerning about what they consume and that companies aren’t censoring or tailoring what they show to viewers.
- Access. Social media provides greater access not just to content, but also to people from diverse experiences and backgrounds. In general, social media allows us to find out more about what’s going on in the world, whether that’s news or what’s happening in other people’s lives.
- Voice. Many people who would otherwise have no way of being heard (or who might be ignored by mainstream media) have built up large followings on social media, which has allowed them to share their message in unprecedented ways.
- Encouragement and Humor. Many platforms make it easy to find uplifting communities and humor, which has in turn helped people deal with their struggles, circumstances, fears, mental health, and more.
Start the conversation:
- Why do you like social media?
- What’s your favorite social media platform?
- Why do you love it?
- Do most people you know use it?
- What are the funniest videos or memes you’ve seen today?
The key is engagement. If we show that we care about what they’re interested in, they’re more likely to open up to us. So watch those silly videos, try to understand the humor behind their favorite memes, and get involved!
What are the negative effects of social media?
Of course, it’s not all sunshine and roses. Social media can be a harbor for hatred and cruelty, distraction, escape, comparison, validation, and unrealistic expectations. It’s our job as parents not to condemn, but to offer a little perspective.
If not properly monitored, social media can:
- Make us feel like we should be able to express ourselves, even if we aren’t credible authorities on an issue.
- Cause us to share too much in the name of being authentic.
- Make us feel like we’re doing something meaningful just by posting on social media.
- Influence how we live and life-altering decisions we make (like the lighthearted Ice Bucket Challenge, bizarre Tide Pod Challenge, or the more dangerous Momo Challenge).
How can I encourage a healthy view of social media?
There’s a lot you can do! Here are 10 practical steps you and your family can take:
- Educate yourself on the apps they’re using.
- Avoid using technology to babysit your kids.
- Set an example of healthy social media use.
- Make a social media “contract” or set of family rules that you all follow. These rules could include no devices in bedrooms at night and that all devices need to be charged together in a public area.
- Teach them what information is and isn’t appropriate to share online.
- Teach them how to find and verify good information and how to recognize bad information.
- Emphasize how to use social media for good, instead of dwelling on how it’s bad.
- Prepare your kids for what to do if someone online flatters them, approaches them inappropriately, or threatens them.
- Help them be self-aware about why they’re on social media and to manage their expectations when people act in a way they don’t like.
- Help them cultivate face-to-face friendships.
Try a few (or all!) of these tips and start changing the way your family uses social media.
P.S. Want more on Gen Z and social media? Check out our Parent's Guide to Social Media for way more info and helpful tips!