Once, I was talking (sanctimoniously) to my son about the potential for a popular video game to become all-consuming and the importance of setting healthy boundaries. He listened carefully and then said, “Mom, social media is just gaming for adults.” Arrow pierce heart. How many times am I at a baseball game only to see the tops of parents’ heads? How many times have you yelled at your kids in frustration during an outing where everyone is miserable and fighting, but you’re trying to get that perfect social media picture? “Stop touching your sister!” “Put your arm around him!” “Smile!” “Come on, cut it out!” Then immediately goes the post on your social: “Having a wonderful day together at the Christmas Tree Farm! #familytime #makingmemories #traditions.” Parents, we need to own our culpability here and approach our teens with empathy as they navigate this social mirage.
Social media is a reality of twenty-first-century parents. It’s a great way to connect and seek support. But as parents, we often don’t give posting much thought. It’s called “sharenting”: venting frustrations about teen drama, funny bath photos, relief over being “kid free” for the moment, asking advice on personal struggles, angst about teen dating or driving, posting awkward photos making gentle fun of your teen. Here’s the thing. You are the literal caretaker of your child’s digital footprint. One day they will look at everything you posted and see themselves through your eyes. What will they see? A narrative that conveys approval only through accomplishments? Dirty laundry aired about conflicted relationships? A parade of embarrassing moments? That’s a big responsibility. So think before you post. It’s okay to be authentic and vulnerable. But ask yourself, is this a moment I want to preserve forever? Steward the extraordinary privilege of telling your teen’s story well.
Teens today struggle mightily with the pull of social media. It’s important to help them develop a healthy and realistic self-image, rooted and grounded by faith in Christ. We are His image bearers, and each of us is fearfully and wonderfully made.
“So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” Genesis 1:27
Imago Dei is a theological term used to convey the incredible truth that we are created in the image and likeness of God. The word image means mirror or reflection. Many times, though, when we look in the mirror, we don’t see imago Dei. Instead of seeing the fingerprints of God through His unique creation, we see only imperfections. Our mirror self-talk is crueler than anything we would say to anyone else’s face.
But God says, “You are called.” “You are chosen.” “You’re a new creation.” “You are forgiven.” “You are blessed.” “You are set free.” “You are redeemed.” “You are beloved.” “You’re being transformed.” “You are the apple of My eye.” “You are pursued.” “You’re a child of God.” “You are adopted, no longer an orphan.” “You are pleasing.” “You are never alone.” “You are a masterpiece.”
Ask yourself: What image are you crafting for your teen through your social media use? What media habits in your family need to change to promote healthy use and boundaries? How can you intentionally help your teen to see their self-image through the eyes of Christ?
Our identity in Christ is much more powerful than our own image crafting. Speak His words of life into your teen!
Believe it or not, your kids want to talk to you about the social and health challenges they are facing. But are you ready? In Behind Closed Doors: A Guide to Help Parents and Teens Navigate Through Life’s Toughest Issues, Jessica L. Peck, a pediatric nurse practitioner, professor, and mom of four teenagers, helps parents escape the secrecy and shame surrounding tough parenting conversations and approach them from a biblical foundation.