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Social Media: A Biblical Perspective for Christian Parents




Social Media: A Biblical Perspective for Christian Parents


By Dr. David Warren


Editor’s Note: RenewaNation recommends keeping children off social media until they are 18. For parents who choose to allow access, this article gives practical tips for recognizing and handling the dangers associated with social media use.


Social media has become an integral part of many teenagers’ lives. They use it to stay connected with friends, learn about the world, and express themselves. However, social media can also have many negative effects on teenagers, both mentally and physically.


Teens aged 13 to 18 spend the most time on social media of any demographic, with an average of over three hours per day.1 Statistics suggest that some American teenagers spend a “mind-blowing” nine hours a day on social media, entertaining themselves by streaming videos, listening to music, talking with friends, and playing games.


All of this screen time comes with several pitfalls. First of all, social media can be a distraction for teenagers. It can be easy to get sucked into the endless scroll of their newsfeed, and before they know it, hours have passed, and they’ve accomplished nothing of substantial value, leading to neglect of schoolwork, relationships, and sleep.


Ephesians 5:16 reminds us that we should be “making the best use of the time because the days are evil.” Can we really say that time spent on social media is a wise use of time? Even teenagers, when polled, have identified this as a problem. Fifty-six percent of teens polled admitted they typically go online intending to do one thing and get sidetracked and do something else for an extended period.2 Sixty-five percent said they wished they had a greater ability to self-limit the time they spend on their phone. It is clear that social media has become addictive for teenagers. The constant stimulation of social media can make it difficult for teenagers to put down their devices.


What is the result of all this time spent watching videos on TikTok or looking at pictures on Instagram? One of the biggest dangers of social media is that it can lead to comparison. When we constantly see other people’s highlight reels, it can be easy to start feeling like we’re not good enough. We begin to develop unrealistic expectations about life. When teenagers constantly see images of perfect bodies, relationships, and lives on social media, it can be easy to start feeling like they’re not good enough, leading to low self-esteem, anxiety, and depression.


These effects of excessive social media use are particularly true for young girls. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a study that found almost six in ten teen girls feel persistently sad and hopeless, and that rate is twice the rate recorded for boys.3 Over the last decade, persistent sadness and hopelessness have risen by almost sixty percent. The same study also found that one-third of teenage girls in 2021 considered killing themselves.


2 Corinthians 10:12 warns that it is foolish to “classify or compare ourselves with some of those who are commending themselves.” Paul reminds us that when we measure ourselves “by one another and compare [ourselves] with one another, [we] are without understanding.”


John Stonestreet, President of The Colson Center for Christian Worldview, said, “It is time to take teenage girls off social media. It is time. It is like putting a megaphone right up to their ear, where 24/7 all they’re hearing is that they’re wrong in some way, that they’re ugly in some way, that they just don’t measure up, that they’re not enough, that they’re bad, that they’re, you know, born in the wrong bodies, that they don’t look pretty. I mean, it is just absolutely giving them a loaded weapon and [hoping] they don’t misuse it.”4


The message that God made you in His image on purpose and for a purpose is not the message being proclaimed on social media. Our daughters need to embody the truth of Psalm 139:14: “I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.” Instead, they are presented with false images of beauty that are impossible to live up to and are told they do not measure up.


Elon Musk, in a recent interview, put it this way: “I think one of the issues with social media . . . people look like they have a much better life than they really do right, so by design people are posting pictures of when they’re really happy. They’re modifying those pictures to be better looking. Even if they’re not modifying the pictures, they’re at least selecting the pictures for the best lighting, the best angle, so people basically seem they’re way better looking than they basically really are, and they’re way happier seeming than they really are. So if you look at everyone on Instagram, you might think, ‘Man—they’re all these happy, beautiful people, and I’m not that good-looking, and I am not happy, so I must suck,’ you know. And that’s gonna make you feel sad. When, in fact, those people you think are super happy [are] actually not that happy. Some of them were really depressed.”5


Another danger of social media is that it can expose us to harmful content. There is a lot of negativity and sin on social media, and it can be easy to get caught up in it. This can lead to temptation, desensitization to sin, and even spiritual decline.


Philippians 4:8 gives us the daunting challenge, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”


Looking for good, true, and honorable things on TikTok is akin to digging in the dumpster to find food. There is probably some good food there, but it is not the best place to search. We are charged with being the air traffic controller of our own minds, and we get to decide what we fill it with. As parents, we are responsible for guiding our children in this same task. Helping them by protecting them from the negative aspects of social media is part of that responsibility.


Practical Tips to Protect Your Children from Social Media Dangers


  • Talk to your children about the dangers of social media. Explain how it can lead to comparison, temptation, and distraction.

  • If you allow your children to access social media, you should, at a minimum, set limits on their social media use. This may mean limiting the amount of time they spend on social media each day or setting specific rules about what they can and cannot do on social media. This may mean you have the password to your child’s social media account, and they must have you as a friend on their accounts.

  • Monitor your children’s social media activity. This doesn’t mean you must read every post or message, but you should know what they’re doing online. It has been said that you must inspect what you expect. The stakes are too high to hope your child is the exception to the norm.

  • Model good social media habits yourself. If you want your children to use social media in a healthy way, you need to show them how to do it.

  • Take family internet and media sabbaticals. This may be for a day, a week, or any period you choose. The key is to detox from your media devices and express some self-discipline. This time could be replaced with some family activities or discussions.


Social media can be a powerful tool, but it’s essential to use it wisely. Following these tips can help your teenagers stay safe and healthy while using social media.


Remember, you’re not alone in this. There are many resources available to assist you in helping your teenagers use social media safely and responsibly. Perhaps this will inspire you to start a conversation about this crucial topic with other parents in your church.


Media Resources for Parents


Editor’s Note: These resources are provided for informational purposes only. Visitor discretion is advised.

Pew Research Center: pewresearch.org

Common Sense Media: commonsensemedia.org

Protect Young Eyes: protectyoungeyes.com



Dr. David Warren is a gifted communicator in faith and culture, theology, worldview, education, and apologetics, and he speaks at various events each year. He graduated from Calvary Baptist Academy in Midland, Michigan, in 1992 and now serves as the school’s Head of School. David is also the Discipleship Pastor at Calvary Baptist Church and has been instrumental in keeping CBA ahead of the curve by implementing technology in the classroom. He and his wife, Maria, have four children.



ENDNOTES

1. “The Common Sense Census: Media Use by Tweens and Teens,” Common Sense, 2021, https://commonsensemedia.org/sites/default/files/research/report/8-18-census-integrated-report-final-web_0.pdf.

2. “How Teens and Parents Navigate Screen Time and Device Distractions,” Pew Research Center, August 22, 2018, https://pewresearch.org/internet/2018/08/22/how-teens-and-parents-navigate-screen-time-and-device-distractions.

3. “U.S. Teen Girls Experiencing Increased Sadness and Violence,” CDC, February 13, 2023, https://cdc.gov/media/releases/2023/p0213-yrbs.html.

4. The World and Everything In It Podcast, March 3, 2023.

5. Joe Rogan Experience, Episode #1470.


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