What kind of world would it be if we allowed 12-year-old children to drive without training, or operate power tools without practice? What if, because we wanted to keep them occupied, we gave them unsupervised and untrained access to predators, pornography, unscrupulous snake oil salespeople, manipulative and devious people of all ages and nationalities.
What if we did this in a world where the desire of nearly half of all children is to be “famous” or “an influencer”, neither of which, on their own, contribute anything productive to society? What if we did this in a world where most journalists get into the profession to seek truth and report it, but rather want to “make a difference.” Would we not expect that world to destroy our children from the inside out? Oh, wait…never mind.
Leave it to us to take one of the greatest and most powerful tools (perhaps the most powerful) in history and use it to placate and destroy our children at the same time. All the while bemoaning the future and opining, “kids today.”
A 2017 report on CNBC indicated that Instagram and Snapchat were doing emotional and psychological damage to our teens, especially girls.
A recent report by the Wall Street Journal, which includes some of Facebook’s internal research, states, “In one study of teens in the U.S. and U.K., Facebook found that more than 40% of Instagram users who reported feeling ‘unattractive’ said the feeling began on the app. About a quarter of the teens who reported feeling ‘not good enough’ said the feeling started on Instagram. Many also said the app undermined their confidence in the strength of their friendships.”
In the WSJ report, Jean Twenge (author of The Narcissism Epidemic, 2009) said, “If you believe that R.J. Reynolds should have been more truthful about the link between smoking and lung cancer, then you should probably believe that Facebook should be more upfront about links to depression among teen girls.” For the full WSJ article see: Facebook Knows Instagram Is Toxic for Teen Girls, Company Documents Show — WSJ.
It is no accident that nearly all of silicone valley managers and executives ban their children from social media — they know its harm in the hands of young people who have little or no guidance.
Social media has been one of the great blessings of our age. It must, however, be recognized for the powerful and potentially dangerous tool that it is. The time for saying, “I’m old and don’t understand,” or “kids will be kids,” or “when will someone do something,” is well past. Never is a good time to say those things.
Social media will not, government cannot, and teachers are not given enough authority to do much about any of this. It comes down to parents and grandparents training, managing, and protecting children from such dangers.
There is so much beauty in this world. To focus on one’s filtered face or photoshopped body is not healthy. And someone needs to tell these young people that pictures with toilets in the background is not a good look anyway. Seeking affirmation from nothing but image is a recipe for pain.
St. Theresa of Avila spoke of beauty beyond the eyes in The Interior Castle, “Nothing can be compared to the great beauty and capabilities of a soul; however keen our intellects may be, they are as unable to comprehend them as to comprehend God, for, as He has told us, He created us in His own image and likeness.”
Later she says something that all of our children, especially our daughters need to hear. “It is no small misfortune and disgrace that, through our own fault, we neither understand our nature nor our origin. Would it not be gross ignorance, my daughters, if, when a man was questioned about his name, or country, or parents, he could not answer? Stupid as this would be, it is unspeakably more foolish to care to learn nothing of our nature except that we possess bodies, and only to realize vaguely that we have souls, because people say so and it is a doctrine of faith. Rarely do we reflect upon what gifts our souls may possess, Who dwells within them, or how extremely precious they are. Therefore we do little to preserve their beauty; all our care is concentrated on our bodies, which are but the coarse setting of the diamond, or the outer walls of the castle.”
Such will guard our children if we have the courage to teach them.