Jonathan McKee is an expert on all things teen. He loves Jesus and youth leaders and is super passionate about teenagers making the right choices (and helping us help them to do just that!) . He’s also a good friend (and a fellow Denver Broncos fan…we’ll be back next year by the way!) You are gonna love what you’re about to read from him and I’m sure you’ll find it helpful in your work with teenagers. Enjoy!
Have you ever regretted something you posted on social media?
Don’t feel bad, 57% of Americans who use social media have posted something they regret afterwards. And that’s just adults. Now jump into the brain of a 10-year-old. Yes, a 10-year-old. Nielsen research labels age 10 as the “mobile adoption sweet spot” because the average age a child receives a smartphone today is 10.3 years-old. How is a 10-year-old supposed to make wise decisions on their favorite social media apps like Snapchat, Instagram or FriendO? (Especially when COPPA—Child Online Privacy Protection Act—regulates that you have to be at least 13 to be on any of those three apps).
Today’s young people don’t think for more than 3 seconds before they post, press SEND, or accept a friend request (the more friends the better, right?). Sadly, the pics they post, the rants they engage in and the connections they make often lead to dire consequences.
So how can we help young people think before they click?
Here are two conversations we need to have with young people about the devices they know and love: the friends they “friend”, and the pics they post.
The Friends they “Friend”
Consider SnapMaps for a moment. Snapmaps is a cool feature on Snapchat that allows you to see where your friends are on a map at any moment. Of course, they can also see where you are at any moment. This is a lot of fun when you want to see which of your friends are hanging out at the place you’re hanging… but consider the ramifications for a moment.
A 13-year-old girl finishes hanging out with her friends at the mall, texts mom for a ride, and waits for her by the exit.
QUESTION: Who else knows she’s standing there?
ANSWER: Unless she opted to be in Ghost Mode, or took the time to go into her Snap preferences and select only a custom group of friends to be able to see her, then the answer is every one of her friends can see her exact location on a map.
This begs the question: Has she met every one of her friends face to face?
Are you sure that the 16-year-old guy she met online and “friended” last week is actually a 16-year-old… or is he the 44-year-old pedophile sitting in his car at the mall watching for any likely “friends” to wander outside by themselves?
This happens all the time. In fact, whenever I address young people I share story after story of “friends” who didn’t turn out to be friends at all. In fact, in my new book to teenagers on this subject I share a frightening true story about a guy the police called “creepy underwear guy” who used young girls’ locations to sneak into their bedrooms and steal their underwear. Whenever I tell this story I always see girls slowly pulling out their phones and checking their privacy settings.
Nobody wants creepy underwear guy in their room!
We need to help young people rethink who they’re “friending.”
But that’s not all they need to rethink…
The Pics They’re Posting
I hear it all the time from school principals when I show up to speak at a school assembly.
“Last week I practically had to shut down the school because of the pictures that were being passed around. Kids couldn’t even concentrate on school because everyone had seen the pictures!”
It happens all the time (in fact, it happened at a Christian school I worked with). It’s like this: Boy convinces girl to send him a pic. (After all, it disappears, right?) Girl sends pic. Boy screenshots “disappearing” pic. Boy and girl eventually break up. Boy sends pic to all of his friends: “Look at this tramp!” Girl is devastated because everyone is giggling and pointing as she walks around campus.
Young people don’t think through the permanence of their posts. They use an app that brags, “the pics disappear” and they interpret that as “no consequences.” It doesn’t take long for them to discover a simple screenshot takes away the “temporary.”
We need to help kids understand: nothing you post is temporary. So don’t post anything you don’t want your principal, Grandma, your future boss… and Jesus seeing (Jesus is on Insta, you know).
Are you helping kids think before they click?
Jonathan provides 21 MORE candid tips to wise posting in an insecure world in his brand new The Teen’s Guide to Social Media & Mobile Devices. This book has discussion questions at the end of every tip so you can dialogue about these important principles.