Teens and Virtuous Social Media Use

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Horrified. That’s the emotion I felt after reading Dr. Meg Meeker’s recent post Bang With Friends: The Latest App for Facebook. Let’s not mince words here. According to Dr. Meeker, it’s a brand-new way to solicit sex via electronic gadgetry and a Facebook app.

While I haven’t vetted the app, I’m trusting Dr. Meeker on this one. As she details in her post, Facebook users can download the app, which then shows pictures of all their friends with the button “click to bang” underneath. The user can click on any one of their friends, and if the chosen friend also has the app installed, then s/he will get a notification that a friend wants to “get together.”

teens and virtue

It’s altogether disgusting, isn’t it? I think what horrifies me the most is teens, even preteens, have the ability to download an app and experiment sexually under the guise of logging onto Facebook. As Dr. Meeker implores, “If you have a teen in your home, stand up for them and tell Facebook what to do with this new app.”

I believe that’s half of the solution. The other half? Arming our children with a moral compass so that when exposed to the seedier cultural elements, they are emboldened with the fortitude to make good choices.

In a few weeks, I’m giving a talk at a Catholic youth conference to discuss this very topic — how to behave virtuously while using social media. Here are a few of my planned talking points.

Be a Light

It only takes a scan of my Facebook or Twitter feeds to realize how much darkness permeates our culture. But here’s the thing: walk into any darkened room, and all it takes is one lit match to overpower and illuminate the darkness.

We are called to be that one small light as we engage with others through social media. Pope Benedict XVI refers to these social networks as portals of truth and faith, calling them new spaces for evangelization.

We don’t know how the Holy Spirit is going to use us to evangelize. Let’s go be that light of love and collectively help create an iCulture worthy of the heart and mind of Christ.

Be Intentional

When we put on an evangelization hat and share our faith, we become a target. Someone will air something on Facebook directly attacking our faith and us. The best advice I’ve ever received for how to behave in these moments is to not react, but rather to first breathe and whisper a prayer. When we react, virtue goes away; our second thoughts are probably more virtuous than our first.

Be Unplugged

The light bulb has all but eliminated the distinction between day and night and now we can work around the clock if we so choose. That’s a problem of disorder.

And if we’re not careful, all these social media tools will add another layer of disorder. I know this well because I struggle with it. To counter this, I’ve had to engage in periodic technology fasts and set “curfews” on screen times.

Consider this. There are three spaces where “screens” aren’t necessary: the bedroom, the dinner table, and Mass/Adoration. Regarding that last one, Sister Helena Burns says your eyes should be fixed on Jesus instead! Do you (can you?) ban “screens” from these spaces?

Be Present

No matter how helpful social media can be to find and develop friends, there is still a need for flesh-to-flesh communication and interaction.

Think about it this way … we are an incarnational people. Meaning, as sensory beings, God knew that it was best to send his Son in the flesh to live among us, to be a real historical figure. For if Jesus came in the flesh, if the Word became flesh, then so also must our friendships be in the flesh. Certainly friendships may grow through online correspondence, but in one way or another, we have to be present to our friends.

Be Reflective

At the end of every day, perform an examen of your social media use. Look through your Facebook and Twitter feeds. What stories did you share, what statuses or pictures did you “like,” what messages did you retweet? Ultimately, did your social media activity point people toward Christ?

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So there you have it, a sneak peek of my upcoming talk. Given my children are preschool and younger, I don’t yet have experience helping them navigate the landmines associated with social media use. I could use some insider info here.

If your teen were in the audience, what messages would you want me to share?

Read more of our Tech Talk columns.

Copyright 2013 Lisa Schmidt

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About Author

Lisa Schmidt writes at ThePracticingCatholic.com with her husband Joel. A proud Iowan, the Schmidts reside in Des Moines where Lisa is a full-time at-home mom. She also supports her husband in his deacon ministries for the Diocese of Des Moines. At The Practicing Catholic, Lisa enjoys writing about the things that bring her great joy: the Catholic faith, her family, fine arts, and good food.

3 Comments

  1. Young women need to have well-established self-esteem or they are very likely to become easy prey to the evils in our society. If they do not, they will fall and make poor decisions that then lead to a continuous cycle of such. By self-esteem I mean having had it instilled in them that they are loved, so they know without question they are loved; which is not at all the same thing as their being falsely told they can do no wrong or that they are the greatest thing since sliced bread. If they know they are loved, which is God’s love manifested via their parents, generally they will be peaceful and well-adjusted, and probably have no use for the vacuus junk that’s all around. All children must have boundaries and discipline, and they must know the meaning of respect of self and respect for others. If these things are firmly grounded atop the foundation of unshakable love, children will be much better able to withstand the assaults of the culture. Everyone falls, makes mistakes and experiences temptation. Children with a firm loving base generally don’t have as much need to experiment or prove anything, and thus have a much better shot at navigating the pitfalls of earthly life.

    • Also, it’s important to let teens know that it is even more important to be aware of and respectful of another’s privacy. Most teens today have phones with camera’s and it is all too easy to take a picture and post–without thinking of the consequences. Would this post be hurtful? Would I like this done to me. etc. It’s also important to be aware that others can and will post pictures of you–often in less than flattering situations. Do unto others…

      • Thank you for your great input. That “do unto others” advice is critical for social media use … and for all of us, regardless of age. Thanks again for taking the time to comment.

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