Recently, I was part of a parent workshop on “Raising Kids in the Digital Age”.  I’ll break up the content we shared into 3 posts here.  Enjoy part 1!  Links to the video presentation are at the bottom of the post.

“According to a Common Sense Media survey, 90% of all American teens have used social media, three-quarters of them have a social networking site, and nearly one in three teens visits their social networking profile several times a day or more.”

None of that surprised you.  Social media, smartphones, and tablets are a part of the fabric of everyday life for a majority of folks. We wanted to see how this national survey compared to our local context so we conducted a survey of 70 middle and high school students.  Here’s a few highlights:

  • 90% of students have a smartphone (93% HS, 86% MS)
  • Use of Social Media grows exponentially from MS to HS
  • 71% of our MS students check Social Media less than 5x a day
  • 70% of our HS students check Social Media more than 5x a day, 50% say they more than 10x a day.
  • Instagram and Snapchat are most popular among our students
  • 35% of students say Facebook is “not so cool anymore”
  • 80% of our students said they preferred “talking in person” to their parents
  • 70% said they preferred “talking in person” to their friends.

When asked if they were “addicted” (no definition of ‘addicted’ was given)

  • 54% addicted to cell phone
  • 32% addicted to a social media site
  • 34% addicted to laptop/tablet/computer

When asked if their parents were “addicted”

  • 42% said parents addicted to cell phone
  • 21% said parents addicted to social media
  • 40% said parents addicted to laptop/tablet/computer

Maybe the most surprising result of the survey was that 42% of high school students said the biggest danger/issue with technology was that people would lose their ability to connect in meaningful relationships and be present with people!

This is all best illustrated with this ad:

Now, before we go any further, let’s frame the conversation.  Take a moment to look in the future.  Your child is 18/19 and is no longer under your roof.  They are mostly on their own (though not financially most likely).
How have you prepared them for this moment?
What matters most at this point?

Might I suggest a simple goal that most of us will agree is worthwhile?  Our goal for our kids is that they become mature, Jesus-following adults.
We want our kids to grow in wisdom and in relationships.  We want them to live lives that honor Christ, not just simply follow a set of rules or a set of behaviors.

So as we start to think about how to deal with the new realities of the digital age, let us first consider our goals for our kids.  Let us consider how we prepare them for life outside of the nest and our protection.  How do you prepare them for life outside of the nest?

Now we know where they are going, but let’s also consider where they are now.

This is very simplistic, but I’m going to pull out 3 developmental tasks of adolescence that developmental psychology identifies.  In order to become an adult you must work through these 3 tasks:

Identity – Who am I?
Autonomy – What is my power?  Self-sufficiency/self-governing
Belonging – Where do I fit?

Many psychologists and developmental experts say that adolescence now extends into the mid-twenties!  Many individuals are still wrestling with these questions and therefore still on the journey to adulthood in their twenties!  Think about this process for a minute.  You are trying to answer these questions, which is an isolating task because it’s up to the individual.  At the same time, you are taking in input constantly from family, friends, and authority figures about who you are and who you should be.  It’s an interesting dynamic.  Social Media only intensifies this dynamic.

Again, your child is navigating the teen years trying to answer the above 3 questions.  They are searching Instagram for validation and answers to these questions.  They are testing the waters of identity by trying on different selves.  Many times the online version is different than the real life version.

So, before we get to some of the challenges of social media and before we throw out all technology from our homes, we want to think about where they are currently and where we are trying to lead theme.  We want to borrow the concept, “imagine the end” or parenting with the end in mind from our good friends at Orange (  Here’s a great quote to help us think about this:

“Don’t forget the end game:  As parents of teenagers, we are trying to raise adults.  We’re more interested in wisdom than compliance, more interested in responsibility than in high walls of protection, and more interested in healthy parent/teen communication than maintaining a veneer of good appearances.”  – Mark Oestreicher and Adam McLane

Mark and Adam wrote a great book that was a companion for us as we put this presentation together.  You can check it out here:

Part 2 and 3 coming soon!

Here’s a link to the video of part 1 of the session.  It’s broken into 2 parts:
Raising Kids in the Digital Age Part 1 (a)

Raising Kids in the Digital Age Part 1 (b)