Kids-only social media: good idea or mental health threat?

By June 14, 2021

USA (MNN) — Parents across the United States may disagree about if and when kids should have social media accounts, but they’re coming together against Facebook’s plans for a 13-and-under, kids-only platform.

Critics cited known digital threats like sexual predators and cyberbullying when urging Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg to cancel his plans for Instagram Youth, a child-focused version of the popular photo- and video-sharing app. Executives classified Instagram Youth as an “H1 priority” in March.

Public resistance began following Zuckerberg’s statements during misinformation hearings on Capitol Hill. Nonprofits and child safety advocates gathered more than 180,000 signatures on three petitions, which they sent to Facebook ahead of its annual stakeholders meeting.

(Photo courtesy of bruce mars/Unsplash)

Josh Golin, the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood’s executive director, said in a statement:

“Teens and even adults on Instagram struggle with the never-ending focus on appearance, the relentless fear of missing out, promotion of influencer culture, and the pressure to collect likes. Instagram for young children is among the greediest, most tone-deaf, and wrong-headed ideas ever to emerge from Silicon Valley.”

It’s an ongoing battle for the Next Generation’s decisions and mental health.

“A lot of social media is marketing, whether it’s self-marketing or business marketing. There’s a lot of psychology behind marketing, and different tactics [used] to influence behavior,” says Hannah Harrison, Child Sponsorship and Social Media Coordinator for Set Free Ministries.

Romans 12:2 says, ‘Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind that by testing, you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.’ Kids are wrestling with this constantly, at a much earlier age now, because [of] social media and the easier access.”

Using Scripture and an approach outlined by Dr. Neil Anderson, Set Free Ministries helps young people and families fix their minds on Christ.

“When you look at social media, a lot of it is about comparison, and Scripture has much to say about this,” Set Free Ministries Executive Director Dean Vander Mey says.

“It’s important that we know who our enemy is, but it’s also super important to know who God says you are.”

Without teaching identity, adults leave kids at risk. “I’m afraid that the Church has failed at this, our Christian homes have failed at this, and so our children don’t know who they are. Society is telling them who they are based upon their feelings,” Vander Mey says.

“Josh McDowell did a seminar in 2018. He said we have two divisions in our society. The younger generation, 30 and under, believes that truth comes from within, based on feelings and emotions. The other group, the older group, believes that truth comes from God and is to be walked in. This new generation does not believe that, so they’re [basing] everything on how they think and feel.”

By introducing God-centered truth, Set Free helps people identify and correct misperceptions. Learn more here.



Header image is a representative stock photo courtesy of Gaelle Marcel/Unsplash.

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