I sat around a table this morning with some youth pastor friends of mine, and the discussion came up (as it usually does) of social media, and its effect on our students. One guy gave an illustration of a girl who posted a provocative picture on instagram. Another pastor discussed how disappointed he is that he has students who cuss regularly on their social media pages.
If you are in student ministry, you have probably had similar conversations come up. I want to give you a brief history of social media (from myspace to twitter) in students’ lives, and how parents have responded to the new social media sites that have come onto the scene:
This was HUGE when it was out. Students felt this incredible love for creating a myspace account and designing it the way that they wanted it to be. They could follow big bands and see what celebrities were doing. How have the parents responded? Parents were against myspace. Many parents had a perception of myspace as the sexual predators site, or the stalker site, because of what they have seen on the news. In my experience, most parents downed myspace and even set up extra parameters for their students who were on myspace. Preachers preached against myspace. It was awful. Personally, I never really saw many parents at all get on myspace. They just downed it, but allowed their students to have it anyway.
When facebook came out, students were already on myspace, and thought that facebook was stupid. I remember begging students to transition over to facebook, because it seemed safer, but the students were against it. They could not imagine deleting their myspace and moving over. Now, everyone has facebook! I mean the majority of students have facebook and use it regularly.
How have the parents responded? The parents response has changed a bit. When facebook first came available to students, parents felt that it would slowly become like myspace in a sense of the danger and vulgarity that its reputation got it. Parents became upset with the pictures and friends that students were having on facebook. So, the parents solution was to get on facebook to keep a tab of how their students were doing. Now, most parents that I face are on facebook, and one of the reasons is to hold accountable their students.
Twitter was launched in July of 2006 by Jack Dorsey. I personally felt twitter was stupid when it started. I have noticed students now transitioning over from facebook to twitter, and posting/retweeting different stuff than on facebook. Why? Parents and teachers are on facebook now, but not on twitter. So, to a student, they can now post anything that they want on twitter, because no one can see it, right? Chad Watson, a youth pastor friend of mine in our area, said, “You get the most honest picture of a teen by looking at what they tweet.”
How have the parents responded? They are a bit slow so far in my experience with parents and twitter. As far as I am aware, less than 5% of my students’ parents are on twitter. 60% of my students’ parents are on facebook though.
So, what is all of this saying? Basically, I am saying this: Students are joining something new, and parents are always several steps behind. I hate to say that, but it is true and evident. Parent, this should challenge you to be educated about youth culture, and stay up to par with what our students are into. If you want to know where your student is at in their journey with Christ, check their twitter account. It will not take long, because from our experience twitter is revealing who a student is more than any other social media site out there. Parents, get with it, and follow your students on twitter!