Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
I often think to myself, “Boy, I’m glad that I’m not a teenager in this day and age.” It’s not that I had a terrible experience in my adolescence, though teenage years come with many ups and downs, but rather, the fact that today’s youth have so much more to deal with considering the Internet and social media. How anyone survives being a teen today is a wonder to me. But we should make every effort to help our young men and women navigate these modern realities.

Social media, whether it’s things like Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, or other platforms, create a digital space for our young people to express themselves and interact with each other that many of us did not have when we were growing up. While this brings with it a greater capacity for communication and involvement, it is also creating opportunities to misuse that digital connectivity between teens. It is so easy these days to post something on social media and it having a negative impact on friends or classmates. Sometimes it’s intentional and at other times a seemingly innocent post can really devastate another person because of how they read and interpret the information. It can be an absolute minefield.

Within this mess, adolescent brains struggle with considering consequences and fail to recognize the permanence of actions. Once something is put on the Internet or social media, you no longer have control over it. Even things like Snapchat, which boast that your post will disappear in 24 hours are misleading, as while it’s up someone can save it for themselves on their phone or computer.

If you are reading this in our paper bulletin, I have some bad news. You are most likely not a digital native, someone who grew up with technology and social media. As such, your efforts to learn and use things like phones and computers are more difficult than the younger generation. Kids have a leg up on us with this social media stuff.

But we have to make every effort to make sure that our young people are being safe and responsible in their use of social media. Part of that is to monitor what it is that they’re putting out there, making sure that it is appropriate and not harmful to themselves or others. Along those lines, make sure they don’t have extra accounts where they might post items you’re not seeing. The other important piece to this is to make sure your loved ones know that they are safe and free to approach you when something is not going right in their lives. So much of bullying and cyber-bullying depends on isolation and being a supportive ear and voice goes a long way to combatting such things.

Be a positive force in the life of the teens you know, and help them use social media well.
Peace and Goodness,
Fr. Dan