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REVIEW: #Being13

Earlier this week, CNN aired a special entitled #Being13 where they followed over 200 13 year olds on social media for two years.

Here’s a brief synopsis of what Anderson Cooper said in his special: Bullying has reached ridiculous heights through social media, “sexting” and “sex revenge” (i.e. posting pictures of your ex’s nude photos online) is now a thing, and teenagers are constantly stressed by their perceived place in the social hierarchy.

I’ve worked with teenagers for 6 years. I wish I could say I am surprised by these findings. But I’m not.

And you shouldn’t be either.

It’s easy to judge. To point out the moral deficiencies in the younger generation, or look down on the “addiction” to their phones. To sit back and proclaim loudly that we would never talk to someone the way these kids do. That we would never be caught up in the rat race of popularity to the point where if our phone was taken away we wouldn’t be able to sleep because of fear that people were talking about us. That’s not us.

Why not? Because we are so much more advanced? Because we are more mature? Because we are so secure in ourselves that we would simply not be bothered by friends and foes alike talking about us on social media? Doubtful.

I’m not surprised by this, because social media is simply letting us see clearly the insecurities that teenagers have always had.

What was previously under the surface, we get to see up close and personal. The need for affection (sexting). The feelings of not being good enough (bullying). The desire to be told they’re worthy (selfies). The list goes on.

It doesn’t mean it’s not sad. It doesn’t mean it’s ok. But how do we respond?

Watching one of the thirteen year old girl’s interviews, she described being called variations of “fat” on ask.fm when she posted a picture. She talked about how she cried and cried but couldn’t tell her mom because, “it’s just not what you do.”

I joined her in crying when she said that. And you should too.

As Christians, we have the call to meet these teenagers where they’re at. To go alongside them in life and let them know they are worthy. And they are special. To let them know that what their peers say about them doesn’t define what they are. To tell them the good news that they have a Father in Heaven who loves all their selfies— both the good and bad ones. We can respond to these teenagers by loving them. By not judging them for what they post on social media. They’ve put themselves out enough on social media. They don’t need another judge— they need a friend who will speak truth into their life.

This week I encourage you to watch the documentary. Hear the interviews, see the tweets. It’s rough. But there is a silver lining. We are insecure. We are in need of affirmation. And we have a God who provides all those things.

James Harris

James is probably the 3rd or 4th funniest guy you know. Funny enough to invite to a party; not witty enough to talk about later. Co-Founder and Content Editor of Everyday Exiles, Director of College Ministry at Reynolda Church, EPC, and husband to Meredith. He has a dog named Calvin, a cat named Opie, and a robot vacuum named Alfred.

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