Why Today’s Teenagers Are Afraid to Make Mistakes

How Social Media Has Changed the Game for High School and College Students

Life as a teenager can be a pressure cooker. Am I good enough? Do I measure up? Am I cool enough? Did my post on Instagram get over 100 likes? Am I smart enough? Are mom and dad pleased with me? What am I going to do with my life? Teenagers are often overwhelmed today.

Teenagers on the brink of college life face all the same insecurities we all did. But there is something very different about the challenges they face today.

On more than one occasion I have thought to myself that I am SO glad that social media didn’t exist when I was navigating my high school and college years.

It was hard enough without everyone watching and offering commentary on my life. Can I get an “Amen”?

There is a fascinating article over at the Atlantic by Conor Friedersdorf  “Were College Students Better Off Before Social Media?”

There is much in this article worth reflecting on if you have or care about teenagers, but the insight that really caught my attention was this:

“I wonder if the cost of making mistakes now feels too high to risk them as often.”

Why? Because they are all documented, voted on and preserved. But you can’t grow or get anywhere worth going without risk. The result is that many students are paralyzed or passive.

Good Bye Free Speech…Hello Tyranny of Tolerance?

And then there is what all of this has done to the ability of students to ask, question, disagree, explore, and learn. Some questions–especially about morality and religion–are simply off limits unless you hold the “right” views.

I talk about how to prepare our students for this Tyranny of Tolerance in my new book Welcome to College: A Christ-Follower’s Guide for the Journey.

Here are a few of Friedersdorf questions worth pondering:

(1) “What viewpoints do you or those you know hold, but refrain from expressing for fear of being called out? What are the different ways a view deemed “problematic” might be criticized? What is it about certain responses that you find chilling?”

(2) “Do you feel it’s hard to have campus friendships across ideological lines? Why or why not?”

(3) “If nothing that you did at college would affect your job prospects, what would you do that you don’t do now, because you’re guarding against career setbacks?”

(Read the rest of the article here.)

A question to think about as our phones buzz and ding around us is what has this new world order done to growing up? What has been lost in the age of the smart phone and social media?

Let me be clear, I am not against technology. I am not sure we know the full answers to these questions yet. If I am being honest, I am not sure we will look back on this development as a good thing in the long run.

Are we preparing our teenagers to follow Jesus in this kind of culture? It won’t happen by accident. We must be intentional.

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