Young People & Social Media
People are spending twice as much time online compared to ten years ago with young people aged between 16 and 24 spending more than 27 hours per week on the internet1. In addition to this the 2015 Annual Media Monitoring report suggested that young people are spending more time playing and socialising online than watching television programmes2 and other research reports that 18-24 year old’s cite social media as their main news source3.
As many young people now have smartphones social media is often their main source of communication amongst friends and whilst the minimum age for registering on social networks is typically 13 years old young people younger than this often have social media accounts.
The most popular social networks amongst millennials is YouTube which captures the attention of 64% who said they spent over 2 hours a day using the service. This was followed by 51% of millennials using Facebook, 45% using Instagram, 42% using Snapchat, 28% using Twitter and 26% using Tumblr4.
This generation are the first generation to grow up with no memory of life before the internet and mobile phones and 2015 research by the Reguel Agency saw young people list their Smartphone as the top product they couldn’t live without5.
Whilst social media provides many positive opportunities for young people to interact with their peers we have also seen a rise in cyberbullying and sexting amongst young people and so as those working with young people it’s incredibly important that we enable them to explore how they interact with people over social networks.
In Youth Ministry terms the implications for this cultural shift amongst teenagers is huge. This provides us with both opportunities and challenges to explore how we can engage with young people using social media and how we can support and encourage them to make wise choices online.
The Message version of John 1: 14 reads “The Word became flesh and blood and moved into the neighbourhood”. The ministry of Jesus was an incarnational ministry and at the centre of our faith is a God who doesn’t watch from afar but enters into our world and meets us where we’re at.
In addition to this, in Acts 17 Paul visits Athens and spends some time understanding their culture which he later uses to communicate the gospel message in a culturally relevant way drawing upon their statue inscribed ‘To an unknown god’ before revealing Jesus to them.
In terms of social media these two examples show us a need to have an understanding of the culture in which young people inhabit and to explore how we can communicate the message of Jesus through that in a culturally relevant way.
There are three key areas to explore when it comes to young people, social media and youth ministry.
1 – Safeguarding
As with all youth ministry we have a responsibility to make sure safeguarding procedures and policies are in place. This is even more important when it comes to social networking. If we are going to use social networking in our youth work then it’s important that we have thought through the safeguarding implications:
- Do you have parental consent to interact with young people on social media?
- Is it best for your group to have a Facebook page, a group message or a completely separate Facebook account?
- What guidelines will you set for those using these forms of social media with young people?
- What boundaries will you set? – What times of day are you going to be using social media for youth ministry? (Work/Life balance is important).
(There are a couple of links to explore this more in the ‘Further Reading’ section)
2 – Using Social Media in our Ministry
Social Media can be a fantastic tool in youth ministry. It can be a way of encouraging the discussion around a theme to continue outside of the group, a way of reminding young people of upcoming events and a way of keeping your wider congregation up to date with what’s happening in the youth ministry.
Some ideas for using social media in youth ministry could include:
- Set up a Facebook Page for your group and use it to promote upcoming events and share what’s been happening (remember to get consent if you use photos!)
- Create a group message amongst young people in your group (and leaders) and encourage young people to share prayer points (You may even like to have a silent third party in the group to monitor the discussion).
- Use a Twitter Poll to get young people to vote for the next social or to help put together the programme for the next term.
3 – Exploring Social Media with Young People
In our youth ministry we can also help young people reflect on their social media use and enable them to make informed choices about their online activities.
You could run a session on something specific like eSafety or Cyberbullying or simply run a session on social media in general to help young people reflect on their time spent online.
REFLECTION & LEARNING
Think about how you currently use social media in your own life. Do you also currently use it in your own work with young people?
If you already use it in your youth ministry think about and reflect on the following:
- Does my current use of social media enhance the work I do with young people?
- Does my online profile reflect my faith? If so, what does this model to young people?
- Do I allow time to ‘switch-off’ in my social media use?
- How could I work with your young people to help them explore and reflect on their use of social media?
If you don’t currently use social media in your youth work you could ask yourself:
- How could using social media to enhance the work you do with young people?
- What safeguarding procedures would you need to put in place for this to work?
- How could you work with your young people to help them explore and reflect on their use of social media?
As you continue to explore this issue I would encourage you to spend some time trying out the different social networks on your smartphone*…try downloading Instagram, Twitter, Facebook etc. and see what they’re all about and as you use them think about how they could be used within your youth ministry. You could even have a look on YouTube at some of the most popular YouTubers, maybe ask your young people who they watch or look up ‘Zoella’, ‘Pointless Blog’ or ‘Sprinkle of Glitter’.
I would encourage you to have a look at some of the research and news articles referenced in the introduction of this training to help you explore more about social networks and young people.
I would also encourage you to talk to the young people you work with about the social networks they use, what they like about them and what they don’t like about them.
*Use this as an opportunity to try them out rather than adding young people as contacts on all the social networks you try out.
You can find out more about young people and social media on the internet.
Here are some articles and books that may be of particular use.
Digital Check-Up for Youth Workers – https://www.premieryouthwork.com/Read/The-Youthwork-Blog/Young-people-and-technology-Digital-check-up-for-youth-workers
Youth Group Resources
Social Media Youth Group Session – http://www.youthworkresource.com/youth-work/ready-to-use-session-plans/social-networks/
YFC ‘Internet Safet’y session (part of their Lumen Resource) – https://www.yfcresources.co.uk
The Koko Story – A Christian YouTube Channel – https://www.youtube.com/user/kokostories
Chelmsford Diocese Safeguarding Practice Guidance – Pages 35-40 – http://www.chelmsford.anglican.org/uploads/2014_PRACTICE_GUIDANCE-RESOURCES.pdf
Social Networking & Safeguarding Blog – http://www.youthworkresource.com/social-networking-safeguarding-2016/
Mark is the Youth Adviser for the Bradwell Episcopal Area of the Diocese of Chelmsford. Mark trained with Oasis and has previously been a youth worker in Peterborough and rural East Yorkshire