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The saints can offer guidance to parents on teens using social media

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Steve TrosleySimon Sinek, a current bright star on the leadership and management scene, has some interesting thoughts on social media. He thinks there’s more wrong with it than right, at the very time the entire world seems to have decided otherwise.

Sinek, who is just a few months older than my youngest children (twins) is an author, speaker, and consultant who writes on leadership and management.

I stumbled across a video of him explaining the problems of managing millennials (born between 1982 and 2004) and he said social media is one of the biggest obstacles to their development. My children, who have children themselves, worry about such things – or they should. He said first, social media is addictive because it triggers the release of dopamine in the brain of the user – that’s the chemical that makes us feel good, often triggered by various drugs, alcohol and even exercise. That’s why when someone posts on Facebook, they can’t seem to keep themselves from returning repeatedly to see if anyone “liked” what they posted. (I plead no contest.)

It starts to make sense why marketers, politicians and even catechists are so excited about the potential of the medium. If connecting via social media makes you feel good and is addictive, you may not notice you’re being sold a bill of goods. The other edge of this sword can cut a good way: If you’re connecting to share posts about the Gospel or something positive happening at say, Catholic Charities, what could be the harm?

Sinek also says using devices like tablets and cell phones isolates us and keeps us from learning how to develop relationships. This is especially important for young people who need experience to find their way in the workplace and in civil society. You don’t have to spend too much time Googling to find literally millions of articles on how the Internet and social media can be harmful. We at the archdiocese and anyone who works in a parish or school who deals with children gets regular training, via the Internet, on how people who abuse the vulnerable – young and old — use social media to get their foot in the door.

Meanwhile, if the election of 2016 taught us anything, it’s that even the mighty stumble using any of these communications tools. We can be like the dolt standing at the busy downtown intersection shouting into his cell phone so he can be heard over traffic, oblivious that his private conversation is being overheard by everyone within 20 feet. If a presumably savvy adult can get in so much trouble with leaked emails or bird-brained Twitter posts, how much more trouble can a kid get into?

My parents had to worry about the influence of James Bond movies, Mad Magazine and my crazy buddy, Fred, but today’s parents also have to worry about Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and who knows what else?

Fortunately, we have the saints for guidance. For example, to teach a teen to be careful about what he or she posts online, we can call on St. Ignatius: “Be slow to speak, and only after having first listened quietly, so that you may understand the meaning, leanings, and wishes of those who do speak. Thus you will better know when to speak and when to be silent.”

That should be taught every teen-ager. As should this from St. Jerome: “The scars of others should teach us caution.”

There’s this wisdom from St. Augustine: “Complete abstinence is easier than perfect moderation.”

And if all else fails, there’s this from St. John Paul II: “Stupidity is also a gift of God, but one mustn’t misuse it.’

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