We know social media is a problem for teenagers, with growing teenage anxiety, depression, and suicidal ideation linked to its use. It’s as ubiquitous as the air they breathe, and it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere any time soon. Those of us who work with and care for teenagers need the proper tools to graciously engage the world of social media. Most importantly, we must show teenagers how Jesus offers hope in the midst of a social-media crazed world.
John Perritt’s new four-week devotional for teenagers, Social Media Pressure: Finding Peace Alongside Jesus, offers one such resource. In it, he seeks to “uncover many of the ways in which our relationships, mental health, and perception of the world around us can be directly affected by our choices on social media” (p. 2). Above all, Perritt wants to help teenagers understand how God enters in and transforms our relationships to social media.
Social Media Pressure provides a blend of theologically rich yet easily accessible writing. Each entry leaves readers with a clear understanding of who Jesus is and how the truths of his Word can transform their relationships with him, as well as with themselves, others, and social media. Perhaps the book’s greatest strength is Pertit’s ability to address the deeper, heart-level issues behind teenage social media use. Perritt shows how a need for “likes” is really a mirror of our quest for connection and approval and how a pornography addiction is an outworking of a longing that goes back as far as Eden. He explains that social media makes us feel lonely because it cannot offer us the person-to-person connection we were designed to enjoy. Far more than a “how to” book, this devotional will equip teenagers to see the “why” behind their social media use.
Simple, Practical, Helpful
In addition to its theological richness, Social Media Pressure is well-structured and easy to navigate. Each day, teenagers will read an opening Bible verse, a guiding question, a short exposition of the Scripture, an anecdote or story that captures the truth of the passage, and a short reflection that points to a greater truth about God. The structure of each day ensures that the reader interacts with Scripture, learns a theological truth, and connects that truth to everyday life—all in about 10 minutes.
One of the devotional’s most unique and helpful features is that every day ends with a suggested “practice” to help readers put action to the words they’ve just read. These practices can be as simple as standing outside in the sunshine or as challenging as not touching their phones first thing in the morning.
Additionally, each week ends with a “weekend conversation” exercise, which teenagers can complete with a trusted friend, mentor, parent, or youth pastor (an “alongsider”). During the weekend conversation, Perritt gives teenagers guiding questions to discuss with their alongsiders. This exercise teaches teenagers that they were never meant to navigate the Christian walk alone and that discipleship happens best in the context of a trusted, intimate relationship centered around God’s Word. A relationship with an alongsider also helps ensure that the conversation around social media use is ongoing.
Grace Gets the Final Word
Given how pervasive social media is, Social Media Pressure is sure to convict teenagers of any unhealthy habits they have cultivated on social media. Whether those habits include unkind words typed on a keyboard, lustful scrolling, or idolatrous comparison, teenagers will resonate with the dangers of social media that Perritt explores. And yet, Perritt always makes sure that God’s grace gets the final word. Each day reminds teenagers that they have a God who sees them, loves them, forgives them, and longs to redeem the most shameful and broken parts of them. Perritt’s gracious words, which are really just a rephrasing of Jesus’ words, are sure to leave readers feeling both healthily convicted and assured of Jesus’ love for them. Additionally, Perritt’s vulnerability about his own struggles with social media will help them feel safe, seen, and far from alone.
When I entered youth ministry in 2017, I would have loved a book like Perritt’s to recommend to students at the time. How much more so is this book needed now! Youth ministers could use Social Media Pressure in a small group or one-on-one with a student. It’s a resource to keep on hand as you love and care for students who are learning how to navigate an online world. No matter how you use it, we pray that Social Media Pressure will turn students’ eyes away from the false promises of social media and toward their kind and loving Savior, Jesus Christ.
Want to learn more about discipling teens well with Social Media? Join us for our 2023 Conference in Nashville, TN November 2-4. You’ll have the opportunity to learn from Sarah Zylstra on How to Help Your Child Navigate Social Media in her workshop on Saturday.