Though Netflix has shown terrible judgment with some of its content, The Social Dilemma is a must-watch for parents and their teenage children.
Starting with the slogan: “The social media that connects us also polarizes /distracts /monetizes /divides /controls /manipulates us,” this documentary hits hard on the risks and downsides of social media engagement. One interview after another with tech developers reveals the evolution of social media as a slippery slope leading to ramifications these innovators did not see coming. The documentary alternates real-life interviews with a fictional story of a family grappling with tech addictions in two of their three children. This chilling sentence flashes across the screen: ” There are only two industries that call their customers ‘users:’ illegal drugs and software.”
The effect is provocative and dramatic, but it is an important reality we must face: our children are growing up in a world that is significantly different than the world we knew as teens. One tech developer, who at one time had been CEO of Pintrest, recognized his own tech addiction when he came home to two sons clamoring for his attention-and he found himself hiding in the pantry to scroll on his phone. Even knowing what what was “going on behind the curtain (of algorithms designed to control consumers), I still wasn’t able to control my usage.”
As a parent, I would suggest watching it yourself or with your spouse before watching it with your teens. Develop a strategy about how you’d like to handle the information you learn before watching it with your kids, who are likely to resist the warnings the documentary imparts.
One important caution: watching the documentary can be downright frightening. As Christians who trust in an Almighty God who is far more powerful than both the internet and human potential for sin, we remember that “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” (2 Timothy 2:7) Rather than fearing smart phones and social media, Christian parents can exercise discernment, directing their children to wise and age-appropriate engagement with our technological age.
The latest Thanos to Theos podcast episode is also about the Social Dilemma and we recommend listening to this after watching the documentary. Also check out TGC’s article “Why the Social Dilemma Matters,” and “The Social Dilemma and the Bigger Dilemma.”