Adolescent Research: Teens Who Use Social Media Are More Likely to “Pick and Choose” Faith Beliefs

Teens who use social media are exposed to a wide variety of faith and values expressions from friends and those they follow. In a culture that places high value on tolerance and acceptance, and have peers who regularly hold non-traditional beliefs and values, it appears that today’s teenagers are more likely to embrace a syncretic approach to their own belief systems.

A recent study appearing in the journal Sociological Perspectives suggests that teenagers who use social media are more likely to employ a “pick-and-choose” style for their beliefs than peers who do not use social media. Most recent data indicates that about eight in ten teens today use social media. The researchers determined that social media users were 50 to 80 percent more likely to be open to a variety of religious beliefs and practices.

Lead researcher Paul K. McClure, of Baylor University said, “…the Facebook effect is that all spiritual options become commodities and resources that individuals can tailor to meet their needs.”

Consequently, teens who use social media are less likely to feel beholden to the faith in which they were raised and are more likely to take bits and pieces from other religions that they find are a good fit for them personally.

What Can Parents Do?
• Engage your kids frequently in morals, values, and faith conversations. These discussions help to transfer, build, and cement your teen’s belief system. The stronger their understanding of and commitment to being a Christ-follower, the less likely she or he will “pick-and-choose” from other religious beliefs and practices.

• Make your home a safe place for your teens to talk about faith issues. Don’t belittle or lecture them during the typical adolescent season of faith development where they have a lot of questions and doubts. Walk alongside them and provide them with supportive encouragement. Take the role of a fellow-learner instead of a teacher by helping them find the answers to their questions.

• Surround your kids with plenty of healthy role models for faith. Of course, your kids are watching your example, but give them more! Let them rub shoulders with other Christ-followers — both adults and peers – who you know provide healthy examples of integrity, authenticity, and faith.

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Jim Liebelt

Jim Liebelt

Jim is Senior Writer, Editor and Researcher for HomeWord. Jim has over 35 years of experience as a youth and family ministry specialist, having served over the years as a pastor, author, consultant, mentor, trainer, college instructor, and speaker. Jim’s HomeWord culture blog also appears on Crosswalk.com and Religiontoday.com. Jim and his wife Jenny live in Quincy, MA.

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