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What You Can Do About the Identity Cyber Effects, 2.0

What You Can Do about the Identity Cyber Effect 2.0

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One of the most potent effects of the second fiddle phenomenon happens in a child’s life when he grows into an adult. The young teen is transitioning from kid to adult. He’s different in every way. It’s a frightful time for many of these children. Their bodies are changing. They’re starting to sound differently. Their desires and habits are changing. They look different and are insecure as they begin to wonder who they are. The transitioning child significantly depends on others at this crucial age regarding identity formation.

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Will You Like Me?

He measures those around him to see if they approve or disapprove of him. The opinions of other people have a transforming impact on how he thinks of himself. The family is his most potent shaping influence in helping him think biblically about himself. For example, if the father is angry or distant, it will adversely impact the child’s view of himself. The angry father makes a value statement about his child: “I don’t like you.” The passive dad says something similar: “You’re not worthy of my attention.”

An unstable marriage also fosters insecurity in the children as they try to cope with their parent’s dysfunction. God created these children in His image, which comes with a “baked in the cake” desire for communal connection and acceptance. The Trinity is the divine, eternal community, and we are like them (Genesis 1:27). Teens want to benefit from the Imago Dei, which makes community and acceptance a crucial aspect of their ongoing maturity. These kids are only asking one question: “Will you accept me?” If the answer is “no,” the child’s identity will form around a presuppositional filter of rejection.

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If he is not benefiting from an accepting, loving community within his familial structure, social media platforms become the instant reflex for his unmet and legitimate desires. Ironically, central to all these platforms is the “like” button. The obvious point for the craving soul is that you can calculate other people’s opinions of you by the number of “likes” you receive. Some will argue that they only check to see if the post or pic is popular. Please don’t dismiss the subtleties of our evil hearts. This problem is what makes the selfie so tempting and dangerous. The primary point of the selfie is what it says about the person in the picture, the selfie-taker. Once uploaded, the selfie-taker checks, rechecks, and checks again to see who liked the picture. Or, to state the issue more accurately, who liked them? The question is not primarily about liking the image but, “Will you like me?” The selfie is the vanity mirror in the bathroom moved to the public square, covertly asking you for your opinion of them, which you provide by your likes and comments.

It’s a warning to every parent, teacher, mentor, and other authority figure who influences a teen’s life. Don’t assume the Internet is innocuous or that your child is naive. Neither is true. The Internet is a “net” that captures souls. The Adamic tendencies of shame, guilt, and fear are active in every soul, including the struggling teen who is looking for someone to accept them. Suppose the teenager is part of a loving, encouraging, admonishing, and repenting family that trains them up biblically (Deuteronomy 6:4-9). This temptation will be minimal because he does not need other people or places to shape his identity. But it will be different for the child in a dysfunctional home, whose primary shaping influences are electronic devices and social media.

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Call to Action

  1. Why is the transitional period between childhood and adulthood so crucial? What happens to children physically and spiritually during this time?
  2. As these kids transition, why must parents be there for them, helping them cross the great divide from child to adult?
  3. How would a dysfunctional marriage or home motivate a child to find perceived safety in other places, and why is the Internet a likely candidate for refuge?
  4. If your home has not been a haven of shalom and stability, what one change will you make to be a harbinger of peace and security?
  5. Perhaps it would be wise to go to your child and discuss identity formation. If so, will you do it?

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