Heathdale flower 08th March 2024

Navigating Identity in a Social Media Age

Explore the essential aspects of identity development and the challenges faced by today's young people, alongside practical steps to foster a healthy sense of self amidst societal pressures.

Heathdale flower

Two core purposes of our school are to keep students safe and foster the development of their identity. At Heathdale, we acknowledge and celebrate that individual identity is created by God and is best discovered in relationship with Him. We understand that a child’s discovery of their identity best occurs within their immediate relationships, be they family, or close community. I acknowledge that occasionally the ravages of sin and unmet expectations present challenges in this process; however, we do find solace, healing and respect within the boundaries of those we love the most.

In a very real sense, we unfold our future self from the inside out. Educational literature refers to this as identifying and developing dispositions. These latent skills are described as potential. A child might not enjoy or seem ‘natural’ at their first swimming practice, but two days later at their first ever baseball practice they are engaged, comparatively skillful, and seem to understand the way to play the game. When these tendencies are developed, we rightly refer to them as a capability. This disposition towards playing in an under-age team needs a great deal more refining before playing major league baseball, but it is easily identifiable.

Some other dispositions might be less naturally exposed in young people, but they are none-the-less essential to develop. A simple but universal example is manners. Parents particularly need to drill ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ to be a habit. Courtesy might not be a natural ability, but through training, admonishment and encouragement it is fostered into a habit.

Comparison is one of the significant ‘enemies’ to developing a healthy understanding of identity. Considering our reasonable talents in comparison to the prodigious talent of another may easily cause discouragement. Conversely, we foster an unpleasant pride if we compare ourselves too favourably to others.

Your child’s social media activity exposes them to unreasonable comparison and dangerous criticism. The research is clear, that whilst there are some benefits from social media, the impact on children and adolescents is overwhelmingly negative. Recent research has confirmed that 7 out of 10 girls advised they have been victims of cyber-bullying. Social media has been confirmed to increase feelings of depression by 70%, promote anxiety, and that it is more addictive than cigarettes and alcohol.[1]

My request of you is two-fold:

1. Please encourage your child to limit their presence on, and involvement with, social media.

2. Please affirm with your child a process whereby they guard their heart (Proverbs 4:3) from the insidious elements that inhibit the development of a healthy identity.

We are the community that surrounds our children, and it is vital to their health and well-being that we afford them the advice that protects them.