Using Social Media in the Bathroom. Yikes!

Kara Powell | Dec 4, 2012

I remember the first time I heard someone use a cell phone in a public bathroom stall. It was at Los Angeles Airport about ten years ago.

According to a new study by Nielsen, smartphone use in bathrooms is not all that unusual anymore. Nearly one-third (32%) of the heaviest adopters of social networks — meaning those ages 18 to 24— connect with sites such as Facebook and Twitter in the bathroom.

As one of the individuals who commissioned the research commented, "Social media is truly everywhere in people's lives...It is so ingrained and has touched every facet of everything we do all day long. We are literally taking our phones with us to the bathroom and connecting on social media."

The data seems to suggest (not surprisingly) that younger social media users are more likely to do so, which means those of us who care about young people can consider the following:

  1. Talk with teenagers you know about their technology use, including when and where they use it. You might want to say something like, "I read recently that 1/3 of heavy social media users text, tweet, and Facebook in the bathroom. What do you think about that?" Often with teenagers, it's a good idea to use an outside source of information (i.e., something you read or heard about) as a way to open the conversation.
  2. Decide yourself what boundaries you'd like to set with your smart phone use. Hopefully you're complying with legal restrictions about phone usage (i.e., no texting while driving) but what other boundaries would you like to set? Decide and then communicate those to the children and teenagers in your lives.
  3. Consider how we give ourselves and others dignity (or take it away) by our media habits. Is it different to use social media in the bathroom than in the bedroom or in public places? What about talking on the phone? In your own life, and in your conversations with young people, consider the ways your actions foster a sense of dignity for yourself as well as those on the other end of social media.

Kara Powell

Dr. Kara Powell is the Executive Director of the Fuller Youth Institute (FYI), a faculty member at Fuller Theological Seminary, and Fuller's Chief of Leadership Formation. Named by Christianity Today as one of “50 Women You Should Know,” Kara serves as a Youth and Family Strategist for Orange, and also speaks regularly at parenting and leadership conferences. Kara is the author or coauthor of a number of books, including Growing Young, Growing With, The Sticky Faith Guide for Your Family, Sticky Faith Curriculum, Can I Ask That?, Deep Justice Journeys, Deep Justice in a Broken World, Deep Ministry in a Shallow World, and the Good Sex Youth Ministry Curriculum. Kara lives with her husband Dave and their three children, Nathan, Krista, and Jessica, in Southern California.

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