How Should I Help a Teenager Using Social Media Inappropriately?

Answered by Shaykh Abdullah Anik Misra

Question

A close cousin of mine was caught by his school misusing an iPad. He had been on Snapchat and TikTok commenting bad things on girl’s posts. His mum told me that out of seeking help and expressing her worry. I first feared backbiting but may have stayed thinking it’s about helping him. I have a close relationship with him (he is about 14).

I don’t know what his comments said and the nature of them, but his mum wants me to help, i.e., tell him not to hang out with those encouraging this and speak to him. What shall I do?

Answer

In the Name of Allah, Most Merciful and Compassionate

My advice for this problem can be addressed from a few different angles. They include:

  1. recommending parents to moderate internet usage, in the amount, times, content viewed, and what is accessible,
  2. coaching the teen on a decent use of the platforms and what to avoid,
  3. trying to make friends who focus on religion and education more, usually from families that care for their children’s upbringing closely,
  4. you continue to be an empathetic and laid-back example and mentor to him without lecturing or preaching too much,
  5. talking to him about futuwwa, or Islamic sacred manhood.

Moderating Internet Usage and Exposure

One thing to look at is the unbridled use of the internet and social media. The mother should take this time to understand the dangers of unrestricted internet access, look into mutually discussing a limit of social media (especially visual-based applications), and look into parental software (like Kaspersky) to at least put into the teen’s mind that they should not visit inappropriate sites. IPads and computers can be used as needed, not unrestricted, or the curiosity and hormones of youth will eventually land them into problematic viewing unless they are very disciplined.

Allah Most High says, “And be conscious of Allah to the extent that you are able.” [Quran, 64:16]

Keep Good Friends and Find Halal Alternatives

The second thing to realize is that this is not necessarily limited to the traditional problem of a bad group of friends at school. Personal devices and social media have enabled the bad company to come into the home, and there may be very little outside influence causing that-we don’t know. So an awareness of the dangers and moral problems of the internet has to be personally understood by this young man, so he chooses to govern his behavior himself. If there are boys at school who are deeper into this, he should distance himself from them.

Yes, keeping company with practicing people helps, as well as bringing him into more practicing environments, but his age and maturity have to be kept in mind. He needs peers his age and fun alternative activities to do that get him offline, while not always being explicitly religious or strict and boring. Making friends with families with upright children helps too.

The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “A man is upon the religious practice of the one he takes as a close friend; so let each of you look carefully at whom they are close friends with.” [Abu Dawud]

Continue to Be a Laid-Back and Supportive Mentor

The best thing you can do is be a mentor and close friend, limit talking about religion but model wholesome Islamic values and manliness to him. Continue to go out to eat, and hang out. If the topic comes up, maybe discuss this with him without appearing to condemn or judge him.

Islamic Sacred Manhood and Chivalry

Finally, teaching Islamic chivalry (futuwwa), namely a spiritual manliness that eschews disrespect for women and their objectification, is the best way to acknowledge that there will be an attraction to and arousal by seeing the opposite gender, but how we react to or indulge those feelings is what determines true strength and honor (even when being marketed and provoked willingly from the other side). See Imam Dawud Walid’s new book “Futuwwah and Raising Males Into Sacred Manhood.”

Other than that, this is a test of this day and age, and praying for our youth, and giving them meaningful connections, realistic strategies and enjoyable alternatives are what we can do while seeking Allah’s help and protection.

Wassalam,

[Shaykh] Abdullah Anik Misra
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Abdul-Rahim Reasat

Shaykh Abdullah Anik Misra was born in Toronto, Canada, in 1983. His family hails from India, and he was raised in the Hindu tradition. He embraced Islam in 2001 while at the University of Toronto, from where he completed a Bachelor of Business Administration. He then traveled overseas in 2005 to study the Arabic language and Islamic sciences in Tarim, Yemen, for some time, as well as Darul Uloom in Trinidad, West Indies. He spent 12 years in Amman, Jordan, where he focused on Islamic Law, Theology, Hadith Sciences, Prophetic Biography, and Islamic Spirituality while also working at the Qasid Arabic Institute as Director of Programs. He holds a BA in Islamic Studies (Alimiyya, Darul Uloom) and authorization in the six authentic books of Hadith and is currently pursuing specialized training in issuing Islamic legal verdicts (ifta’). He holds a certificate in Counselling and often works with new Muslims and those struggling with religious OCD. He is an instructor and researcher in Sacred Law and Theology with the SeekersGuidance The Global Islamic Seminary. Currently, He resides in the Greater Toronto Area with his wife and children. His personal interests include Indian history, comparative religion, English singing, and poetry.