The connection technology provides can be used as a great tool for ministry, but the overuse common in our culture is making students feel isolated. Today’s students have never known a world without easily accessible technology.
How do you train the next generation to live biblically in all things, including technology?
Teach students to navigate life in a biblical way, including with their technology use. Technology cannot be avoided, so we must teach students how to use it for glorifying God.
Isolation in students:
Students now connect only through technology, thus isolating themselves. The fear of missing out (FOMO) on social networking causes them to lose the ability to be in the moment right now. Students feel burdened or pressured to stay connected, while starving for authentic face-to-face interactions. They are addicted, and they may not admit it at first, but they want help. Students do not have the skills to break away on their own.
Research from Screen Education (screeneducation.org):
Students admit their phones are hurting them in a number of areas: Productivity – 35% say that they find themselves not doing something they should be doing because they are on their phone. Some students find that being on their phone even prevents them from doing the things they want to do. Socializing – 50% of students find that even when they get together face-to-face with their friends, they are still on their devices and not talking with each other. This frustrates them. Sleep – 80% of students say they spend time on their phones between going to bed and falling asleep, anywhere from a few minutes to several hours.
Students want help: 65% wish they had a greater ability to self-limit their time on their devices. 25% of students wish someone would help them limit their time on their devices.
You don’t have to convince students that this is a problem. Give them the tools to fix it.
Camps are a device free zone, making them the last place teens are unplugged for extended periods of time. For the first two days, new campers often feel lost without their devices, but by day three, they begin engaging in camp. Students hang out, talk, laugh, and play games outside without the interruption of their devices. Students are often nervous about getting their phones back at the end of the week. They know they will feel compelled to get back into the toxic environment of social media and lose what God has done in their life at camp. They know they would never have met so many friends and had so many great conversations about the Lord if they had had their phones with them.
How to help students navigate technology use:
Work through it together. A lot of kids see the addiction in their parents, so be the example.
Set the parameters together. Have open and honest conversations about how you all can navigate technology as a family: Talk about how your approach to the world is different when technology is not immediately accessible. Talk about how technology can be used for either sin or for glorifying God. Is there addiction, idolatry, etc. in how you all use technology?
Axis (axis.org) provides resources for parents on how to have family discussions about devices, what protective softwares to use, etc. .
Throughout history, the older generation would teach the younger generation how to use tools, but now the younger generation is teaching the older generation how to use today’s technology. However, students do not have the spiritual, emotional, or psychological maturity to handle the information technology presents. They may know more about the device, but they still need the older generation to teach them about the reality of the world. The older generation cannot abdicate the responsibility of fathering, leading and setting the example.
What can we do as youth leaders?
Anytime you can engage in a face-to-face relationship with students, you are giving them something we know biblically that we need. Technology has just made it more evident.
Model a biblical lifestyle and worldview in all areas of life. Do not be on your phone when you could be connecting with kids and building authentic relationships. It is healthy for you too. Do not forget to challenge yourself on your own use of technology.
Teach students to be critical thinkers and discern sources, so they can effectively navigate through the overwhelming amount of information technology presents.
Youth leadership teams should work out an approach towards technology that is best for their ministry. There is no one, right way but stick to your plan. (Axis may have resources that can help.) Once you have a plan, inform the parents so they do not feel disconnected.
Learning to navigate technology is an opportunity to live out God’s truth and be an example for students. As Deuteronomy teaches, we are to love God with our all and teach our children in every moment. Leaders need to be living biblically, so students can come alongside them and navigate technology together as the Body of Christ.
For more information on Word of Life Camps, go to wol.org.