Recently, Pastor Jeremy and I have had a few provocative discussions in different settings regarding technology and its use among young people in particular. I’ve been in conversation with a professional in the technology field and I wanted to share with this individual a sort of summary of some of our recent conversations and experiences.
Technology Conversations are Profitable
The conversation on technology was very profitable for parents who attended. It was actually a deep issue with strong feelings by many parents. Many parents wonder how to navigate in a world where they are not as much “digital natives” as their kids. For instance, many parents feel naive and overwhelmed by what their kids do on the computer, phone, iPad, and what those devices are capable of. Some parents even cried as they shared of their kids addictive behaviors. Not knowing how to handle and manage their child’s cravings to be online, but they see it impacting their child’s relationships in unhealthy ways. One parent with tears in her eyes asked if we could meet regularly as a support group. And, we want to keep resourcing these parents, encouraging them and helping to support them in doing what’s proper and right for their kids. All of this was so encouraging.
A Seeming Lack of Concern for these Growing Technology Issues
The second observation, and less encouraging, was how few people attended the two meetings we had. We have a church of 500 and have probably 200 kids involved in youth and children’s ministry weekly. Yet, there were only about 12 parents combined at both of the parent meetings. So, we are concerned with the lack of parental knowledge and support regarding an issue that is arguably the biggest issue daily in the home (at least in my house it is: TV usage, computer usage, wanting a phone, wanting a video game system, etc).
About 1/2 of the parents who attended have very good boundaries in place for their kids use of technology, but the other 1/2 had little to none. Some parents didn’t even know that their child’s iPhone had Internet capabilities! So, there is a need to establish basic understandings of what devices are capable of and also a need to speak about wisdom in helping to set and manage appropriate boundaries. We’ve thought about offering this conversation to the entire community hoping that more parents will become educated and better parents as a result.
Technology Ethics are Largely Missing Among our Young People
Pastor Jeremy (youth pastor) and I also met with about 30 boys from 6-12 grades one night at youth group and talked about technology and pornography. The group of kids is a pretty balanced cross-section of kids from our community. Many of the kids in our youth group aren’t “church kids” in the sense that their parents attend church. Others who come have parents who are active and engaged in their faith. Jeremy and I shared from our own lives some of the dangers and pitfalls of pornography and how the accessibility, affordability of pornography has changed over the past 20 years. Little surprise, almost all present (except maybe one or two) had had exposure to porn on the Internet. Several shared that it just “pops up” on sites when I’m playing an online game or on Facebook. When we asked the group, whose watching you when you are online, the group was genuinely confused. Some rightly answered “God”….but then the answers were “the government?” “Obama?” “Internet History?” Of course, what we were looking to hear that “my mom and dad” are watching or are overseeing my Internet use. I was shocked that no one answered that. Parents are not as involved as they think they are, and kids, generally speaking, are not being monitored. It’s a scary thing for a ninth grade boy to have the “world” at his fingertips with little to no accountability.
Pornography and Indifference
The other interesting observation is that while most of these kids have their own phone and most admitted to viewing pornography on these devices, the kids seemed reluctant to talk about the issue. Some of them seemed almost unable to have the wisdom or maturity to think about how porn distorts our view of women and of sex. I just remember in my growing up years that if a man at youth group was going to give a “sex” talk I was all ears. Yet, lots of these kids seemed pretty indifferent. Almost like “been there, done that”. Yet, when I asked the group how many of your dads have talked with you about sex, only a few hands went up. It makes me concerned about who is teaching these kids about sex? Is it the wise elders in the community or the porn industry? We were a little taken back by the whole evening, and I just left thinking to myself that most of these kids just lack the maturity to even think and talk about sex as young men. Yet, at the same time they are being schooled in the digital fantasy world that undermines women and cheapens the sacred bond of sex. It’s concerning.
So, my observations since we last talked are:
1) We all struggle with appropriate and wise use of technology, but often we don’t want to admit it.
2) Kids don’t always have the examples they need in the home/classroom/church, etc. of adults modelling wise and appropriate mastery over technology. And, I believe this is hurting our kids.
I don’t have any recommendations at this point, only observations. I know that there is a need for more prudence and wisdom on the parts of parents, teachers and students alike. But, we need to start with adults in our community. We need to grow in wisdom and discernment in how we wield technology.
I wanted to share this with you because I sensed that you really desire to see technology used wisely and for it to serve us, instead of us serving it.