Technology and Teens
Written by Bob DeAngelo, Pastor of Youth and Outreach
For the last 17 years, I have “enjoyed” a front row seat to the evolution of youth culture…and that includes witnessing the introduction and then the saturation of today’s teens (and younger) with the current landscape of technology. (Yes, I really HAVE been a youth pastor for that long!)
Recently at Friendship Baptist Church, we held a class for parents where we discussed the subject of technology and the effects technology has had on students over the last few years (and adults). We also conversed about strategies to faithfully shepherd our kids and teens in this area of their lives.
Our purpose was to go ahead and actually talk about this expanding universe. From my own observation, from the introduction of the first iPhone in 2007 until just a few years ago, the response of most of us to these mini super computers mostly entailed a combination of awe, maybe a little fear, and the inability of many of us to tear ourselves away from them. Over the last three or so years, there has finally come a wave of pushback – writers and speakers and bloggers first introducing the dangers and negative effects…followed by another larger wave of studies, books, videos, and posts verifying (both scientifically and personally) the not so good side of these incredible devices that are supposed to make our lives better and easier. (As a note, just to be clear, I do believe that smart phones truly are incredible devices. Handled properly, they do add some wonderful conveniences and benefits to our lives.)
So, let me just give you a few headlines from those discussions:
Current Popular Apps among Teens:
1. Facebook – a big part of the lives of many adults; teens left FB 10 years ago.
2. Twitter – certainly has its following among both teens and adults
3. YouTube – Not only can we find images of just about anything…we can also see video…which as a parent is both fascinating…and terrifying to me.
4. Instagram – As adults have discovered, teens have migrated away some…although still popular among teens for sharing pictures and stories.
5. Snapchat – Very popular among teens, people can send images…that “disappear”…and that is another discussion. (As a note, the invention of Snapchat and the motivation behind it…certainly gives cause to consider whether or not this is a good idea…but regardless, Snapchat is a fun way to message and share stories…)
* This is BY NO MEANS an exhaustive list – there of course exists a dizzying array of games, video apps, and other reasons why we can’t put our phones down.
Dangers of Current Technology and Social Media:
2. Connection with people we don’t know…who may be innocent, or who may be a predator
3. Sexting (Statistics say that a pretty high percentage of high school girls will be asked
to “send nudes” during their high school years.)
4. Insomnia – link of smart phone use with the inability to sleep well
5. Mental fatigue and rest – when do our brains actually “shut down”?
6. Bullying – People can be mean. Social media gives those people even more avenues to be mean.
7. Pressure from friends – “You saw my message…why did it take you so long to respond?”
8. Lack of empathy from younger people (see the book Reclaiming Conversation by Sherry Turkle)
9. Addiction – “I will not be brought under the power of any.” – I Corinthians 6:12
Tools that people have found helpful:
1. Disney Circle (www.meetcircle.com)
– Strength: Helps to regulate online connections in your home
– Weakness: Does not help with data connections outside of your home
2. Covenant Eyes (www.covenanteyes.com)
– Strength: Helps with accountability with any internet browser on which the app is installed.
– Weakness: Still working on accountability when it comes to apps. (One person I interviewed uses CE for his internet browser on all devices, and then has an accountability partner when it comes to his apps. He has chosen not to know the password to his devices. His partner does, and so in order for him to download an app, his accountability partner is required to type in the password on his phone.)
3. BARK (www.bark.us)
– Strength: Is very comprehensive (as much as you like and want to arrange settings).
– Weakness: Kids don’t always like it!
Resources for further learning:
1. Teen’s Guide to Social Media by Jonathan McKee
– Written for teens, but also very beneficial for adults. I would not give it to a teen without first working through it is a parent, due to some of the sensitive content – needed…but you will want to know what your teens are learning before you hand to them.
2. The Tech Wise Family by Andy Crouch
– Gives practical ways in which families can be intentional about their use of technology.
3. 12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You by Tony Reinke and John Piper
– A “pushback” book. The writer examines some of the effects of technology in a straightforward manner.
4. Reclaiming Conversation by Sherry Turkle
– Studies and interviews with young adults in particular detailing the effects of technology on a number of arenas of our current world – family, friendship, romance, education, work, and our own thought processes.
I trust this information is helpful to some. If I can ever be of help to you – send me an email…or text me…or DM me on FB or Instagram…or even better, do something drastically different such as calling me or stopping by.
Ultimately, as we parent the children God has given and entrusted to us, the most important actions that we can pursue are dependence on God and the investing in relationship. Nothing, no tool, no “strategy”…can replace having a relationship with your sons and daughters. As Solomon wrote so wisely in Proverbs, “My son (or daughter), give me thine heart.”
Like just about anything, our current world of technology is absolutely incredible and, in so many ways, very beneficial. But if not handled properly, technology can also take over our lives in very negative ways. May God give each of us the wisdom to utilize the benefits, while managing it properly and minimizing the negatives.