Thursday, May 10, 2012

Technology and Kids. . . Good? Bad? Ugly? . . .

The Millennial Teenager
Courtesy of: Online Schools

Yesterday this infographic on "The Millennial Teenager" was making the rounds. My buddy Doug Fields posted it over on his blog. I gave it a quick look over there and was curious as to how Doug's commenters were responding to his multi-faceted question: "What do we do about this reality? Curse it? Figure out how to maximize it? Ignore it? What do you think?"

I immediately flashed back to a great "technology scene" involving Doug that's still making me laugh out loud. We were in Dallas a couple of months ago and I was at the wheel. Doug, Marv Penner, and Duffy Robbins were in the car.
We had to get from the Chick-Fil-A to our hotel. Keep in mind that all three of these guys love their iPhones, are romantically involved with Siri, and are highly suspicious of my use of a three-year-old Blackberry. Keep in mind that they know that I'm looking to upgrade, and I've been soliciting opinions on whether to go with an Android device or an iPhone. Being the good salesmen that they are, they simultaneously began to engage Siri through their iPhones, asking her for directions to the hotel. Listening to them all at once struck me as funny. But when she began to answer all three differently at the same time. . . that was even funnier. Of course, their continued simultaneous efforts to engage her in conversation. . . . well. . . . I wish I had had an Android device with me to video the whole thing. Eventually, we found the hotel. But I digress. . .

Back to the infographic and Doug's question. I rifled through the comments and took some time to respond to Kolby Milton and his suggestion that we embrace technology. I more or less challenged Kolby, suggesting that we proceed carefully, cautiously, and selectively. Kolby was more than gracious in his response and what's resulted is the kind of good-hearted and thoughtful dialogue that we need to have on this stuff.

It's no secret that I feel strongly about technology. There's more to it all than just the utilitarian aspect. This stuff and how we use might make life easier and more interesting. . . and even funny (yep, I'm thinking about those guys in the car again). But as Neil Postman has said, "The consequences of technological change are always vast, often unpredictable, and largely irreversible." And we never realize that until it's way too late. That's why we've got to be thinking hard and moving slowly on the front end. Isn't that the benefit of knowing and studying history?

As people raising children (parents, grandparents, etc.) and as people in ministry (youth workers, pastors, counselors, teachers, etc.), we need to be on our toes and on guard in big ways. If we are ignorant to the fact that - yes - there can and will be downsides to technology, we're doing nothing but throwing our kids to the wolves. Want some proof? Just take some time to read a post I wrote after a trip to the local college library back in August. Do you think the librarian is on to something?

Today, I want to encourage you to do four things. . . or at least begin to do three things.

First, take a good long look at the infographic. Study it hard. Use your mind to dig deeply beneath the facts that are visualized. Then ponder this question: "Where are these realities leading?" Go ahead and think ahead.

Second, take some time to check out the online home of our new Digital Kids Initiative here at CPYU.  This is where I'm doing some of my thinking out loud. We've already put lots of good stuff on there and there's more in the works. Keep checking out http://www.digitalkidsinitiative.com/

Third, take 18 minutes and check out this TED talk from Sherry Turkle. Well worth your time.



And finally, would you commit to reading Tim Challies'  great book, The Next Story: Life and Faith After the Digital Explosion. I can't emphasize enough how vital and important this book is. Challies reminds us that we usually form our opinions and make our decisions on technology only at the level of our experience. That's dangerous. What we need to do is evaluate our experience in light of 1) theology, and 2) theory. God has spoken on these things. God's also given us wise theorists who are asking good questions and doing good research. And where the three spheres of theology, theory, and experience overlap. . . well. . . Challies calls that the "sweet spot" of "disciplined discernment."

Are any of you wrestling with this stuff? If so, what are you learning? Am I barking up the wrong tree here? Should I go with an Android or iPhone?






6 comments:

kolby milton said...

Thanks Walt for the shout out! I appreciate it. I will watch that video and read Challies' book. What you are doing with the digital kids initiative is important for the youth ministry conversation on the digital world we find ourselves in.

Also, get an iphone 4s!

Daniel said...

Wow. After watching that TED Talk, I feel kinda weird even commenting... But this is definitely something the church needs to do a better job of addressing.

Challies' book was very convicting and insightful. I've used his and Shane Hipps' material in teaching a class about technology at a youth rally. The response was incredible. The teens ate it up! They had NEVER been challenged to think about and process the very technologies they use daily.

One thing Mrs. Turkle said was really interesting - we think that being alone is a problem that needs to be solved. If we can't be alone, then we will become lonely - and there is a difference.

It just brings me back to Psalm 46:10, "Be still and know that I am God." How many times have we simply stopped, unplugged, and embraced the presence of God in our lives? Or is it becoming to much to simply be still?

Walt Mueller said...

Kolby. . . I knew I'd get that iPhone vote from you. Daniel. . . good stuff. Your comment serves as a strong reminder to say and the hard things with kids. And don't think that other people are saying what needs to be said. I don't want my kids to say I NEVER told them about something. Would love to hear more about your seminar.

square peg believer said...

I thought the video was incredibly thought-provoking! I needed it. I am embarrassed to admit that I started checking my email during it. If it's hard for me to stay focused and be present without distraction, I can only imagine how hard it is for our youth!

Ray said...

I've been leading a Sunday School class on C.S. Lewis' Mere Christianity and one of the things stressed in the book is the intimacy God wants with us. After listening to Sherry's video, you have to wonder how technology is affecting our relationship to God. If we're having issues with intimacy with each other, no doubt it can affect our heavenly one too.

So, time to unplug and go play some UNO with my kids.

Walt Mueller said...

Ray. . . that's the kind of insight we need, especially as we listen to the wisdom of those who have gone before us. Voices like those of Lewis were wise then. . . perhaps even wiser now. I believe God gives us "prophets" like Lewis who continually tap us on our shoulder long after they're gone, reminding us to "wake up people!"