I just finished reading Logged On and Tuned Out by Vicki Courtney. This last year I’ve been reading more books in regards to parenting. Not because of my own need to parent (however, doing research for the future never hurts), but so that I can be a resource to the many parents that I come in contact with. I find it hard to recommend a book I haven’t read, so I’ve been trying to read more about parenting so I can be accurate in my recommendations. Children’s ministry really is like parenting on a minor scale. I get the privilege to love on and encourage the kids of Bethel Church in their faith. I find that I get a lot out of these books as it relates to my ministry and how to lead children well.
I really felt compelled to read Logged On and Tuned Out because I know just how deeply technology is effecting the next generation. Even Monday night at the Mariner’s game, I overheard that one of the boys was text messaging his girlfriend who lives on the other side of the country. I’m not sure how her parents felt about her getting text messages at midnight (her time). Things like cell phones and social network sites are a hot topic among kids and parents. It seems that the kids are begging for them and parents are either cautious or caving.
The one downside to this book is that it was written in 2007. These were the days of MySpace and Facebook was only starting to come on strong. I didn’t even have a Facebook in 2007. I had a MySpace page at that time and I transferred to Facebook in 2008. Not everything from the book is still the same today with how quickly technology adapts and changes. However, the book does have some good ground rules for cell phone use, instant messaging and social networks.
Even today, Facebook finally made me update to the new timeline. I’ve been successfully holding out until the end. Change is inevitable. I knew it was coming and still I resisted until the end. Parents have to careful not be like me and hold out until the last possible second to embrace these changes. The truth of the matter is that kids are going to have access to these things regardless and it’s better that responsible adults are riding the wave of change with them.
Only recently (within the last year) have I started thinking about social networking and what I’ll do when my students want to add me as their friends. I made a decision which I should have made from the start – I will not “friend” anyone who isn’t old enough to be the site. Personally, I don’t think that parents should let their students lie to join a social network. If lying about their age is a part of the process, I cannot condone the behavior. Parents shouldn’t assume that their kid won’t get on Facebook without permission. It’s important to keep an eye on their online activity. Vicki Courtney mentions in the book some great online monitoring software that she uses to stay up to date on what her kids are doing. It’s not about stalking the kids, it’s about making sure that they are safe and using good judgment. Trust is built over time and can be easily lost. When students know they will be checked in on, it’s helps keep them from making poor choices.
Cell phones are next big thing we talk a lot about in children’s ministry. It seems like every kid has one and wants to have it with them at all times. This hard on a field trip (like to the zoo or a Mariner’s game) where the point to be spending time with the other students and leaders while be actively engaged in an activity. Students tune out with that screen in front of them. Suddenly they are doing something that can be done at the couch at home and they are no longer in the moment with the rest of the group. While cell phones and texting allows them to connect with friends, it causes them to disengaged where they are at that time. We have a no cell phone policy on our trips and at our events. It’s becoming harder for both kids and parents to understand this as we become a cell phone dependent culture. It’s hard to believe that I got a cell phone at age 16 and I had to share it with my sister. I got my own phone at 18 and I didn’t have a text messaging plan until I was 20. Now I’m an unlimited text messager and I can’t imagine my life without my smart phone.
I’m not sure where the line is for students. I’m not fit to make that call for families. The biggest thing I want to see is that families are having conversations about this. I want to see parents monitoring their kids technology usage and setting firm boundaries. It’s so easy to give into the “everyone has one” plea of a child. I understand that tension. In a day and age where common sense doesn’t seem to be common anymore, I’m praying that parents will help guide and shape this kids to be responsible with what they’ve got. Kids will not automatically know how much is too much or how far is too far. We must be a gentle but firm voice guiding them to make the right choices.