“We used to hang out at the local ice-cream shop or cruise the main drag.”
“Where do students hang out these days?”
That was the question asked to me by a MT pastor recently as we discussed youth ministry. After swapping stories about where we hung out in our teen years, I offered to show this pastor where students hang out today. That’s when I reached in my pocket, pulled out my smartphone and said, “This is where students hang out today … on their phones.”
And it makes perfect sense:
- Why bother going somewhere to hang out with friends when they can do that on their phone?
- Why limit themselves to a few people in a room when they have their whole contact list available online?
- Why rely on their friends to be funny in person when there’s no end to the funny cat videos on YouTube?
- In other words, why risk being bored?
But study after study on the effects of technology in our relationships continue to suggest that boredom is exactly what young people (and adults) need more of. Teresa Belton, Visiting Fellow at the School of Education & Lifelong Learning writes, “Just letting the mind wander from time to time is important, it seems, for everybody’s mental wellbeing and functioning. The apparent stifling effect of watching TV/devices on imagination is a concern, as imagination is important. Not only does it enrich personal experience, it is also necessary for empathy – imagining ourselves in someone else’s shoes…” Teresa includes great practical ways to get the most out of moments of boredom here: How kids can benefit from boredom.
Imagination isn’t the only casualty of being over-connected. Basic manners get thrown out as well. We seem to enjoy commanding Siri to, “Play music!” or “Get directions” without a “please” or “thank you.” Twitter’s 140-character limit doesn’t leave much room for pleasantries and MEME’s certainly don’t either. Being rude to your phone won’t hurt its feelings; it doesn’t have any. But that habit might creep into your interactions with real people. Check out this list to see if you or your students are deficient in one of these, 5 Skills That Tech Might Be Eroding (and What to Do About It)
Now, before you smash your kid’s phone and tell them to, “Go play with a stick or something!” realize that smartphones are here to stay and your students need your guidance to balance the digital connection and the physical in-person connection if they’re going to succeed in life. What kind of example are we setting for them? When was the last time you were bored?
For more resources on parenting teens and balancing tech use contact Next-Gen Director Adam Burt at 406-672-5532 or firstname.lastname@example.org.