By Andy Herndon
Things aren’t what they use to be. It’s a common refrain we hear from time to time. Times are always changing. Advancements in transportation, communication and information technology have made the world a much smaller place.
This week we’re talking about the influence of the media on our teens. This is not a new concept. The influence of media, art and entertainment has for a long time had an influence on culture. Whether the newspaper, theater or TV, they influence us. This isn’t exclusive to the 20th century. William Shakespeare’s work had such a great influence on the culture of the English speaking work it’s believed he invented over 1700 of our common words by changing nouns into verbs, changing verbs into adjectives, connecting words never before used together, adding prefixes and suffixes, and devising words wholly original. (www.shakespeare-online.com/biography/wordsinvented.html)
Knowing that media and art has always influenced us and our culture, it’s no surprise that the same is true of today. There has been a shift though in the last 10 years as to how art, entertainment and media influences us and our teens.
Enter the smart phone.
Now I want to be clear here. This is not a call to abandon your iPhone in exchange for landlines or to completely cut ourselves off from media, art and entertainment. But the advent of the smart phone has brought media into our pockets. Children to senior adults have changed the way they consume media.
What does this mean for our teenagers? From the moment they wake until they fall asleep they are constantly connected. But at what cost? Though I myself very much enjoying the benefits of technology, I’ve come to the realization that I am often too dependent on it. Much is the same for our students, but not in the way you think. This generation appears to be the most connected in history , yet they are very much alone. The world of media has given them a false sense of connection and community. That’s not to say one can not find connection and community online. Though online community can be a supplement to true community, it can’t take the place of it. Much like a vitamin supplement with a balanced healthy diet can enhance your health, no one would ever live off of vitamin supplements alone.
So what do we do as a church to come alongside our students? There is no definite answer. The answer is not opening a snapchat account and start live tweeting our every movement. Friendships and relationships outside of Facebook force us to be vulnerable. This is scary for a teenager or an adult. What we can do is pray and be available for our students. Show them the love of Christ in the community of the church in real life. We can use social media to invite our teens to engage in true community. I would encourage you to find ways to encourage students using technology such as social media. Share those ways with others and use social media as a tool for encouragement.