A few months back I was contacted by Jennifer Bradbury at Youth Worker Journal about doing an interview on teens & technology. I’ve done a number of articles for Immerse, but this was the first thing I’ve done for YWJ, and it was fun for me. When the arrived at the YS offices I made sure everyone saw that my name was on the cover… and no one cared. My own children just kind of shrugged their shoulders. I’m big time in my own mind and I suppose that’s all that matters. Megan, my 9 year old, told me that I wasn’t a big deal unless I did a book signing at Barnes & Nobles. At least I have that to shoot for now.
Also in this panel discussion were 3 smarter people than I. Shane Hipps, (Mars Hill, Grand Rapids) Mark Bauerlein, (Emory University) and Peggy Kendall. (Bethel University)
Here’s my portion of the interview. Read the others responses here. I’d love your thoughts in the comments.
YouthWorker Journal: How is technology shaping young people’s spiritual lives?
Adam McLane: Technology always has shaped spiritual lives. What we’ve seen has been a change in devices that’s affected how people grow spiritually. People are involved in conversations via texts and Facebook that have devalued the interpersonal relationship.
YWJ: Which aspects of technology are most important to teens?
Adam: As they look for their own identities, teenagers tend to be attracted to things they can personalize—Twitter, My Space, Facebook. Those become extensions of their personalities.
YWJ: How do Facebook and social networking influence teens’ understanding of their identity?
Adam: It feeds our nature to self-gratify. Adolescents hunger to find out who they are from a third person perspective. Social networking gives them a false perspective. People are flippant on Facebook. It’s hard to distinguish between a compliment and what’s sarcastic.
YWJ: How does the information that teens have access to through technology impact their understanding of authority?
Adam: We should train students constantly to question authority in respectful ways. Technology allows truth to be validated because students can look it up.
YWJ: If much of technology results in instant gratification, how can we teach kids the value of waiting?
Adam: We have no concept of perseverance or what it means to wait. We get upset when we can’t access the information we want right now. This definitely affects how we process things spiritually—in a bad way. Youth workers and parents need to teach kids to be patient by teaching self-discipline.
YWJ: How can youth workers use technology to minister to teens?
Adam: I’m an old school youth minister, trained to do contact ministry. Go where kids are. Engage kids on Facebook and by text because that’s where they are.
YWJ: What else should we know?
Adam: The church always labels new things as the enemy. Today, it’s Facebook. Tomorrow, it’ll be something new. However, technology is never the enemy. The fact that people are talking about the church online—in positive and negative ways—is good.