Total change: growing up in a digital age

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Today’s Western high school students are the first generation to have grown up with digital technology in their homes from birth. The first therefore to have their brains rewired, for better or worse, by 24/7 digital communication. This video and more detailed and insightful accompanying article give a stark picture of these changes.

The study points out the way that digital is changing behavior and distracting students from focus. It also gives students no time for mental rest and reflection, because it is on 24/7.

These changes to our brain wiring and behaviour are also the central thesis of Nicholas Carr’s book and blog The Shallows. Shane Hipps’ book Flickering Pixels looks at our digital communication culture from a Christian viewpoint.

Our response?

These trends suggest two areas of response, rather than negative reaction. (As the video says, the digital trend is as unstoppable as a tsunami.)

1. Training

Teach children and young people, from their earliest years:

  • how to control digital, rather than be controlled by it.
  • how to switch off digital distractions to accomplish tasks that need focus.
  • how to create digital downtime, real rest, and time for reflection.
  • how to handle the digital ‘elephant in the room’, po*n.

This surely needs some sort of informal ‘curriculum’ framework, a digital ‘Dr Spock’, for parents, teachers, and youth group leaders? Is there one already? Or how can we develop this?

2. Online evangelism

To engage evangelistically with young people, we must remember:

  • if we are not online, we are invisible.
  • effective communication is story-based, not abstract.
  • visual is vital, especially video clips.
  • true evangelism is two-way, relational, dialogue, question-starting, non-preachy.
  • everything we do must be accessible on mobile phones.
  • popular culture – ie. movies and music – is a great starting point.

Training for young Christian people to use the Web for evangelism should include:

Please add your thoughts using the ‘Comment’ link below.

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