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“All those young people and their technology. When are they just going to get their noses out of their phones and be with people in real life?”
—Parents, 10 years ago, when their kids were on Facebook and before they ran their kids off of it
Remember when parents used to criticize their kids for being on their phones too much? Nowadays, I get more game requests and other annoying notifications from people my parents’ age than I do people my age.
Throughout history, younger generations have been more apt to adopt a new technology than older generations. It’s just a fact of life. Often, older generations then deride younger generations for being too obsessed with technology, only to later be obsessed with it themselves (Facebook and FarmVille, anyone?).
Here is a great excerpt from John Dyer’s book From the Garden to the City: The Redeeming and Corrupting Power of Technology:
Generational gaps mean that younger people often uncritically embrace any and all technology, while older generations sometimes make shortsighted critiques of technology. Consider, for example, a recent New York Times article discussing how preteen children interact online and via text messaging. The author begins by describing how teens chat on Facebook late into the night, and her tone suggests that she disapproves of this new way of interacting through technology. She then laments, “Children used to actually talk to their friends. Those hours spent on the family princess phone or hanging out with pals in the neighborhood after school vanished long ago.”
The author obviously wants to contrast the technological communication her children engage in with the embodied, face-to-face encounters she remembers from her youth. But did you notice how she paired “hanging out with pals in the neighborhood after school” with “hours spent on the phone” as if both were equally nontechnological?
Chances are, the author was born after the telephone was invented and turned thirty sometime before texting and Facebook caught on. She goes on to wonder if texting is healthy and questions whether her children will be able to relate properly as they grow older. Yet, at the same time, spending “hours on the phone” seems like a perfectly normal—and even good—way for kids to relate and communicate with one another. In face, it appears that she sees no real difference between spending time together in person and talking on the phone. As long as she can hear a voice, it feels “real” to the author.
But I imagine that if we were to dig deeply into the New York Times archives, we might find a similar article written in the 1950s that would criticize “talking for hours on the phone.” Just a generation ago, talking on the phone for hours would have seemed as foreign and unhealthy as the texting habits of today’s children. If we were to dig even further back in the archives, a pattern would quickly emerge in which the older generation is worried about the technology of the new generation, while they are largely unaware of of their own technological heritage. Howe can we question the next generation’s technology if we don’t even understand our own?
Pastors and church leaders, you must not demean and downplay the importance of new technology simply because “that’s what the kids are into.” Because, quite frankly, you’ll probably be using that technology as soon as your kids teach you how.
Find ways to engage with the newest technology adopted by the younger generations. This will help you not only reach Millennials, but the generations that come after them as well.