Sorry for the lapse in new uploads. I’ve been engaged in a cross-country move from Indiana to California, and have been involved in the low-tech aspects of truck-loading and driving across the Mojave Desert.
Time to get back to thinking about how new media technology is affecting our lives, though, and I thought I would do that by sharing some thoughts from a friend, Terry Mattingly, who writes an online religion column for the Scripps-Howard News Service.
Values and texting
What does religion have to do with texting, social media, smart phones and the like? Maybe the following from one of Terry’s recent columns will show that:
“GILFORD, N.H. — Everywhere computer professional Brian Heil looked
at SoulFest 2011 he saw packs of young people trying to stay on
schedule as they rushed from one rock concert, workshop or prayer
meeting to another.
“But first, there was one more text to send, one more Twitter tweet to
tweet, one more Facebook status to update, one more snapshot to share,
one more YouTube video to upload, just one more connection to make in
the digital world that now shapes real life.
“This year’s festival (Aug. 3-6) drew nearly 13,000 Protestants and
Catholics from throughout New England, which means there were about
that many cellphones, smartphones, tablets and other digital devices
on hand. The screens glowed like fireflies in the crowds that gathered
for the rock concerts each night on the lower slopes of the Gunstock
Who gets the praise?
Get the picture? Technology seems as omnipresent as God to many young people who happen to be at events praising one in name but the other in practice.
Heil, a digital designer who runs a workshop for parents and pastors called “Protecting the Playground,” puts it this way:
“Everyone’s connected everywhere. It’s continuous. This is how our
young people experience life today. They don’t even look at the keys on their phones anymore when
Texting feels safer?
“Lots of kids are more comfortable texting than they are talking and
having real relationships. They have trouble with face-to-face
intimacy because they’re so used to living their lives online and in
text messages. Texting feels safer.”
But the harsh reality is that the digital world is not safer, according Heil who added, while many pastors and parents have heard horror stories about children straying into dark corners online, few are aware of just how common these problems have become — even in their sanctuaries and homes.
A few stats
He uses the following statistics to back him up:
* Two-thirds of Americans under the age of 18 have reported some kind
of negative experience while online. Only 45 percent of their parents
are aware of this.
* Forty-one percent of children say they have been approached online
by some kind of stranger, possibly an older predator.
* At least 25 percent of children report having seen nude or
disturbingly violent images online. Heil is convinced this number has
risen to 45 percent in the past year or so. The vast majority of
children exposed to pornography first see these images on a computer
in their own home.
“This is why, if I could convince parents to make one change in their
homes, it would be to never put a computer behind a closed door. …
Keep them out in an open part of the house,” he said.
* Among teens, 45 percent report having sent or received a sexual
text message of some kind. One in five say they have sent or received
a nude or partially nude image, the phenomenon that has become known
* Among teens with Internet access, 40 percent say they have been
affected by cyberbullying activities, such as malicious changes being
made to their Facebook pages after the theft of passwords.
No one immuned
Heil notes that there are many self-professing Christian youths engaging in these activities as well, adding that cyberbullying is not confined just to wayward teens and pre-teens. He blames the free-fall world of emotions that youths find online for spurring them into saying and doing things they otherwise might not do or say.
The challenge for parents in monitoring or curtailing deviant online behavior of their children gets tougher every day, Heil notes, because the kids are usually smarter than their adult parents about how to use the social media and put filters in place to keep their comments from unwanted eyes.
There is no V-chip to keep emotionally vulnerable teens and pre-teeens off the Internet as there is to filter out unwanted TV shows or channels. So the burden on parents is to instruct their children in good values and show them how they can be applied to interpersonal relationships and communications.
If that foundation is laid, parental trust should be somewhat easier.