According to a recent article in the Catholic weekly Our Sunday Visitor, inundated with more technology than ever before, today’s young adults struggle to engage life outside the digital realm. How can teens stay connected without losing touch with the outside world?
Over the last 15 years, we have witnessed revolutionary changes in the way we communicate and share information. And while the advent of these new technologies is largely positive, it is also true that we run the risk of weakening our direct human connections if we become too fixated on computers and cellphones. We need to create positive, “real life” events that appeal to teenagers and encourage them to engage in constructive dialogue and interaction with others. It is also important to establish specific times in our homes when all electronics are turned off and only communication with family members is allowed. Although this is easier said than done when the average teen seems constantly preoccupied with one digital gadget or another, we must actively strive to boost face-to-face dialogue.
As parents and teachers, we ultimately bear the responsibility of raising our youth. In addition to setting reasonable limits on texting and Internet access, we must lead by example. This issue is not just afflicting teens but society at large; without even realizing it, many of us have gravitated toward new forms of communication, entertainment and information-sharing where contact with other people is no longer necessary. Today, a person can text his wife dinner plans, e-mail his brother-in-law the weekend schedule, send his mother a birthday e-card and top it all off with a visit to YouTube or Hulu. If this is the picture our children see when growing up, how can we expect them to be more social as young adults?
Spiritual teachings instruct us to harness all innovation for positive purposes, including these latest and most powerful digital methods of communication. It is absolutely wonderful that today we can disseminate religious teachings and spread valuable information across the globe in seconds. At the same time, we must remember that there are potentially serious downsides to a digital society, and we need to protect ourselves and our children from falling prey to these negative effects. This is done by taking a proactive, decisive role in the lives of our teens, showing interest in their daily activities and expecting the same of them. New technologies can complement and enhance our social interactions, but they must never dominate or replace them.
Rabbi Simcha Backman is spiritual leader of Chabad of Glendale and the Foothills. Reach him at (818) 240-2750.
Every action in the outer world can be traced to an inner desire. Some people have the opinion that our desires are so deeply buried in our subconscious mind that we may never really know what our inner desires may be and how they manage to rise to the surface of the conscious mind and ultimately, find expression as our outer actions.
When young adults (or: teens) immerse themselves in “the digital realm,” they are expressing a desire for connection.
This is a good thing. Let’s acknowledge that all the time and fascination with digital technology is an attempt to feel connected with life. However, it is a temporary connection and a diversion from the reality of life. It is an illusion and does not provide the inner connection or peace that the seeker really wants.
All of us, no matter what our age, seek connection. We want to feel connected with others. We want to feel valued. We want to feel that we have purpose in life and that we contribute to the greater good.
It seems to me that we can find the answer to this process with a spiritual approach to life. The way for young adults to feel connected with life is to find the ultimate connection with God, their Higher Power, through meditation. Meditation provides the connection that satisfies the soul. Sitting in the Silence provides the “... peace that passes all understanding.” (Phil. 4:7)
JERI LINN is pastor of Unity Church of the Valley in Montrose. Reach her at (818) 249-4396.
As a father with techno-kids myself, I am ever wondering about the results of so much digital life. Certainly our parents worried when TV became steady fare in all our homes. Their heads also shook when our teenage phone chats went on endlessly, and when Walkmans launched, we all had wires hanging out our ears, and surely we should have gone deaf. Yet, here we are, defining another generation with newer appliances and greater advances that hold younger interests.
The problem with the latest electronics is that they are so easy to reach for, and within seconds time becomes immaterial. Left to themselves, teens and tweens can game, chat, and text, to the tune of every spare waking moment.
Mine often bring their handheld gadgets to church. They aren’t allowed to touch them during services, but when everything concludes and the adults visit in the foyer with coffee, the youth congregate elsewhere exchanging ideas about games, swapping digital characters, and linking their devices in collective play. Reflecting on this reminds me of an alarmist film I’d seen from the ’50s that showed boys “wasting” their youth reading comic books instead of being out playing ball or doing something less destructive to their development. Solomon once said “there is nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9 NIV) and perhaps our current dilemma once again proves his wisdom.
As in times past, our parental duty is to train them by deliberately stoking alternative interests and providing other activities. Be proactive.
When we were kids, we might have sat on a stoop asking each other, “Whatta ya wanna do? I dunno, whatta you wanna do?” Today’s kids don’t ask this. Is it better or worse? They’re kids. Be thankful we won’t have to deal with whatever their kids find especially captivating.
Rev. Bryan Griem is pastor of Montrose Community Church. Reach him at (818) 249-0483.
Modern technological advances provide both a blessing and present a challenge. Clearly, there is much good to be said about the Internet, cellphones, iPods and similar technologies. These technologies have revolutionized our society in many ways and have changed how we do things and interact with each other. Yet, the power of these technologies has created challenges that affect both youth and adults alike, with the youth being particularly vulnerable.
As a church, we recognize this and have encouraged parents and youth to confront technology issues head-on. This does not mean that technology should be avoided or blamed as “evil.” Rather, parents have the responsibility to work with their youth on how to handle these technologies appropriately and to develop well-principled boundaries for them.
Over the years, the Latter-day Saints Church has established standards and programs to help the youth and their parents. In 2001, the Latter-day Saints Church Church provided guidelines for our youth by issuing the “Strength for Youth” pamphlet. These guidelines include counsel on how to handle these new technologies. These guidelines can be found on-line at www.lds.org.
Moreover, all youth are invited to participate in our youth programs, which provide a wide variety of experiences that are targeted to expand our youths’ experiences. They include service projects, youth conferences, skills development, social activities (including youth dances), outdoor activities, sports and public speaking. In these programs our youth are challenged to better themselves, set goals and learn to function in an ever changing world. Parents are encouraged to participate and work with their youth in these endeavors.
Fred L. Carpenter is a bishop in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.