In our ministry we have a rule. No cell phones in use while the students are present and our programming is in action. This rule goes for volunteers, staff and participants. Unless you are using a “Bible App” to look up scripture, we shouldn’t see it, and yes I check it. This summer as we have had a number of our teens actually volunteering in our elementary age day camps I have seen something interesting. At 2:00 the moment program ends and the last child walks out the door, cell phones immediately emerge! It’s like the texting/social media/ smart phone zombie apocalypse has taken root. Heads are down, eyes ablaze as they catch up on all the pertinent information they have “missed” in the last 4 hours of “no phone zone.”
As I have text to talked or been FB direct messaged on major life issues I just have to wonder if scripting every thought is an easier way to go? Since TONE doesn’t exist well in word/online communication a lot of drama erupts that could be avoided with at least a phone conversation and even more so with facial expressions and body language in play. In short, I think we need to encourage students to learn how to sit down and use their voice once again.
Please hear me. I am not anti-text/social media connections. What I am seeing is that this the “goto” method of “talking.” I wonder if we are raising a generation that avoids face to face communication? Have they forgotten how to speak?
Can we do anything about that? Here are some starting places:
Meet With Students One on One:
When I started in youth min, my mentor would say, “If you want to get to know a kid take them out for a soda.” What we did or drank was arbitrary. The point was being present with each other. Sit face to face, make eye contact and talk about deep issues, outside of programming. If at all possible draw in other adults and small group leaders to do the same. Begin to teach, that this is the way we handle the “toughest stuff.” It’s unscripted, raw, messy and uncomfortable. That’s good.
Encourage Parents To Draw Lines.
I get it. The battle for independence with anyone from 6-12 grade is constant. It’s also part of adolescence. We drew up “electronic contracts” for our kids that not only included appropriate use, but times when cell phones are not “allowed.” This has helped tremendously.
Be a good example:
I admit it, I can be the worse at this one I was convicted even recently about how if I want to teach students the importance of communication beyond written form and the need to put the cell phone aside when talking to someone, I have to step up and do the same.
Students need to learn to have a full conversation, face to face conversation when they are totally present. There is a place for tweets, Facebook, email and text, it just shouldn’t be the ONLY way we talk to each other.
What are YOU doing to help this generation learn the art of “in person” communication?