A 5 year-old can start a car if you hand them the keys, but it doesn’t mean they are responsible enough yet to drive it.
It’s a common thought that “kids know tech”. We have taken this attitude and philosophy that young age equals tech knowledge including how to effectively and strategically use technology. They can install and open an app with ease, or set up a new account on a social network, etc.; but none of that actually demonstrates that young people are tech geniuses. What it actually demonstrates is that the tech was designed to be very simplistic and easy to use. Many adults are simply more intimidated by the technology rather than it being complicated which is why they have difficulty. As I’ve seen on multiple occasions, if you show someone how to tweet a photo one time they are often tweeting away with ease after that and not thinking twice about it.
So why all of the “hoopla” on this topic? Well, the reality is that this attitude has definitely created a “hands off” approach to tech with kids and we see the repercussions everyday. According to BullyingStatistics.com :
- Over half of adolescents & teens have been bullied online
- More than 1 in 3 young people have experience cyber threats
- Over 25 percent of adolescents and teens have been bullied repeatedly through their cell phones or the Internet.
- Well over half of young people do not tell their parents when cyber bullying occurs.
Here’s the thing about that, it’s not the technology causing the problem . . . it’s the lack of education and accountability. And our Churches are great places to start with instilling the proper foundations. We are all about teaching how to live lovingly in society, and our society is connected through technology as well.
This isn’t just cyber-bullying either. How many organizations are handing their “tech stuff” to kids to manage. I can’t tell you how many times small business owners have said to me that their “kids know the tech stuff and do it for them”. It’s often done poorly and ineffectively. And I wonder how many parishes take this approach as well. It’s because they can “start the car” but they really don’t know how to “drive” yet. Using tech for effective communication and evangelizing is far more than being able to “turn thing on” and post some stuff. It’s being able to think on a larger scale and connect the various technologies to work in unison towards achieving common goals.
So what can we do? Start by educating staff and parents. We’re starting to talk about it in our parish and will be putting some into place soon. But some ideas are:
- Hold a workshop/seminar on social networking in general that discusses appropriate use
- Have some short classes on specific services your parish is using (i.e Twitter, Facebook, etc.). This is fun, educational, and gets people more apt to participate in the services you want them to use.
- Get teens involved in your web ministry which helps teach them appropriate uses and they learn the foundations for possible future education tracts.
- Set up a “tech help” area (i.e. cell phones, tweeting, app help, etc.) after masses with adults and young people. This way you get people some help, bridges generation gaps, builds community, and is fun.
How are you educating young people and parents regarding technology?