Have you ever really listened to the first few moments, top of the hour or commercial “tease” into the news? If you listen carefully, each of these messages seem to indicate…
Every major weather system is the worst ever. Every election cycle brings our country to the brink of destruction. Every problem is the “other” political party’s fault. Really? By the way, after you are teased into viewing, the news channel’s promise of impending, unavoidable, irreversible and critical doom is typically downgraded or reversed.
Certainly, there are real concerns that need to be addressed in our country and world.
However, a clear and sensible conversation seems difficult and often near impossible to have in a culture that seems more concerned with market share and political affiliation (liberal and conservative) than covering the news and promoting dialogue. This type of news coverage never ends. It is called the 24-Hour News Cycle and it creates opportunity for great misunderstanding and misrepresentation.
What does this have to do with teenagers? Everything!
Teenagers have their own 24-Hour news cycle. It is found on Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and other social networking locations. Honestly, it never ends and it creates opportunity for great misunderstanding and misrepresentation.
If you are an adult, think back to your teenage years for a moment (for some of you it may take a while). If you had emotional drama at school or at an extracurricular activity, you could take a break from the pressure by going home or to a trusted friend’s house. Back in “the day”, a tacky note or picture could be circulating around your friend group. But in most cases, could be destroyed. A moment of peace could be found.
Today, things are much different. If a student has drama at school or at an extracurricular activity, it is much more difficult to find release from the pressure at home or at the house of a trusted friend. Why? Unlike the “tacky” notes and pictures of the past, the world of Social Media never ends and is difficult to keep from circulating or virtually possible to destroy. The Teenage news cycle runs 24 hours. A moment of peace takes intentionality-something teenagers often lack.
What can we as caring youth ministry adults in a student’s life do to help students with intentionality this summer? Let me suggest two things:
- Practice a Technology Sabbatical. There, I said it (wrote it down) out loud. Chances are high that you will take your students to a camp, weekend retreat or mission trip this summer. Have a No Technology day, week or at least an extensive time period. If you are lucky, the location of your trip will be so remote that technology is not a feasible option. Do not let students “take photos” or use their devices as an “alarm clock.” Just say no to technology. This could be more difficult than you think because student’s (all of us) are addicted. Try this:
- Communicate the need for and plan for the Sabbatical clearly before the trip.
- Let parents know how they can contact their student(s) in case of emergency (this is a big hurdle for parents).
- Process, process and process the experience before, during and after the sabbatical. Questions like, “How do you think you will do without technology?” “How difficult is it living disconnected?” “What did you learn about yourself while living without technology for a week?” are a must to process. Trust me, you will know how to process with your students.
- Do not share the Wi-Fi Access Code with your students. This is impossible if you are staying in a hotel, but is possible if staying at a retreat/camp site. Be sure to share the access code for adult volunteers who need to be on line for business reasons. However, while on the trip, ask your adults to join the Sabbatical as well.
- Do I collect a student’s phone or device? You are the only one that can answer this question for your group. My personal rule of thumb is middle school age students cannot keep their phones/devices and high school students are asked to put them away in their luggage.
2. Take it easy on social media for a season. “What?” “I have the coolest ideas for a social media strategy…” I am not suggesting you kill your social media presence. I am asking you to back off a bit. Try this:
- Having students bring or provide a paper bible for teaching moments.
- Suggest students turn their phones off or place their phones on the stage during assembly times.
- Use less “social media” relevant illustrations (stories and videos) in your messages.
- Write actual, snail mail notes to your students and ask them to do the same with friends.
- Refuse the urge to video and post on every event .
- Stay off your technology while with your students, families, staff, etc. In other words, model low tech relationship building and interaction.
What are other “intentional” ways you have found helping in assisting students (and adults) in finding a moment of peace in today’s 24-Hour News Cycle?
USED WITH PERMISSION BY DAVID FRAZE