I went for a drive to the bank yesterday and one of my children had an old cell phone in their hand. I had recently dug through a drawer and discovered a few older phones I had held onto, so I decided to let my kids play with them. As we drove, he made a pretend phone call to a number of his friends. They were elaborate conversations, which made me wonder if he was actually talking to someone. He even took messages for me at one point. When he was done, he then used it to search the web and to play Fruit Ninja. This left me wondering what has happened to our means of communication?
When I first started serving in youth ministry as a volunteer in college, about 13 years ago, I did not own a cell phone. In fact, during my college years there were few people who owned a cell phone. We actually used land-line phones in our rooms, something I was recently told doesn’t happen anymore.
My jump into this new world of wireless phones came after my parents’ van broke down on a trip home. I had no way of calling anyone, but someone who was with me had a phone. After some coaxing from my mother, I got my first cell phone. It was a plan that included the states of Wisconsin, Minnesota and part of Illinois. Nationwide coverage was not something people did at that time. Do you remember when you actually had roaming charges? The total cost of that plan was about $30 per month, with something like 450 minutes. Text messaging was not popular. It was, however, free at that time. I sent a few text messages just to try it out, but I didn’t understand why you would do this since it took so long.As a youth ministry volunteer, I used the telephone to communicate with students. Without Facebook, or text messages, this meant calling a home number and talking with whoever answered the phone that night. It was often more difficult to get the person I was looking for. Communication seemed to take on a higher level because it involved more than simply typing a few letters and hitting send. It involved multiple phone calls and real conversation.
As the years have passed, the way we communicate has changed. In youth ministry, this means our method for communicating with students has changed. These days most of the students have cell phones- many of them smartphones. If they don’t have a cell phone, they have a Facebook and would rather talk via those methods over a phone call. I communicate most often with text messages now.
There are problems inherent with this much loose communication. For one, people are saying things via text messages, or Facebook that they might never have said at all in the past. It is so easy to hit send on something and spread it around. The face of gossip and hurtful comments has changed to an electronic form. The other obvious issue with these devices is the distraction they cause.
We as individuals, and as parents, teachers, and youth leaders, need to grip on how technology is being used around us. It is not that it is horrible to have a cell phone and to text people. What is problematic is when the people using this technology forget that there are real people being impacted by what they are saying. Parents need to help their children, and themselves for that matter, keep the same standards used in normal communication in electronic communication.
“When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise.” – Proverbs 10:19
“The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. “- James 3:6
Next time you send a text, ask yourself if you would say that to the person if they were standing in front of you. If the answer is yes, that doesn’t necessarily mean you should send it. What this practice does do is allow you to take a moment to consider what words are used. Keeping control of the tongue is not just about what is actually said from your mouth, it is also about thinking before hitting send.
How do you determine what you send and what you don’t send? How do you teach this to the people you love or have influence over? Where do you see this all headed in the future?