In our series on “Teens, Technology and the Big 3 Desires,” we looked at how technology can uniquely provide outlets for the main categories of sinful thinking and behaviors that have plagued the human race for millennia. Even void of the kinds of interactions and outflows of fleshly desires discussed in that series, though, our constant access to technology and communication provides some added pressures and responsibilities.
The Importance of Impulse Control
From angry rants to arrogant opinions, technology can easily combine with in-the-moment emotions to have lasting effects on our relationships, public images, and even careers. While God is certainly concerned about our hearts, the consequences of negative thoughts are far less than communicating such thoughts. Technology provides such an easy avenue for our initial impulses to translate into hurts; never before has it been so important to be in control of our anger and other impulses (James 1:19). And God tells us that we’re accountable for our communications. Every. Single. Word. (Matthew 12:36)
The Disciplines of Presence
What we call “technological advancements” might not actually be leading to fuller lives. It’s harder to be “all there” in the moment when we’re always multi-tasking. And the lure is huge. As one writer put it, “We want to customize our lives. We want to move in and out of where we are because the thing we value most is control over where we focus our attention. . . . To some this seems like a good idea, but we can end up hiding from one another, even as we are constantly connected to one another.”
We were created as social beings with a desire to connect with other people — intellectually, emotionally, and physically. We’re not really doing ourselves or others any favors when we’re constantly looking for something else, something other — instead of being with the people here in the moment, the tasks at hand, the beauty which is ours to discover. Real, face-to-face, technology-free experiences and conversations are truly important.
The Significance of Rest
In addition to controlling impulses and being present in the moment, it’s important to teach our teens to truly relax, to take a break. And apparently, screen time does not count. Prolonged screen time “can overstimulate the nervous system and increase production of cortisol . . . which increases your risk of experiencing anxiety, depression, insomnia, high blood pressure and diabetes.” When you add to that stress the feeling of never being free, the blurring of lines between private and professional life, and (false) guilt over not returning calls or messages, it’s no wonder that anxiety is on the rise among students.
As we help our teens understand their own hearts and the temptations of the society in which they live, we can mentor them in developing healthy relationships and habits that will help them become tomorrow’s leaders. We can offer them the best tools possible when we intentionally equip them to serve God and others within the societal context in which God has them.