It’s pretty clear that like generations that have gone before them, today’s teens have a thirst for social interaction. They’re often using gadgets to fulfill that desire, but it’s insatiable (see Part 1). They can become addicted and are sometimes undiscriminating in what they post or text. They need guidance from mature mentors, to be sure. But there’s something they even more desperately need.
The goal can’t be to “convert them” to the ways of previous generations or our own preferences, but to be part of their own world and utilize the resources God has given them in a set apart way. In a way that honors Him, leaves room for Him.
There’s something more important underneath all the constant texting and listening to playlists; sometimes misguided Facebook, Instagram, or YouTube posts or comments; and even eye-rolling or outbursts when tech-free time is imposed. Perhaps there’s a silence or loneliness your teen doesn’t want to feel. Questions they don’t want to face.
Only when thumbs are still and music is quiet can we hear God (Psalm 46:10). Only when we set aside all our manmade devices can we see His Creation (Psalm 19:1). And only when we stop to consider His greatness will we be drawn to praise Him (Psalm 77:12).
At that point, we will realize our need to make less of ourselves and more of Him (John 3:30) and even begin to understand devotion like that of John or Paul in the Bible, no less attempt to mimic it ourselves (Philippians. 1:21).
On a positive note, research indicates that teens do report various types of purposeful online interactions. Each person’s experience with social networking is different, but most have had positive interactions and grown to feel closer to others through it. However, others have seen negative effects of posts or comments that they’ve made.
Unlike the seeming disconnect between online personas and real-life reputations that the pioneers of online socializing thought was there, many of today’s teens understand that their online behavior counts. As a result, though, many have learned how to hide information from some people, namely Mom and Dad. Some even have separate Facebook accounts for interacting with family versus friends.
When we have meaningful communication with our Lord, we won’t hide. Or need to. We’ll invite God into all corners of our world — online and otherwise — desiring His presence and evaluation (Psalm 139). That might not mean today’s teens want all their social interactions seen by Mom and Dad, just like you didn’t want your diary read, but still.
In the end, even our idyllic memories of shared lemonade on the front porch don’t measure up. When teens understand their deepest need and most gratifying relationship are met in God and Christ, they’ll be different from others in their generation (Romans 12:2). The thing is, so will we.