“‘A picture is worth a thousand words’ refers to the idea that complex stories can be told with just a single still image, or that an image may be more influential than a substantial amount of text.” [Wikipedia]
This uncontrollable habit of kids today snapping everything in their lives, especially self portraits is a huge phenomenon.
Technology is a huge driving force in every aspect of our lives today. It is a driving force in our kids’ lives and will be a huge driving force in their kids’ lives. Kids are into technology, especially mobile phones, smart phones and any kind of phone with a camera. I am convinced innovative technology is motivating a change in what we now know as picture taking.
Pictures are not like years before when kids would sit in front of the camera turn their heads and “say cheese.” This emerging culture is obsessed with taking self-portraits and they are even more obsessed with sending them to their friends through cell phones, email, or uploading them online.
Kids today universally love attention, they drink up technology and they thrive on relationships, so it’s easy to see why this, up and coming, tech savvy generation is feeding right into it.
Teenagers are wired for relationships. As children they had playmates but now as they are getting older, they want friends. This means their peer group now soars to “major play” status. The power of the “audience” whether real or imagined, guides much of their social behavior. Our technologically savvy world increases the challenge because peer groups are no longer geographically limited. While we as adults often see the Internet as an information gathering tool, teens use it to build a network of friends that often spans the globe… this is what social media is all about.
Kids want others to know them, understand them, and desperately want to express their identity to whoever will look or listen. Social media become a part of daily life for teenagers and young adults nationwide, where many young adults can play any role they want. Though they quite often may not realize everyone with Internet access, including sexual predators may see the pictures and personal information they post.
Cell phones are the preferred and primary mode of socializing for teens.
In 2000, just 5 percent of 13 to 17-year olds had cell phones. Today, 56 percent do, according to Linda Barrabee, wireless market analyst for The Yankee Group. Kids today are so absorbed in the technology that they often see little or no difference between meeting someone face to face and talking on the phone. “I don’t know any teen that doesn’t have a phone with them all the time.” [Catherine Cook, President, MyYearbook.com]
There are so many risks in the use of mobile technology.
Most phones have web access, mobile television and a laundry list of access point to all kinds of questionable material. This makes it possible for very young people to access content from the internet from wherever they are, and often sometimes without parental or teacher supervision. With the arrival of picture and video messaging, teens need to be more and more careful about the images they are sharing. It is very easy for inappropriate images to be changed, shared with multiple phones rapidly and with no trouble posted to the internet. Once images are posted to the internet it is virtually impossible to retrieve them.
As a Children’s Pastor, I am continuously trying to gauge how this, and various other perplexing as well as potentially dangerous habits of kids today, will affect them spiritually.
Through much of my research for this blog, I have come to realize the art of kids taking pictures of themselves, may only be the tip of the iceberg. With the naïve and invincible natures of most young people, mixed with the seedy side of social networking sites, kids are becoming increasingly more isolated from their families and dispassionately having their purity stolen from them. Kids photographing themselves incessantly and engaging in every aspect of what the internet has to offer, not only has a much deeper meaning but may be the beginning of a journey destined to leave them with an insatiable appetite for attention, instant gratification, and unfortunately may set them up to become more self-centered than God-centered.
The kids we minister to today are changing so quickly in their perceptions and perspectives that no ordinary children’s ministry will get and keep the attention of the typical teen. Kids begin at an early age using the computer and a range of hand-held technology. If we are going to protect our kids from Internet predators, pornography, and other dangers we must constantly strive to understand the characteristics and development of the kids we minister to. Intelligent people are always open to new ideas… in fact they look for them… (Proverbs 18:15 NLT)
I think one of the requirements of being an effective pastor to this generation of kids, is the ability and commitment to understand the technology the kids being ministered to use.
The ultimate goal is for us to allow this information about the pictures kids take and what they do with them to become a tool for us to learn how to enlighten and perhaps improve teaching and thus improving the relationships we are forming and nurturing as their spiritual mentors. Communication at any age is the best way to teach kids godly values and continuous talks as they grow older about tough subjects will only enrich and educate the kids we minister to, by equipping them to deal with whatever they may encounter not only on the computer, but in life.
As a Children’s Pastor, Director, Leader, Volunteer or Advocate I can:
Help protect kids online by offering education into the culture and a Biblical worldview for them to consider at every opportunity.
Help the kids I minister to make the most of the internet by helping them understand the dangers of the internet and especially social networking sites.
Become more computer literate and encourage my team of leaders to become more computer literate as well.
Immerse myself in “kid” culture and keep current with existing and upcoming trends and technology.
Offer forms of counseling free of judgment for kids who make mistakes and find themselves in trouble.
Provide education to parents in the form of handouts which are chalk full of tips and valuable information. This will help them become better equipped at communicating with their kids about internet dangers and will help them learn how to protect their kids when they are online.
Create innovative programming during high risk hours [for example when school lets out] for kids to engage in.
Give kids your cell phone number! Let them send pictures to you and give them great experiences at your church they can’t get anywhere else… give them a reason to take a picture. Build social networks within your ministry for your kids to fall into as they fall out of elementary.
You can do it!