Rev. Katie Snipes Lancaster
Many of the babies in my life know how to use a touch screen phone. They can navigate from the homepage to a baby game they want to play with more ease than the IT guy. I’ve seen four year olds mistake a TV for a large IPad, touching the screen in an attempt to un-pause the show that dad just skillfully paused with that most ancient of devices – the remote control.
Some of our middle school youth have Instagram accounts, spend hours taking selfies with their friends, and already know what it’s like to have technology change from “back in the day when they were growing up.” The digital landscape has changed tremendously since this year’s fifth graders were in kindergarten, and I suspect it will continue to change.
In his (now partially outdated) 2009 book Flickering Pixels: How Technology Shapes Your Faith, Shane Hipps outlines the history of communication technology and quotes a twentieth century philosopher of media, Marshall McLuhan who once said, “We shape our tools and afterward our tools shape us.” The same is true today. We shaped the tools we use today – the cell phone, the internet, and social media – but now, we are seeing that these tools are the very things that shape our lives.
My hope for Christians in the digital era – for all people in the digital era – is that we can engage in these tools of technology thoughtfully, asking ourselves if we are living the way that we want to live.
As part of our work to engage youth and parents in conversation about healthy spiritual lives and emotional well-being, the Allison Tobey Smart Memorial Fund invited Devorah Heitner, founder of Raising Digital Natives, to speak with both youth and parents.
At the heart of her presentation was a call to empathy. She asked youth if they had ever been hurt by a text that was sent or a photo that was posted, and asked them to consider the feelings of their peers when using digital devices. She strategized with them about how to reconcile relationships when someone has been hurt. She had them think through the right times to use technology and encouraged them to turn to in-person conversations, especially when working out the emotions of life.
As Christians, we are called to love. Technology is here to stay, and technology is and will continue to be part of the way that we love God and neighbor. This call to empathy will be more and more central as we forge a path towards healthy digital lives.
How do you use your digital devices to love God and neighbor?
How do you teach empathy to your children as they engage in social media?