Competing with Technology for a Kid’s Attention
By Sarah Porch and Lydia Kaiser
I’m part of a generation that experienced the evolution of technology from chunky box monitors, desk tops, and flip phones to thin tablets and smart phones. For many teachers and parents, the constant changes in technology are overwhelming. It can cause us to feel unconnected to young people who quickly adopt new technology into their lives. How do we effectively reach kids for God in a world where they are more and more connected to technology instead of us? It’s tempting to say, “I can’t compete” and give up. We need to intentionally utilize four appealing tools which God has given us.
Today, kids spend an average of seven hours a day online and up to nine hours for teens. This includes gaming and social media. These platforms can inaccurately inform kids about how the world works–or should work. And these platforms are addicting, designed with specific ways to reward the brain.
A CEF missionary from Armenia shares an example of how hard it can be to reach kids who are attached to electronics. She says, “In clubs and meetings, kids have a short attention span. The world is dulling their attention and minds. Before starting our camp ministry, we told a child he would not be allowed to use his phone during camp, and he responded with ‘I will die without my phone.’”
The answer to a statement like that can be an enthusiastic, “I’m going to show you a whole other exciting world!”
Kids are dealing with constant distractions and we are in a battle for their attention for what’s good. We must compete for their attention so they can learn about God and grow to know Him.
Feeling like we’re up against technology addiction can make us feel like we’re just not equipped to reach kids. But God has created at least four very compelling tools and made them available to your tool belt.
The first and most important tool is relationship. Humans were created to need eye contact, interaction, a feeling of camaraderie and love. This beats out electronics hands down. Learn to be as relational as possible. Besides showing personal interest, introduce the fun of playing a board game or card game, share a Gospel truth by using a magic trick, science experiment, or string game–things that utilize interaction. Or you could build relationship using electronics like laughing together at your attempts to play the latest video game or watching their favorite Tik Tok videos together and talking about why they like them. Show them good content and have open conversations about what makes content good or bad.
The second tool is truth. When kids hear the truth of the Gospel, the Holy Spirit moves in their spirit and confirms that truth. Kids need answers to big questions like “why am I here?” and “what do I do with my guilt feelings?” They need to find the hope and new life that comes only through belief in Christ. If you are equipped to communicate the Gospel clearly, then you are equipped to reach children! CEF offers many resources to help you grow in confidence as you share the Gospel. I’d like for you to subscribe to our free print or digital Impact magazine so you can learn about those resources. Go to cefonline.com/impact.
The third tool is nature. Kids love nature! You’ll never go wrong by exploring nature with them and showing them how a loving, intelligent designer gave us all that we have, including their amazing body and life. Fake waterfalls on a screen can’t compete with a hike to real falls and a conversation about the amazing design of water, the water cycle, and it’s utilization by plants, animals and your body. Even five minutes with an insect on a window ledge provides an opportunity.
The fourth tool is physical activity. Bible-centered sports, an active Bible lesson review game, or even just taking a walk are ways to help detach from electronics. Getting kids into clubs like after-school Good News Club and summer 5-Day Club where there is relationship, truth, use of God’s creation and physical activity—these are a big help.
Today’s challenges show us why it’s important to keep coming up with creative ways to disciple kids. Don’t give up—God is helping you. For encouraging stories from ministry around the world, check out our free IMPACT Magazine at cefonline.com/impact.
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