In nearly twenty years of working with youth, I have noticed an incredible difference in the behavior, attitude, mental, emotional, and spiritual health of today’s generation over the past decade–especially in the last few years.
The common denominator seems to be what so many of today’s negative cultural influences have had on today’s young and developing hearts and minds–proliferated by way of modern technology.
Being born into the digital world, this new generation of young people seems to be hardwired, like robots, with insatiable appetites for things that are killing them from the inside out. It’s as if their souls are being microwaved!
Parents would do well to set firm limits on, not just the content of their child’s media and entertainment habits; but, the time spent on them as well! You can find some great tips on how to appropriately implement boundaries for techno usage here.
I have the unique opportunity of being a part of the lives of the teens at Shepherds Hill Academy (SHA). When a student is enrolled they have no access to iPods, cell phones, video games, movies, bombastic music, inappropriate entertainment, computers, or any other technological devices requiring screens, keyboards, or electricity for the better part of a year.
It’s amazing what we have seen develop in a teen who has had no access to media and modern technology for that length of time. In short, teens can learn without technology.
An Increase in the Ability to Think
Over the years, we’ve discovered that when kids first come to SHA their ability to reason, contemplate, and problem solve just isn’t there–at least not as it should be for their age group. Many come with little ability to think abstractly or objectively. Most are very narcissistic and lack empathy; while, some appear to have no conscience whatsoever. This actually describes way too many kids today. Just try getting the right amount of change back at any fast food restaurant.
At SHA, over time, their critical, creative, and constructive thinking capacities begin to return to them as they engage in activities, such as construction projects, preparing meals, and other problem solving tasks. Certain parts of the brain didn’t need to fire prior to arriving–we believe this is largely because of their huge amount of technology usage. Thank God for the plasticity of the brain; because, we’ve discovered that these areas can be recovered as kids are intentionally introduced to healthy stimuli. Like muscles and other parts of the human body, the brain actually rebuilds!
A Deeper Understanding to Life’s Toughest Questions
Kids spending a year at SHA get a chance to see, as Paul Harvey used to say, “the rest of the story.” They are taken out of their “techno-forests” long enough to see that there are “techno-trees” that have blinded them to so many of life’s truths and abstract realities–like the issues of origin, meaning, morality, and destiny. The intense hubbub of today’s techno devices gives no margin to contemplate these deeper issues of life, which are so vital to emotional and spiritual well being.
Appetites are Retrained
The structured environment at SHA lends little opportunity for boredom; because, kids learn a million and one healthy options to fill that void. I can’t tell you the pleasure that teens get from doing simple daily activities and work projects. When our students realize that media and technology are not options here at SHA, their appetites are retrained to enjoy a myriad of other healthy activities. They begin to find pleasure in the simple things of life. For example; many teens find pleasure in just seeing a simple work project completed.
The amount of time spent on media and negative content from today’s culture has contributed to a “dumbing down” of our teens. I have seen teens that virtually couldn’t do homework, or go from point A to point B without wearing headphones to keep them amused. Some couldn’t focus long enough to do homework at all; because, it just wasn’t stimulating enough. Bible reading or Bible study would have been considered exercises in mental brutality! However, once they are separated from technology and are required to engage in alternative activities their ability to think constructively and contemplate the deeper questions of life returns. Much of this is due to the fact that they are in an environment free from digital gluttony and have had a chance to have their appetites retrained for the myriad of healthy stimuli that God has given all of us to enjoy life with.
What are some areas in your teen’s life that have been affected by today’s media and technology?