A Smart Summer | Teenage Virtual Reality VS Reality
I cannot think of any other more awesome time of the year than the Summer! It is filled with fun, family vacationing, ministry opportunities galore, summer camp, Teen Rallies, VBS, and yes one BIG crazy schedule!!!
For those who are in the ministry it seems like the summer flies by so fast every year! It is literally a BLUR! And yet so many memories, awesome decisions and moments take place during this 2-3 month period of time. It is without a doubt a great time of the year!
Yet, while there is no question that summer can be an awesome time of the year, it can also be a time of unfortunate mistakes, regrettable decision making and a world that all of sudden unravels "literally" before our eyes. Summer changes a lot of things in our society. All of a sudden people become more loose, far less caring, and unfortunately a LOT less responsible! Parties are at their highest, where alcohol, drugs and other illegal and harmful substances are available and used. No to mention the rise in sexual activity among young people in those very same atmospheres. It is at this time of the year that young people tend to make the biggest mistakes and are more prone to "cave" to peer pressure around them.
In the back of our minds we think, "Well certainly this is not my teen! They don't hang out with the bad kids, they are good and have always been raised in a godly home, away from the influence of the rest of the world." And while you are perhaps right and I want to give you the benefit of the doubt, years ago, we could get away with saying this. Not so much today. Today, young people are connected with each other, even with the so called "bad kids." You say how? Through their Smartphones!
Smart devices like the iPhone and even Social media have given young people (and adults for that matter) a HUGE OPEN DOOR to the rest of the world. This is reality. So while your teenager may not be "hanging" out with the so called "bad kids", they can still see AND even sometimes interact with them! It is only obvious that when most teenagers are hanging out somewhere or having their awesome summer fun, they tend to post their actions ALL OVER the internet! Whether it be Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Vine, Snapchat, Kik, etc. most teenagers know how to let the world know of their awesomeness! So while your teen may not be "directly" there with them, they can easily be there "virtually". You say, "where is the harm in that?"
Please allow me to highlight a couple thoughts concerning this issue...
1. "Virtual" IS "Reality" to teenagers.
Do you remember when the term "virtual reality" came on the scene big? For many of us it might have been in the early 80's or 90's. Virtual Reality games were beginning to be introduced by Sony Playstation and Xbox as they tried to mimic reality through their amazing gaming consoles. Pixels the size of Texas and poor user friendliness with VR (Virtual Reality) rendered these games FAR from true reality! Fast forward to today... 2015. Now days we can actually interact online (virtual) with others (reality) in real time! VIRTUAL IS REALITY!
Now transfer this reality over to the smartphone. With the REALITY of social media (Facebook, Instagram, Vine, etc.) teenagers can now interact with each other with a swipe of a finger! We cannot ignore the fact that our teens ARE ALREADY connected with the rest of the world! It is not "Virtual" to them, IT IS THEIR REALITY! Welcome to their world!
What they see on other people's Vines, Facebook page, Instagram frames, etc. can and will be regarded as reality. It is normal to them, and anything else contrary to what they see on social media is abnormal! It is why we hear them commonly say things like, "Well Dave's parents let him have an iPhone!" Or, "All the other kids in my school are good kids and they get to be a part of..." Social media has literally paved ways for teens to "cave" digitally! What they see everyday, non stop from their digital friends online can eventually become their actual fall. To them it eventually can become the "normal" and soon signs of justification can begin to creep in. After all, "Everyone is doing it right?"
I realize this is not the case with every teenager. But if we are honest with ourselves, we must admit that most teenager's smartphones happens to be their reality! It is their world! If you disconnect them, you have literally cut off their reality! Heaven forbid you do this in the summer time!
2. "Virtual" does NOT have to be their "Reality".
Perhaps you are a parent concerned with who your teen is interacting with online or on their smartphone. This is actually something that I congratulate you for! Concerned parents are the HEROES in this whole matter. (Even though your teen may think otherwise at times.)
What exactly do I mean by "virtual does not have to be their reality"? Allow me to briefly illustrate.
We have all seen the teenager in our youth group who is constantly on their smartphone. Or the teen who is constantly posting themselves all over the internet through social media. They LIVE on their smartphone, and they DIE when something happens to it! They are constantly living in the virtual! When reality slaps them across their head, they awake out of their "virtual zombiness" usually in the hospital with carpal tunnel syndrome! (No joke, this has happened.)
Yes we have seen these teens. But does this have to be the reality of all teens who own smartphones? Absolutely not, and it shouldn't be. In fact, it is a shame on us as parents if we let our teens "dis-engage" with "True reality" to literally become a digital nothing. STEP IT UP parents, and take control of your teenagers digital habits. Set restrictions on their smartphones from the beginning! Time limits, social media boundaries, headphone limits, virtual friend boundaries and YES even time of the day limits. It is unwise for your teen to go to bed with a smartphone! Check their pictures, videos, and even their friends list. YOU are the parent. If you set up limits and boundaries EARLY in the game you will likely have far less problems in the end.
Virtual does not have to become their reality!
Summer is here. All the craziness has let loose! Teens know where to look for the latest news concerning their peers. (By the way they don't watch the same news that we watch. They get their news from social media and their peers!) Set your teen up for success this summer and see what exactly they are involving themselves in. As I already mentioned check their pictures, videos, and even their friends list. You have this right, you are the parent.
The last thing you want for your teen is to begin the new school year with regrettable decisions, and dumb mistakes. Reaping what you sow is still a biblical reality! (Read Galatians 6:7) Set your teen up for spiritual success in the remainder of their summer! Talk to them. Read from the Word together. Pray with each other. Keep each other accountable. Summer does not have to be so dumb! It can be an awesome smart summer full of wise decisions both on your part and your teens.
"Train up a child in the way he should go:and when he is old, he will not depart from it."
- Proverbs 22:6
"I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes: I hate the work of them that turn aside, it shall not cleave to me."
- Psalm 101:3
"My flesh and my heart faileth, but God is the strength of my heart, and my PORTION forever."
- Psalm 73:26