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Teenagers and their Cell Phones! A Lesson in Being Connected.


My fifteen year old son has a love/hate relationship with his cell phone. He hasn’t even had it for two years yet but in that short span of time he has washed it, got another one, lost it in a sand dune while on vacation, found it a little gritty but still working, and just this past weekend lost it again. At the top of a roller coaster that pesky cell phone decided to fly out of his pocket and over the head of my husband nearly giving him a black eye and plunging to its cell phone death in the abyss of lost goods below the red steel rails of Maverick. The losing of the phone each and every time plunged him into sadness of which he would barely speak about. As his mother, I know his every mood and so I write this with confidence when I say that it is less the phone than the new reality of being disconnected, even if only for a few days until a new phone enters his life. 

A sense of community for our young people is very different today than it was for me some 25+ years ago when I was my son’s age. Certainly we had telephones to call our friends, but it was the family phone! We were not allowed to tie it up for hours. We absolutely had no way to send instant messages of 144 characters or less to our friends! Texting has changed the world. For a young person NOT to be able to send a short digital snippet of what they are doing or feeling is like cutting them off at the knees. My son doesn’t even know his friends’ phone numbers. . . they are stored in that small device for safe keeping rather than committed to memory as my friend’s phone numbers were. Stored inside my head for the occasional call that would be made to make plans. Along with this hyper-connectivity that we often mistake for boredom or something worse than pathological, comes a lack of understanding that their words are “out there” more than our words ever were. We might pass a note in school that had the potential to be read by unwanted eyes, but never did we have to worry that the entire school, or the entire world would have access to our “business.” 

So the technology of the @generation, as it is being called, both connects them to one another and the world in a very significant way, but also puts them in a very precarious situation of having absolutely NO PRIVACY. They yearn for deep relationships, with one another and with the adults they roll their eyes at. They desire to not be out of touch with one another for any length of time. They panic when they are disconnected by no fault of their own (well maybe by some dumb fault of their own, but not by choice!). I’m not sure as the church we can change those particular feelings, however, I do believe we need to meet them where they are. Jesus did that you know. He met people right where they were: the woman at the well, Zaccheus in a tree, fishermen by the sea, disciples walking home after a very long weekend of disappointment and death. Rather than scorn our teens for their cell usage and face booking and twittering and plus oneing, we can meet them there. We can remind them that their words have life and a dangerous longevity. We can infuse their lives with our own words of encouragement and love. 

As adults we are not so different, are we? We desire deep relationships. We want meaningful interactions. We want to know that we are valued for who we are. There may be some subtle differences between the way kids are growing up today in this @world, but they are still human beings, vulnerable, delightful, special, talented, precious, and in need of connection. I believe that God desires for us to be connected in any way that we can make happen so that we are supporting and encouraging one another on this faith journey. So, what do you say? Send a teen a text today simply asking them how they are doing!  Post on their facebook a thumbs up in response to something they have said. And when you see them in person, connect your way, with hugs and handshakes and fist bumps! Let them know that you know they are there! And enjoy every minute of it because you will be blessed by these connections!


Postscript: Noah made a phone call after that fateful roller coaster ride. He called one of the important adults in his life of which he is not related by blood and he asked her if she might have an extra cell phone. She said, “Yes!” She is now his hero!  🙂

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