In his own words: Shaping teens’ digital lives

News | January 25, 2017

Editor’s note: Andy Langdon is the director of youth ministries at St. Paul.

Moments after winning a playoff game against the Kansas City Chiefs, Steelers players took to their locker room to celebrate. Players whooped and hollered, congratulated each other and then settled down into a locker room post game huddle where they prayed together. Coach Tomlin gave a quick speech, imploring his team to act professionally in the coming week as they prepared to face their next team. He demanded their attention to details and simply stated that they should not be on social media.

We know all this because one of the players, star receiver Antonio Brown, live streamed every comment, every smile, and even a bare bottom of a teammate in his 18-minute Facebook Live video.

Video like this is against team and league policy, and the Steelers were about to play the most important game of the season. That didn’t stop what the coach called, “foolish, selfish, and inconsiderate” behavior from his star player, who preened himself on camera and pointed out how many viewers he had every few minutes.

We live in a much different world today because of the reach and exposure that digital media allows us. Left unchecked, the overuse of social media can be crippling to the identity and self-worth that shapes teenagers as they mature. Digital technology gives youth the opportunity and the danger that we have never prepared for and are still studying the effects of.

On Sunday, youth and parents are invited to watch and then discuss the documentary Screenagers. The events are free and open to the public. The documentary tells the story of how digital technology is shaping the lives of youth and urges parents and teens to be aware of the possible impacts on their brain development, social maturity, and lifetime habits. It’s not a doomsday film, but one that offers stories that will challenge family dynamics, and provide ideas for families so that they can consciously walk into the digital world together.

If you’re curious about this topic, come this Sunday morning for a preview of the film and short discussion in the Luther Loft from 10:45-11:30 a.m.  Or, the full screening of Screenagers will be in the Chapel from 6:30-7:30 p.m. on Sunday, followed by discussion and reaction from St. Paul youth.

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