As someone who is passionately committed to teaching children the Word of God, I have grown more and more concerned with the effects that the frequent use of digital media may have on our desire and/or ability for sustained concentration and deep, analytical thought—the type of concentration and thought needed to rightly study, discern, and apply the Word of God. As tempting as it is to use a growing number of videos, apps, and other digital tools in our teaching, I would caution us to pause and seriously consider the long-term effects. Please understand: I am not advocating that digital media never be used. Rather, I am saying that we should be careful in choosing and using these so that we do not inadvertently undermine our students’ growth in sustained, critical thinking.
Reformation 21 has an important and thought-provoking article by Garry Williams, “The World in the Church: A Distracted World, a Distracted Church?” In the first part of the article, he argues for how the internet and other digital media have actually changed the way our brains think and process information. In the second half of the article, he challenges the church to carefully about the manner in which it communicates biblical truth. I would encourage all teachers and parents to read the entire article. Here are a few of his thoughts:
Meditation is a divinely commanded duty and delight. We are commanded not to flit around. But, we may wonder, if people’s brains are trained out of sustained attention, won’t doing it put them off? I think we have no choice. We have to be teachers not only of the content of revelation, but also of its prescribed form. Being faithful pastors will involve challenging the way people think as well as what they think. We are not doing our job if we only communicate the content and not the form. Reducing preaching to fragmentary form is like serving freeze dried astronaut ice cream and claiming it is Ben and Jerry’s. We are told to preach the word, which means communicating it by sustained speech, living man to living man. Preaching is a particular form of communication. It is not a string of videos punctuated by commentary.
If not by mimicking the world, how can we rightly resist the danger of distraction? First, we need deliberately to teach about it when we gather together, to forewarn and thereby forearm people against it. We can articulate for them what many probably already feel. This is a particular responsibility of parents whose children are growing up surrounded and potentially saturated by the new media. Of course we need to teach them about and protect them from the dangers of internet content, but we also need to take steps to educate them about the form of electronic media and its dangers.
Would you like to explore this topic further? Consider attending one of the following seminars at our 2016 National Conference in Indianapolis:
Picking Up the Digital Blitz: Recognizing and Countering the Technology Rush in Our Homes (Tim Keeter)
Many may be surprised to learn that God’s Word has plenty to say about how Christians should handle digital technology—and it’s clear and grace- filled! Our goal in this seminar is to come alongside parents and students (and those who minister to parents and students) in their effort to interact with technology in their homes and personal lives. Practical instruction will address strategies for introducing technologies into the home, training children in the wise and faithful use of technology, and how to identify, correct, and prevent idolatries surrounding digital technologies.
Encouraging Active Minds in the Learning Process (Jill Nelson)
If our children are to grow and mature in the Christian faith and stand firm against the spirit of this age, they must be taught to think deeply and biblically. This involves an intentional, age-appropriate, step-by-step approach aimed at encouraging the mind to be active in the learning process. For this to happen, a teacher must go beyond simply engaging students in activities or presenting information. This seminar will give teachers practical tools and training for activating the minds of their students.
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