Take a walk through your local mall and watch as people pass you by. What do you see? Most likely you'll have seen over 92% of them looking at their phones as they text/tweet/post/snap/comment on one of over a hundred social media platforms available today. Roughly 1/3 of the world's population, that's around 2.307 billion people, are connected via social media right at this moment. What's more is that number is projected to grow by 10-14% every year for the next 10 years. You see, when a person looks at their phone and they access everything from the Internet to social media, they are being influenced by a voice that's louder than their peers at school, their boss at work, and yes, even their family at home.
That voice is the voice of the world's first "global generation."
No longer are young people being influenced by who they sit next to in class, or flip burgers with at their place of employment, but they are being influenced by the exact same videos, blogs, and trends as other teenagers are in Europe, Asia, South America, and Africa. They all laugh at the same things, take social cues from the same people, and dress like the latest sensation on platforms like Instagram and Snapchat. People all over the world are becoming part of one tribe and one culture based on what they can access through the window of their smart phones. Teens are not only finding community with their peers in school, but with their peers that live halfway around the world. Think about it, the last time everyone in the world acted like one another was at the Tower of Babel...and we all know how that ended.
Now before we light our torches and grab our pitchforks and storm the gates of Facebook, let's take moment and look at what this means for us, because it's not about how "evil" the Internet is, it's about who is instilling values into the hearts of young people today. It's about your family. What this generation sees coming, the next generation (which begins with those who currently in 6-8 grade) will fully take hold of and realize. Our role, as mentors, is not to battle what the next generation will experience, but to recognize that the walls and boundaries that kept us from the rest of the world are crumbling through avenues such as the Internet and social media and our kids will have an unprecedented opportunity to reach the world and proclaim the name of Christ. One Instagram post from a teen in America with a caption that shares what Jesus did for that person can be seen and "liked" by another teen in a religiously oppressed country. Our role, then, is to instill three things that will be crucial to seeing your teen stand strong for Christ as they are a part of the emerging global generation.
It's important to understand that teens aren't accessing value on their smartphones, they are accessing information, and then forming their personal values from that information. The reason many teens find their values online is because value is largely absent from the home. Unless value is communicated by the parent it is never embodied by the teen. Communicating value is communicating the "why" behind what you believe as a family. You do that and no social media platform will ever be able to speak louder than your voice.
While it's impossible to dominate a teenager's time, it is possible to capitalize on the time you do have with them. Know this, that whatever a teen spends the most time with, smartphones included, will also have their greatest loyalty. Their values are not only formed by what you communicate, but also by the time you spend with them.
With a greater global community at the fingertips of nearly every teen, you can guarantee that engaging content is being created everyday to grab at their attention. While many suggest it wise to completely discourage engagement with thecontent that's out there, know that not all content is bad; in fact the majority of it is positive. What makes it negative is how an individual approaches it. Content like social media can either be the greatest shrine to our ego or it can be the greatest ministry tool the world has ever seen, but it can never be both. By encouraging positive engagement, you can ensure that a teen uses it as the latter.
Now while all this may be a little scary and may even make you want to build a bunker in your backyard and keep your family in it until Jesus comes back, rest assured in the fact that God knows what's happening and that he saw it fit for your family to be brought into this world for such a time as this. With this in mind, be confident that both you and your teen have what it takes to define what it means to be a Believer in a Global generation.