Confession. . . and this one’s easy to admit. I watch “All Creatures Great and Small” on PBS. And, I like it. . . a lot. Earlier this week when this latest season of the show came to an end, my wife and I looked at each other with disappointment. We know we’re going to have to wait quite some time before the next season of the show comes out. What we both love about the show is that it’s peaceful and soothing. No shootouts. No car chases. Just peace and quiet on the WWII era Yorkshire Dales countryside of England.

This week as I was cataloging all that attracts me to the show, I mentioned to Lisa a couple of things that are noticeably absent from the lives of James Herriot and his Darrowby crew: televisions, computers, and smartphones. It’s fun to watch the story unfold with characters who don’t know what they’re missing, but who live absolutely full lives as a result of not having those things.

My own dependence on my devices raised its ugly head again a couple of weeks ago when five minutes after leaving our CPYU office I realized I had left my smartphone on my desk. There wasn’t full blown panic, but there was just enough panic to turn me around as I truly felt that I couldn’t get through the night without it. My memory quickly smacked me back to reality and I realized that I had lived two-thirds of my life without a smartphone. . . and I did just fine. In fact, I was doing better in a variety of ways.

Those of us who are older have some perspective that those who are younger will never have. We remember what life was like without the screens. Sure, there are so many good and wonderful advantages we have these days thanks to technology, but there’s a downside as well.

I’ve been thinking about a couple of reports that popped up last year. . . reports about teens and social media. The first was the U.S. Surgeon General’s Advisory, on Social Media and Youth Mental Health. The other was the Pew Research Center report on Teens, Social Media and Technology 2023. Together. . . and even alone. . . they give us a good picture of where kids are spending their online time, how much time they’re spending there, and the effects that time is having on their overall well-being. Keep in mind that the Surgeon General’s Office only issues an “advisory” when there is “an urgent public health issue.” The opening paragraph of the report reads, “Social Media use by youth is nearly universal. Up to 95% of youth ages 13-17 report using a social media platform, with more than a third saying they us social media ‘almost constantly.'” In addition, we learn that nearly 40% of kids ages 8-12 use social media.

I grabbed three of the most respected boots-on-the-ground youth workers I know, who also happen to be CPYU Research Fellows, and had an insightful “Youth Culture Matters” conversation about the implications of the reports, some other more recent issues related to social media, along with brainstorming on some practical responses we can employ in our homes, schools. and youth groups. We chatted about online gambling, “Sephora Tweens”, pornography exposure, reading on screens, phones in schools, and more. I invite you to sit down and listen in ito our conversation in order to be better informed on what’s happening, and how to respond. Waiting this out in silence isn’t going to help. Technology is changing and changing fast. If Jesus Christ is truly sovereign over all creation and we are called to nurture our kids into whole-life biblically-faithful discipleship, then we have to believe that the Gospel has something to say about social media. And, it does.

So, I invite you to listen in on this very helpful conversation. . .

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