You may have avoided discussing social media, screen time and other technology issues in your Bible classes for older children or teens. Perhaps you have a phone basket where students are required to place their phones during class, but haven’t really discussed the principles behind your decision. Or you may just be frustrated at how difficult it is to maintain student attention because they are more engaged with their phones than your lessons.
Ignoring the role of technology in the lives of your Bible students won’t make it disappear. Neither will rules that seem overly harsh to students. As with anything, it is important to help students understand the potential spiritual problems that can happen from overuse of technology or misplaced priorities. Even though the Bible doesn’t specifically address technologies that were yet to be invented, it does address the attitudes and behaviors that can arise from an overuse or over dependence on technology.
What are some of the biblical topics you can bring into a discussion of technology, social media and screen time?
- Selfishness. Individual devices mean we can choose exactly what we want to entertain ourselves at any given moment. We don’t have to consider the wishes or feelings of others. No sharing is involved. It’s the same dynamic that caused many families who could afford multiple televisions to only own one. The negotiating and sharing required when multiple people with different interests have to share the only television minimized selfishness. Your Bible students need to understand constantly being the only voice choosing how they spend their free time can lead to an incredibly ungodly, selfish heart.
- Idolatry. It sounds extreme – especially to teens – but an iPhone can become an idol, just like Baal. They may not pray to it or overtly worship it, but it can easily become the most important thing in their lives. The world may call it an addiction to screens, but anything that becomes more important to us than God has become an idol in our lives. It may be a tough lesson for many young people to understand and accept. If they want to truly be who God wants them to be, they need to learn that nothing can take the place God is meant to have in their lives.
- Stewardship. The parents of your Bible students have probably been the ones who purchased their phones and pay their phone bills. Monetary stewardship in regards to their screens may be several years away. While it’s still important to talk about those things, there is a more relevant stewardship discussion. Teens need to think about how they are being stewards of their time. Are they saying they are too busy to read the Bible, pray or attend Bible class, yet spending several hours a day involved with apps on their phones? Could they be serving someone and sharing their faith, but they are too engaged with their screens to even notice the opportunity God is giving them to serve someone and share their faith? These are important conversations to have with Christian young people. How does God want them to be good stewards of their time?
- Discernment. Are they making wise, godly choices about the content they choose to see or believe? Are they playing games that are slowly making them believe ungodly behaviors are acceptable? The young people in your Bible class need some help learning how to discern what is appropriate content for them and what isn’t. This is difficult, because God doesn’t give us a specific list of the games, apps and websites He doesn’t want His people to use. God does, however, give us a lot of principles about the types of content He wants us to expose ourselves to in whatever we do. Are their choices meeting those standards?
- Fellowship. God wants Christians to fellowship with one another in meaningful ways. He also wants us to engage with those who aren’t Christians to serve them and share our faith with them. Studies have shown that too much screen time has a negative impact on relationships. It can also hamper the development of appropriate social skills that are necessary for building new relationships. It’s important for your Bible students to discuss the impact their screen time may be having on their relationships. It’s also a good time to remind them of the benefits of Christian relationships and sharing our faith with others who may not know the Gospel message.
Do you need a phone basket in your Bible class? Personally, I’m not a fan. Students need to know you trust them to make good choices until they don’t. Many teens will behave appropriately if you clearly explain your expectations for phone usage during your class.
If you really want to make a positive impact on the spiritual lives of students, take the time to have some meaningful biblical discussions about technology issues and God. Listen to what they have to say on the topic. Share the truth with them in love. Encourage them to use their screens wisely and avoid deluding themselves about their actual usage habits. For some of your students, it could change everything.