Teens, Romance and Technology: 3 Responses to Pew Research

Here’s a crazy fact that I share with my students all of the time. 

When I tell them they don’t believe me.  

When Barack Obama became the president of the USA the iPhone did not exist.  In fact Obama loved his blackberry like most other smart phone users at the time.

Today the vast majority of your students have a smart phone.  And those smart phones shape every part of their lives.  Yes even the romantic part.

The good people at the Pew Research Center just published some data that they titled “6 facts about teen romance in the digital age”  Here’s what they found and what it means: 

  1. Very few teens say they met a romantic partner online
  2. Aside from in-person flirting, social media is the next most popular flirting method
  3. Texting is the most frequent way teens interact with their romantic partner
  4. Tech makes them feel more connected to partner but causes more jealousy
  5. Teens say it is bad to break up via text, but they have experienced it
  6. After the break-up all digital ties are cut.

All of this information is interesting and important.  But I like to ask, what I call the “SO WHAT” question.  What can we mine from this information.
I have 3 observations.

It’s Going No Where

Lets just call a spade a spade.  With your students technology is going nowhere.  There is no point in fighting it.  Smart phones are just a part of who they are.

Just as obvious of a statement is romance is not going to go away either.  No matter if you discourage it or even come up with rules prohibiting romance I guarantee that it will happen.

So my advice is not to fight these two areas but teach your students to handle technology and romance in a Godly way.  These should be topics that are part of your conversations, small groups, and preaching.

The Golden Rule

Another observation that I have from the research is that how students treat each other matters.

They understand that breaking up with someone via text is bad, but yet they still do it.  Why?  Social media can also cause them to become jealous much more easily.  Why?

Our students need to be taught how you treat someone is important.  Every single person is made in the image of God so they should be treat with dignity and respect.

People Matter

What became so clear with this research to me is that students still crave the face to face.  Students love their phones but they love people more.

Those face to face interactions are still very important to them.  Has your ministry tried to be so relevant that you have forgotten that people matter.  Sitting across from a student and looking into their eyes matter.

Good research can lead to good ministry.  I hope this helps you think through technology, romance and ministry some.

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Tyson Howells

Tyson is the associate youth ministry director for Vanguard Youth Ministry Institute. He has been a youth pastor for many years in Winnipeg as well as in Edmonton. Tyson is passionate in seeing relational youth ministry that results in youth that are passionate about following Jesus. He still leads a small group at the youth group in his home church.