Meet the tech-savvy kids in your ministry — and
discover what they need from you.
Battery manufacturer Duracell compiles a list
every year of the toys children want for Christmas the most. Of the
top 10 most coveted gifts in 2010, only two were traditional toys.
The other eight were tech “gadgets,” ranging in size and price:
iPhone 4, iPod touch, iPad, Xbox Kinect, Flip cam, PlayStation
Move, Lego Harry Potter Years 1-4 video game, and the Barbie Video
Statistics paint a picture of digital saturation in childhood.
According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, kids (ages 2 to 18)
spend an average of five hours and 29 minutes per day using media.
Larry D. Rosen, professor and research psychologist at California
State University (Dominguez Hills), found 35 percent of children
ages 6 months to 3 years have a TV set in their bedroom; 10 percent
of kids ages 4 to 8 have a computer in their bedroom; and 51
percent of those ages 9 to 12 have a cell phone.
Children ages 2 to 6 are just as wired as their older siblings.
Market data firm NPD concluded in their 2007 report, “Kids &
Digital Content,” that close to 15 percent of 2- to 5-year-olds use
cell phones. Children in this age group don’t own these portable
devices; they share them with a parent or older sibling. Soon-to-be
tech-savvy toddlers are crawling through the nursery at a church
Today’s children, regardless of location, class, or education,
are the most digitized generation in history. This “reformatted”
generation, which spends countless hours in front of a digital
screen each week, has developed a reformatted worldview with
several distinct characteristics. Understanding these
characteristics will make us more effective in reaching their
TECH-SAVVY KIDS COLLABORATE
Today’s kids share what they create because they love to
collaborate. Take a look at the PlayStation game, Little Big
Planet, which allows players to create and share their own
game levels and play the game levels created by others. Little
Big Planet players have created over 10 million pieces of
game-related levels, challenges, and music in the past three
With all that sharing online, kids need a clearer understanding
of the permanence of content. For today’s kids, whatever is shared
digitally (comments, opinions, ratings, artwork, video, status
updates) resides online forever, and there’s a certain level of
risk associated with that longevity.
KIDMINTIP Kids need to share meaningful
creative work with more people than just their parents. And adults
still need to provide caring oversight to ensure appropriate things
TECH-SAVVY KIDS CREATE MEDIA
Jay Rosen correctly identifies this generation as “the people
formerly known as the audience.” When YouTube was launched, a
generation of content creators was born. And create they have.
YouTube boasts 24 hours of content uploaded to its servers every
minute, the equivalent of hundreds of thousands of videos per day.
Once the Flip cam came to the market, media production became
financially accessible to more children. Whether at home or working
in a classroom, children are geared to actively respond to the
media they view. Unfortunately much of children’s ministry
resources are lecture-based. Because kids are no longer passive
learners, they’ve become far less responsive to traditional
KIDMINTIP Experiment with video in your
ministry context. Invite tech-savvy kids to help produce the
content. Upload it to YouTube with parents’ permission.
TECH-SAVVY KIDS SOCIALIZE ONLINE
Social media tools such as Facebook, Twitter, and Togetherville
aren’t separated from reality; they’re integrated into it.
Everloop, a social networking site for kids ages 8 to 13, has
developed partnerships with 56,000 schools across the country.
Social networking in virtual space is connected with education in
This connection is a premise in Clay Shirky’s book Cognitive
Surplus. “Social media tools are being used to coordinate
human contact and real-world activity,” he writes. In other words,
kids aren’t going online to waste time. They use social networking
tools to maintain and build relationships and to make a positive
change in the world. Consequently new generations have developed
changing definitions of relationships that clash with older
generations who are unaccustomed to nurturing friendships in
digital spaces, a skill tech-savvy kids use almost daily.
KIDMINTIP Leverage the power of social
media tools to connect tech-savvy kids to your community of
TECH-SAVVY KIDS ARE WIRED FOR GAMES
Technology, most commonly in the form of gaming, is deeply
integrated into the life of a tech-savvy kid. Research from the
Joan Ganz Cooney Center, part of the Sesame Street Workshop,
confirms findings that up to 84 percent of children ages 2 to14 are
gaming on a computer, video game system, portable digital music
player, or cell phone.
Jane McGonigal, a video game designer and author of the book
Reality Is Broken, advocates the power of video games to
change the world. Video games are tied to the gamer’s confidence
and feelings of control. So according to McGonigal, “When we play
games, we are tapping into our best qualities, our ability to be
motivated, to be optimistic, to collaborate with others, to be
resilient in the face of failure.” Screen time, outside of video
game addiction, is fostering the real-world application of these
skills learned in digital space.
KIDMINTIP Use games and the principles
behind game design as powerful teaching tools, not just mindless