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From Goo-Goo to Google

Matt Guevara


Today's children live in an era of technological abundance. The typical American child lives in a house with multiple TVs and video game consoles. Kids up to 12 years old send and receive an average of 1,178 text messages every month.

Access to content is growing as well. Websites are too numerous to quantify. Web tools such as Google answer every question with countless results. Children's Technology Review ( reveals "more products have been published in the past 48 months than in the first 27 years of children's interactive media." A simple search in the iTunes app store reveals thousands of apps tagged for kids. In today's era of technological abundance, kids expect more: more options, more answers, more friends, more screens, more tasks, more time -- just a little more.

KIDMINTIP Understand that with so many options at their fingertips, tech-savvy kids have difficulty understanding or comprehending digital scarcity locally and globally.



The Internet is a natural environment for tech-savvy kids. Even the language used to name and describe the Internet is connective at its core. Consider the term "World Wide Web." When it was introduced around 1990, the "web" consisted of links that connected to other links. Now those web connections involve more than hyperlinks; they involve people. Children long for a linked, nonlinear world that allows them to think and dream about their future but also enables them to go back in time.

Tech-savvy kids have learned that it's easy to make connections when they watch and rate a video on a sharing site, comment on and publish blogs, read and reply via email, invite and play with GameCenter, or achieve and brag on Angry Birds. You can help parents and kids develop digital literacy so they can wisely navigate the wealth of connections they can and want to make.

KIDMINTIP Tech-savvy kids are nonlinear thinkers; start integrating nonlinear tools to help them learn.



Tech-savvy kids who create media, share their work, and spend their lives connecting to others want to be part of the learning process. A key term in thinking about these emerging cultural shifts is "participatory learning." Participatory learning includes the myriad ways that kids use new technologies to participate in virtual communities where they brainstorm, plan, design, implement, advance, or simply discuss their practices, goals, and ideas together.

Participation in the digital learning process is dramatically different from the traditional model, which tends to be more hierarchical (teacher talks, child listens). In participatory learning, kids help fashion the learning experience. The difficulty is designing environments that are engaging without depending too much on making those environments entertaining. Children want to participate in the process of their learning, and this desire requires a new sensitivity on the part of the teachers and leaders involved.

KIDMINTIP Stop asking kids to sit and listen; start asking them to help you teach.



Remember being a child and thinking that certain shoes were "faster" than others? For me, moving fast is a thing of the past. But when I watch television, check my email, or interact with an entire small group of children during a weekend service who have their smartphones handy, I'm reminded that the world is getting faster, not slower. Mobile data, the Internet, computers, gaming cores, and operating systems are all gaining speed. The lives of children echo the changes in technology.

Tech-savvy kids think, adapt, and live faster than I do. Older generations may have difficulty keeping up with the pace of kids in addition to the rate of change brought on by the reality of our digital world. The risk for older generations who hold the responsibility for teaching tech-savvy kids is becoming obsolete and irrelevant.

KIDMINTIP Wrestle with the tension between slowing down to help kids experience and respond to God and keeping up with the changes in their world.

Matt Guevara ( serves kids at Christ Community Church in St. Charles, Illinois. He is the ideator behind What Matters Now in Children's Ministry (, and he is a blogger at the Cory Center for Children's Ministry (



Don't be nervous. Even if you secretly wonder what makes some phones smarter than others, you can learn a few tech-savvy basics. While there's no simple plan for completely understanding the next generation, if you commit to constant lifelong learning and "upgrade" your imagination about what's possible, you'll be able to engage the next generation with confidence.


LEARN Three primary voices have defined the digital nature of children across the world: Don Tapscott, Marc Prensky, and Larry D. Rosen. Pick up a book by one of these authors: Growing Up Digital: The Rise of the Net Generation (Tapscott), Teaching Digital Natives: Partnering for Real Learning (Prensky), or Rewired: Understanding the iGeneration and the Way They Learn (Rosen).


FOLLOW Educators, pastors, leaders, authors, and communicators are thinking and writing about tech-savvy kids. The Committed Sardine blog is written by a group of public school advocates and focuses on new technologies that impact the field of education (subscribe at To stay informed about all things digital, scan You'll find insight on how technology informs all facets of modern life. You can also visit to find articles, blogs, and podcasts about ministering to digital learners.


INVEST Convince your church to direct part of the budget toward technology for children's ministry. Some great initial investments include a Flip video camera, digital camera, iPod touch, or a tablet computer. Ask one of your tech-savvy kids to teach you how to use these things.


PLAY There are some amazing web tools to teach kids about God. Prezi ( is helpful, non-linear presentation software. Create art from text at Make your own cartoon movies using Expand your learning space with a wiki for preteens using or by creating an online classroom through For fun, play "You Might Get Nervous" on

For more insight on embracing social media in ministry, go to


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