Questions have been raised about the effects of technology use at a young age and the potential impact that this may have on a child’s brain development. On a social level, the use of technology by children may inhibit their social development and makes it less likely that they will recognise human emotion, presumably leading to difficulty in feeling empathy or compassion towards others. Beyond basic development issues comes the issue of forming individual identity. Where before humans were only expected to develop a single working identity they are now expected to develop and maintain two—one in the physical world, and one in cyberspace.
This poses an issue on two levels: the first being the child’s own expectation of themselves in developing and maintaining two identities, the second being the expectation of them by others in the physical and digital spaces. On one hand, the digital space consists of a community whose members require an individual to be extroverted, attractive, interesting; on the other hand, the realities of the physical space demand the individual to be compliant, civilised, and ‘normal’. This split in identity isn’t realistic to maintain, and what may end up happening is that the more prominent, appealing identity ends up dominating and putting the other one at risk. In other words, a child, not yet having fully developed mentally or socially, will be far more vulnerable to criticism and may choose an identity that they feel will be accepted by those in the online community—abandoning the real life identity they hold separately in physical life.
So, the other week I heard about #GAIN15, and after contacting @KosterLundqvist via Twitter, agreed to join them for a 5 minute Skype session this morning, before I head to Karate. Here’s what it looked like from their end:
and just as we kick off:
and here’s the notes I was working from:
The Challenge of Discipleship in a Digital Age: GAIN
- So, have we had a ‘digital revolution’? New forms of technology have shifted what is possible – what does it make possible, and what does it limit? Sheer numbers online (with younger in particular not seeing this as separate from so-called ‘real’ life). How does it impact our discipleship practices?
- Churchgoing not the ‘cultural norm’ for many in the UK, too much competition for other activities on a Saturday/Sunday – those who are even ‘looking’ more likely to come via a website, or, even more likely, via their friends.
- Anecdotally, around 2012, questions from those working within churches changed from “we don’t need this” to “how do we do this”? Emphasising the importance of understanding digital culture in order to engage with it (effectively).
- God is a communicating God, and the digital age offers opportunities for more voices to be heard (although we need to challenge pre-existing power structures – the digital doesn’t provide a free for all), and if we concentrate on ‘social’ not media, then the digital with its emphasis on relationships is a powerful space – and we are entrusted by God to be good stewards of our interactions in that space.
- Church not about ‘bums on seats’, but about developing that discipleship journey: we’re not trying to ‘sell’ something to the world, but to ‘be’ something that is distinctively different, inviting connection from the rest of the world, and an opportunity to be part of a global community.
- There’s an importance for us as technology users to, yes, be competent users of technology, but not if we are incompetent in what we might be sharing with others, so part of our own discipleship journey is to challenge ourselves as to our practices, including personal spirituality, community, and mission.
- “Disciples keen to engage modern culture need to understand how to exist in, listen, read, and speak into the digital age: being immersed in the culture, but also acting as a change agent within that culture.” So, so glad that this conversation is on the agenda!
- On our site: “#Digidisciple(s) have written on a huge range of topics, including tweeting in church, legal and ethical questions, reviews of the latest scholarship, demonstrating graceful communication, thinking before tweeting, the importance of listening, undertaken a digital pilgrimage, relationship development online, authenticity, drawing upon best practice in the secular world, the use of language, attitude, and wellbeing – including taking digital time out. Overall, the group explores how digital practices and values (e.g. social, always-on, immediate, responsive, iterative, accountable, avatar use) contribute to contemporary discipleship and how discipleship values (e.g. authenticity, integrity, discernment) shape the digital environments that are engaged with.”
- Core to my belief to this is that we are engaged in lives that encompass both the digital and the physical, and we should be looking for consistency in our presence. The digital offers new opportunities to engage with others in our community – share experiences, practices, discuss theology, but also for (some of) those conversations to be in the public sphere, opening it up to our other friends, using the new opportunities to share the spiritual activities that we are engaged in for sharing not for proclamation = authenticity!
Some thoughts extracted from: https://www.academia.edu/8724570/The_Digital_Age_A_Challenge_for_Christian_Discipleship
and now it is time to run to Karate!
The widespread use of social networking sites (SNSs) by children and young people has significantly reconfigured how they communicate, with whom and with what consequences. Drawing on cross-national interviews and informed by the tradition of research on media literacy, I will discuss the idea of social media literacy. The empirical material reveals a social developmental pathway by which children learn to interpret and engage with the technological and textual affordances and social dimensions of SNSs in determining what is risky and why. Their changing orientation to social networking online (and offline) appears to be shaped by their changing peer and parental relations, and has implications for their perceptions of risk of harm.
So, it’s time for Lent. For once, I haven’t been on top of exactly when it’s coming, as after four years of doing #bigread, we’ve taken a break this year (it’s a huge amount of work, you know) – materials remain available online. Anyway, Lent starts Wednesday, with Easter Day 5th April (I’ll be at Spring Harvest, come join!)
So, what will I be engaging with for Lent?
I’m already engaged in a discussion group on Facebook, reading We Make the Road by Walking, which will last all year.
As I have done for the last few Lent/Advent sessions, I am going to receive Brian Draper‘s daily ‘in the moment’ emails, which always give something to chew over for the day.
A few years ago, I gave up supermarket shopping for Lent. I think this year, I will again do a food-focused challenge, in which I will focus on the foods in my cupboards, and seek to make meals from those, preferably topping up from small ‘fill-in’ shops, rather than a ‘big shop’ (in either sense of the word), and remove some of that consumerist mindset!
Finally, I love what @40Acts does, and look forward to engaging with the ‘gentle’ acts suggested within the ‘green’ section of 5 minutes or less (as this year acts will be split into 3 levels, according to the energy that you have that day):
You’ll see from previous blog posts that I’ve been interested in Beyond Chocolate since around 2009. I can’t remember how I first came across the books, but after reading, ended up going on a day course where I remember Audrey’s face as she described a ‘fun-size Malteser’ packet, learnt to reconnect with our bodies as we drew around ourselves/described ourselves, and experimented with new recipes and the thought of having food as something to enjoy, rather than something to be limited/restrained or feared. Prior to the course, post-chest-infection, I’d been putting on roughly half-stone every 6 months – 6 months after this one day, I’d stabilised and food had regained some of it’s fun and adventure (scales have since gone, so judging by clothes)!
I ticked along with this, read Beyond Temptation, then in 2013, decided to go to another day in Leeds, where the outstanding exercises in my mind were eating foods veeeery slowly to reacquaint with the taste (rather than shovelling it down), and encouraging people to say out loud to the person next to them the things that they say to themselves (e.g. you fat, lazy cow) – demonstrating how you wouldn’t to others but you would to yourselves!
In 2014, I went on a whole weekend, which was a great opportunity to take time out from everyday life, and undertake a series of exercises – including eating food in silence, and comparing to the next meal with conversation, having meals with lots of choices/limited choices, having ‘unlimited’ quantities of food that one is not ‘relaxed’ about, looking at one’s journey with food, and lots of fun and conversation! By this point, I’d already started sharing a range of stories on the Beyond Chocolate Facebook page (over the last 8 months we’ve increased from around 900 page members to over 1500, with a regular flow of stories ‘of interest’ to the group), and started road-testing a new online course known as “The Psychology of Weight Loss” (and yes, lots of discussion about using weight loss as part of the title when it’s about having a good relationship with your body – whether you are small or large – but it’s something people are looking for, so then encourage people to say this is not where your emphasis should lie!).
Anyway, I have just FINISHED part-1 of the course, and it’s been really helpful (especially the 1-2-1 inputs from BC), as there’s been time to do the material, then think about it, before diving in to the next session: aside from anything else, I’ve realised how much my relationship with food and my body has changed over the past few years, even if, in the world’s eyes, I am “overweight”.
Doing this online course has encouraged me to try a few more things, in tune with my ‘give me new stuff’ way of thinking, and against that thinking of “I need to do this, and I need to do this for ever” mentality of many a diet. I give something a go, reflect on it, then decide if I want to do it again. It may become a habit, or I may decide it’s not for me…
The intention is to do it within 3 months, but there are extension packages available if you want longer-term e-mail support. See an overview of the course here, and you can try the first lesson for free! Only £67 if you just want to undertake the course, or £350 with 1-2-1 support!
“Many clergy and churches are now taking to the internet and social media to promote their churches or ministries, but few have thought through some of the difficult pastoral and theological issues that may arise.’Virtual vicar’ Revd Pam Smith guides both new and experienced practitioners through setting up online ministries and considers some of the issues that may arise, such as:Are relationships online as valid as those offline? Is it possible to participate in a ‘virtual’ communion service? How do you deal with ‘trolls’ in a Christian way? What is it appropriate for a clergyperson to say on social media?”
I reviewed this book before publication, and here’s what I wrote:
‘Pam Smith has an enthusiasm for sharing the gospel of God rather than worshipping technology. She challenges those who fear online ministry both theologically, and with practical advice, identifying opportunities and areas that need respectful thought. In order to meet people where they are online – Pam emphasizes the need for resilience in our own Christian development, and highlights quality interactions over quantity. I recommend it to all who are interested in or involved in online mission and ministry.’ –Dr Bex Lewis, Research Fellow in Social Media and Online Learning, The CODEC Research Centre for Digital Theology
Officially out on 19th Feb, but already available in ‘certain online stores‘.
Digital Fingerprint is a Social Media Consultancy, working particularly with those in the Higher Education, Christian and voluntary sectors, and particularly focused upon attitude change, identifying the possibilities of the digital:
- Do you want to know which digital tools are right for you?
- Do you want to gain confidence in working online?
- Are you a parent wanting to know more about the digital environment for your children? Check out Raising Children in a Digital Age
As featured on The One Show (BBC1), Steve Wright in the Afternoon (BBC Radio 2), BBC News, The Telegraph, Church Times, Best, Financial Times, Premier Radio, UCB and more…
In case you missed it, I had 2.5 minutes on The One Show yesterday, talking about cyberbullying as part of Safer Internet Day (week), and 3 minutes this morning on BBC News, talking about whether parents should panic about their children sharing inappropriate material online.
Click for all media appearances.