According to my wife, I have the online habits of a teenager. I grew up watching the internet evolve, and was there before it was even invented – and so, I think it’s true that the Internet, the web and the world of video conferencing isn’t that fundamentally different from the physical world. In some ways, it makes sense that the youngest generation don’t even distinguish between the two. It’s not the ‘real’ world and the digital world, it’s being online and being offline.
Every older generation worries about how technology is going to be used by the younger generation – that's not a new thing. But we’re in a time now where we can use it to reach out to children and young people. So here are some of my thoughts on utilizing the internet:
We have this little phrase at Scripture Union to ‘go where the children are, but the gospel is not’. Children are normally out there in the playing fields and in schools, but not at the moment. So, we need to be brave as disciples with hearts for evangelism and discipleship and go where they are. In some cases, that means going online.
Be cautious about playing all the negatives on to the online space, when in fact here in lockdown, we’re really seeing the positives as well. It’s no different from the printing press; the web can be used for both good and bad, and I think the best approach is to get alongside young people and honest with them equally about the dangers and the great opportunities.
At Scripture Union, we’re trying to help children and young people find the Jesus that they meet in the Bible – somebody who can help them through the good and bad of life. We should be doing the same with the online world.
We will never be able to totally police what our children and young people are doing or seeing – what it’s about is helping them to see the principles and see at the heart how they should behave online. Sit down with your child and encourage them to be witnesses if they are followers of Jesus themselves, and help them to see how they can get their friends to do so as well.
Myles MacBean is director of Scripture Union.