I recently went on a trip with high schoolers to a conference called CIY MOVE. Now that I was trying to actually get high schoolers to focus for longer than one hour, I was overwhelmed by the amount of distractions that kids have in their lives. This post will discuss a few of the most prominent distractions.
Working the way from least prominent to most prominent:
3. Sleep Deprivation
Supposedly depriving the kids of sleep breaks down their emotional barriers and makes them more apt to respond to an emotionally charged week of camp. This is a tactic I “learned” at a previous ministry and still disagree with. In fact I find it disturbing that we would want kids to make such important decisions when they aren’t running on all cylinders. No wonder the afterglow of these trips doesn’t last long. But I digress.
I found that no sleep does in fact lead to an emotional breakdown. But it’s the worst kind possible. The kids were so tired that they struggled to stay awake at critical times during the trip. They also found themselves being uncharacteristically short with one another and with the leaders. As the week progressed, this behavior became increasingly apparent.
What makes this a distraction is that no matter how hard I or the other leaders tried, many of the kids would not go to sleep at a decent hour. They were too interested in hanging out late into the night. Now I understand the benefit of kids wanting to enjoy time with one another, but not at the cost of the greater purpose of the trip.
2. Cell Phones
Cell phones have become ubiquitous in our day, though I never owned one until just a few years ago. Almost every kid has a cell phone to call their own now.
Texting has become a particular favorite of kids with cell phones (and I like it too, for certain things). Sending a text message can be done with very little visible distraction from current activities, which makes it tbe perfect candidate for maintaining the umbilical cord connection with friends back home on a trip like CIY MOVE. You can send a great number of text messages from the comfort of your stadium seat without it looking like you are completely disconnected from what’s going on on.
While I noticed other church’s kids using phones, this wasn’t a problem with the kids I took on the trip. But I did notice that in the material I handed out for trip preparation, I repeatedly said “no cell phones” and for some reason, the kids must have thought I was kidding. I even asked parents to help in this, but many decidedly didn’t want to fight that battle. When I even hinted at me taking up cell phones from the kids, they looked at me like I was completely insane. In fact, I sensed a great deal of fear emanating from them at the thought of being without their cell phones.
Ignoring specific instructions not to bring them; parents scared to take them; kids terrified at not having them. This tells me something: cell phones can be a huge distraction.
Music is a great thing. It’s an incredible artistic expression that deserves enjoyment by everyone. I love music. Maybe this doesn’t deserve to be the number one distraction on this trip, but I find it to be the most insidius because of its seeming innocuousness.
Another thing I discouraged was iPods (or any music player) being brought on the trip. Again, the kids went ahead and brought them anyway. Initially I was happy to let the kids listen to some music, so long as they were still talking and interacting with one another.
One of the leaders brought a car attachement for his iPod so that we could all listen to music together. Great. Fabulous. But something happened that I did not expect: people stopped talking. And when they started talking, it was often about the music. To complain, evaluate, request the next song, etc.
Another kid brought travel speakers so that he could listen to music in his room with his friends. Every time, every time, I went in the room, they were listening to music. They were talking too, but always with music playing. Also, I was suprised by the number of kids who fell asleep with their headphones on every night. They said they couldn’t sleep without it.
So on the way home I tried a little experiment: no music. At least not over the van’s speakers. Guess what? It took quite a while, but they eventually started talking, interacting with one another, and even playing games together. I know this could be due to a week of hanging out, while on the trip down there they didn’t have all that previous shared experience, but I also think that not having music playing enabled them to fill the void with something more meaningful: relationships.
I don’t want anyone to get me wrong; the trip was awesome. All in all, I think it was a success. The kids had a great time, grew closer together and made some important decisions about God. This post was just some thoughts I had about the distractions I noticed kids have (and even invite) in their lives.
Have you noticed any distractions in your life? What about the lives of others: kids, adults, etc.?