Smartphones are, arguably, the single most formative technology in the past decade. With the invention of these devices, anyone can have music, books, and unlimited knowledge (the Internet) at their fingertips everywhere they go. Teenagers, especially, have been exposed to these devices for a large portion of their lives.
Unsurprisingly, 73% of teenagers own a smartphone according to a Pew Research Center study. Teens use smartphones for everything from watching Netflix to researching for a term paper; in some ways, smartphones have replaced traditional computers for teenagers.
The use of smartphones in Bible studies or youth group is a divisive topic—should teens be allowed to follow along with an online study, look up Bible verses in an app, or take notes on their phones? For some, the pros outweigh the cons, but for others, smartphones are a distraction to faith growth.
Potential Problems With Allowing Smartphones
Of course, using smartphones in any kind of educational environment is dangerous. Naturally, the danger is that after youth finish looking up the Bible verse or article, they’ll be tempted to check Facebook or reply to a text message. One Boston Globe article focused on the use of these devices in the classroom, the complexity of the issue, and the differing opinions of educators on their use.
Pros vs. Cons of Allowing Smartphones
Here’s where I think smartphones can be used in an effective way: when it helps engage students to grow in their faith more than another avenue. Ultimately, you have to weigh the pros and cons of the use.
Here are some of the pros:
- It allow them to more easily look up definitions of words
- You can highlight and save verses
- You can search the entire Bible for a specific word with a few clicks
- Some students prefer to take notes electronically
There are also cons of allowing smartphones:
- Reading the Bible on their phone could provide an extra distraction.
- Some students prefer to have a print copy.
- Not every student has a smartphone and some may feel like they're missing out.
You also have to take into account the attitude of your youth. Some teenagers are more inclined to put away their smartphones if asked, while others will try to sneak in a few Snapchats between Bible verses. Larger groups might have a tougher time regulating smartphone use, while smaller groups might more easily get away with using smartphones to help study.
This isn’t meant to be a slam on some groups over others—it’s simply a perspective on whether or not smartphones will help educate or distract. Every group is different.
Really, it all comes down to whether or not you as a youth leader or pastor think the value and potential of smartphones overpowers the temptation to become distracted. Like any technological device, there are pros and cons, and there are certainly going to be distractions whether or not you choose to use smartphone in youth Bible studies (young people can become distracted by a fly on the wall or a leak in the ceiling).
The most important thing is to analyze whether or not using smartphones will help youth engage with the Bible more fully and help them grow as young Christian adults.
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