In working with youth, we often have the discussion of what role technology plays in their lives- How much do you use your phone? What games do you play?? Are you on the internet a lot???
Invariably, these questions lead to many “yes” answers and vocal exclamations of the awesome-ness of new technology. The problem with this discussion is that the above questions are not the correct questions to ask youth. Why? Because the fact of the matter is, youth will be using technology much more than any predecessors did, and at what some may claim an alarmingly high rate.
The correct question we need to ask youth is this: How are you using technology? and perhaps most importantly, For what purpose? This frames the issue in a much more personal way- instead of a simple “yes” and “no” format, youth can begin querying with themselves what actual role technology is playing in their lives. If its gaming, then the answer to the above questions could be “for fun”, “to hang out with friends online”, yet a deeper issue could emerge such as “I use my computer to feel connected to the world”. Once the discussion becomes about how we feel, it automatically becomes personal.
A simple way to talk about technology is to discuss it as a “tool” or “lens” – we use technology as a way to understand the world, feel connected, stay in touch, etc., but we acknowledge that technology is not the only way to do these things. When Roots to Branches works with youth during service learning projects or rites of passage groups, we have this discussion early on to discern something we feel is VERY important: technology is not the goal, but a means to achieving the goal. It is the lens we can view the world through, but in itself is NOT the world. As adults we might take this distinction for granted, yet we need to create the understanding in youth today that technology will not solve the worlds problems- it is the people that use technology as a lens; that know how to understand the limits to its use; who can successfully navigate the world with understanding of who they are and how to use the tools around them, without getting lost in the process.