Today, I\’m taking the opportunity to talk about something that’s on a lot of kids in your ministry’s minds. They are probably all thinking about what they want for Christmas and for many of those kids, it’s a cell phone. Cell phone mania has taken attention of kids everywhere, and none moreso than those preteens!
Meet MC. She’s a sweet girl. Every bit of 11 years old and one of our close friend’s daughters. MC was in our Sunday School class until we recently changed churches for my wife to serve on staff at a different church. Still, MC comes over and hangs out with us. I think she just really likes our boys.
For as long as I’ve known MC, I have known two things:
1. ALL her friends have cell phones.
2. SHE doesn\’t have a cell phone.
MC was at our house the other night and from the way she’s talking, I\’m pretty sure she’s positive that there’s a package waiting underneath her Christmas tree that she’s been waiting for and wanting for a long time. That’s right, I think MC is entering the world of mass communication and endless texting. MC thinks she’s getting that cell phone she’s been longing for.
I guess when I think about it, it’s hard for me to imagine why an 11-year-old needs a cell phone. I mean, when I was 11, I survived without a cell phone. Honestly, I didn\’t get my first mobile phone until I was in college and it was in a brief case. It cost so much to use that I never even plugged it in unless there was "an emergency." At the same time, when I was 11-years-old we had a landline, something my sons may never know. Maybe that’s why they are so impressed with the phone when we stay in a hotel.
At any rate, I know the age of cell phone users is moving down. Even as I was taking MC’s picture the other night for this blog, I looked down and my three-year-old was downloading new apps to my iPhone. Seriously. I think it’s really funny that my iPhone has more apps downloaded by my young son than I’ve actually put on it.
I’ve come up with a few ideas about good cell phone use among preteens. Do you think you might be able to use some of these ideas?
1. Cell Phones don\’t need to come to Sunday School. Even though you can\’t live without your cell phone, your cell phone will have a limited life. Let’s not take up space in the classroom for soul-less items.
2. If cell phones or other electronics do make it outside the Swagger Wagon, I’ve found it very useful to have an E-Bucket. The E-Bucket looks alot like a trash can with a big E on the side of it. Preteens learn that ALL electronics go straight to the E-Bucket as soon as they walk through the doors to your class. Preteens can retrieve their items at the end of class.
3. Ernest shouldn\’t take a cell phone to camp. I think that my buddies at CentriKid would agree that camp and cell phones don\’t mix! Bringing cell phones to camp only increases negative things. They increase distraction, homesickness, jealousy, and the chances that it will be lost or stolen. BEWARE: Some parents will help their kids sneak their cell phones to camp with them. Simply retrieve the smuggled cell phone and return it at the end of camp.
4. Make cell phones work for you. If you have cell phones coming to class, you might want to try to let them work for you. Instead of just asking questions for review, why don\’t you post your cell phone number, ask the question and let teams of kids text the answer back to you. The first one to get the correct answer texted in, wins the points. This helps out on the "they cheated" thing preteens are always bringing up.
So, no matter where you stand on the whole cell phone debate, cell phones are here to stay and users of the devices are getting younger. Help parents be smart about cell phones. Make sure they know about parental controls, enforce cell phone bed times, and so forth.
Just think, I bet after Friday, MC isn\’t going to be the ONLY ONE of her friends without a cell phone. I bet she’s not the only preteen whose going to tell you she got a cell phone for Christmas.
I was a counselor at a youth winter retreat last week, and cell phones and iPods were distracting during group discussion times. I think an E-Bucket in the car is a great idea! I wish I had had one in the cabin during retreat.