Tag Archives: be present

What You Can Do About the Other Side of the Screen

What you can do about the other side of the screen
What’s on the other side?

Do you live in one world or two? What about your young people? Is their reality in front of the screen or on the other side of the screen? What is the other side of the screen? It’s the place where life is lived. Well, that might be overstating it.

What happens in front of the screen in the virtual world is very real. The other side of the screen in this post refers to the physical reality. This is  what I referred to in the last blog post as the right side of the screen. I also spoke about the wrong side of the screen.

Truth be told, there is a level at which neither side of the screen is right or wrong. I’ve enjoyed rich conversations in front of the screen. I’ve reconnected with people and deepened relationships with some. You’ve probably experienced this too, as do your young people.

The front of the screen becomes wrong when it displaces the physical, the other side of the screen to the point where you become numb to the physical world. You abandon your compassion and empathy for other human beings, thus becoming a danger to those around you.

This is what happened in the incident referred to in the last blog post. This is what happens with many accidents.You see it when bullying escalates in ways that the physical reality makes difficult.

There have always been screens. As human beings, we seek ways of mediating and sometimes distancing ourselves from the physical reality that we inhabit. People have hidden behind borrowed personas, titles, family identity, etc. for a long time.

What’s different about this digital screen to which I refer is the way in which you and your young people can put it up in an instant’s notice. Without thinking or planning you can be physically present yet separated on the other side of the screen. This has challenges, as was indicated in the last post.

What can you do to help your young people to live fully in the other side of the screen?

How do you help your young people to inhabit the physical reality where they are needed? How do you help them to engage it in love for God and neighbor?

  1. Create mindful moments. Plan times in your ministry when you pause and ask young people to be aware of their surroundings. For example, ask them to write three things they notice about the room you’re in, 3 things about the people next to them, and 3 things about the activity you’re doing.
  2. If you use digital technology in your youth ministry, have tech blackout times, times when all electronic equipment is put away and you focus on each other. Use these times to encourage youth to look at each other as they speak with each other.
  3. Do a “getting to know my neighbor” or similar activity. Ask youth to spend the week noticing how others react to their words and actions. Guide them to look for cues such as changes in facial expression when they speak, the emotions in people’s eyes, and to ask another how they feel. Have them report back the next week. Repeat from time to time.
  4. Discuss specific situations when using the phones at the wrong time had disastrous results. Here are 3 articles that you can use: Son of woman killed in collision faces teen driver who was texting behind the wheelMassachusetts teen sentenced to prison for texting while drivingand Police: Byron teen killed in crash on first day of school was texting.
  5. Burst the myth of “it couldn’t be me.” Technology is so instinctive that without forethought it could be them.
  6. Have discussions on when it is important to use cell phones to record incidents and when it isn’t. iReporting is not appropriate when people are hurting and/or dying. Do role plays.
  7. Remind them that they are thinking people who have the capacity to act and not merely consume.

Jesus left the heavenly reality for a physical reality. What do we learn about Jesus’ life about living on the other side of the screen. The virtual has its place but the other side of the screen is real and we need to avoid being the cause of harm on the other side.

What else can we do to help young people live fully on the other side of the screen?


Living fully. Living faithfully. Following Christ.

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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