Pope Francis: “Make young people ‘land’ in the real world.”

During a recent address in Rome, Pope Francis expressed his concern that young people today are caught up in a “virtual world,” filled with technologies that are good, but have the lamentable potential of causing people to disconnect from reality and fail to establish genuine relationships. In the context of his remarks, Francis told of a recent experience where he was surrounded by a group of young people, reaching out to him and eager to engage him, but reaching out with their cell phones to take photos and selfies, instead of reaching out with their hands to touch the Holy Father, shake his hand, and connect with him physically.

It is a complaint repeated by many parents today.

The answer, as Pope Francis suggested, is not to take away these technologies, for they have potential for great good. The answer is for older, more experienced people, to connect with young folks and help them connect with the real world. Unfortunately, many older folks have also become enmeshed in the world of virtual reality. Overcoming this propensity and making relationships a priority will require a conscious effort. We, as parents, need to be conscious of our children’s reliance on these technologies and consciously choose to interrupt the near constant activity on them.

I recall a commercial I watched (don’t remember the product) of a father taking his son out on a camping trip with no cell phones, tablets, or any other modern technologies! At first, the boy was resistant, then merely hesitant, then fully engaged in the outdoors that surrounded him. While I recognize it’s a bit oxymoronic to turn to a TV commercial to make a point about breaking the hold technology has on our children (and, even more so, that I’m making this point on a blog that will be shared on Facebook!), but the point isn’t lost, even still. We have a responsibility to our children to make sure they understand the world around them exists at a level larger than a 2×4 inch screen.

She doesn’t know it yet, but my wife and I have talked about exploiting this summer to introduce our youngest daughter to some of the sights and activities around Knoxville and east Tennessee. No, she won’t have to give up her technologies completely. But, there will be significant breaks while we travel around the city and the area to take in the beauty, fun, and even the spirituality of what our home state has to offer. It should be a lot of fun. I know it will be for me. I hope and think it will be for her, too.

Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.

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