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Reality Check

Generation iPad

By David Ewart

My wife and I were out for dinner. At the next table, a young couple were also eating while their two-year-old daughter played on an iPad. Welcome to modern parenting.

In 2011, Nielsen, a global information and measurement company, reported that 70 percent of parents let their children under 12 use their tablets. In January, Ottawa-based MediaSmarts reported that almost all of the Grade 4 to 11 students it surveyed used the Internet, and most owned a cell or smartphone by Grade 7.

And according to the Joan Ganz Cooney Center in New York, over 80 percent of the top-selling apps in iTunes’ education category target children, with almost 60 percent targeting toddlers and preschoolers.

©2014 MediaSmarts, Young Canadians in a Wired World — Phase III: Life Online, http://mediasmarts.ca
©2014 MediaSmarts, Young Canadians in a Wired World — Phase III: Life Online, http://mediasmarts.ca
For better and for worse, the toddler next to us was revealing the future that is already at hand. She was hard-wiring her brain to expect that space does not end with the four walls of any room she is in. And time is not just “now” but also “any time, all the time.” She is networked and interactive. This means new dangers and risks, but also new opportunities and benefits.

What do you think are the chances that an iPad baby will disconnect from her world and sit passively for an hour, where every word she hears, sings and prays was chosen ahead of time by someone else?

Evolution shows us that when the environment changes, organisms must change or die. The era of the church building as the sole platform for ministry is ending. Communities of faith must learn to connect, communicate and congregate in cyberspace. And the challenge is not just to become social media savvy.

These new wine skins will not hold our old wine. How will we baptize her on Facebook? Clothe the naked and feed the hungry on YouTube? When she does connect online or in person, will she meet Jesus in the community that calls itself the Body of Christ?

Throughout my ministry, congregations have tried to respond to changes in society by making our room more welcoming. But the room has left the building. To paraphrase poet Patrick Lane, “The story of Jesus is our story now. How do you want it to end?”

Rev. David Ewart is a United Church minister in Vancouver.


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