I dove into the subject of empathy recently. What's empathy? I'm glad you asked! "The feeling that you understand and share another person's experiences and emotions." Or I would say, "The ability to put yourself in someone else's shoes." The rising use of smartphones among children & teens is causing those children and teens to lose their sense of empathy. If you're attached to your smartphone you may want to stop reading now! Notice how one mother taught her son empathy...
"Roxanne has a 13 year old son who is always connected to his phone. Her son started a habit of canceling family plans by sending an email or text to announce his intentions. On one particular occasion, her son canceled dinner with his grandparents by text. Roxanne noticed a bad pattern forming and changed the rules on her son. Now, if he wants to cancel a plan, he has to make a phone call to break the date. Making a real-time phone call teaches him how his actions will affect others. Now, if he calls his grandparents to cancel dinner plans, he hears how his grandmother made his favorite roast chicken and it’s already in the oven. He hears that his grandfather has already bought the syrup to make ice cream sundaes. Basically, he learns empathy. He puts himself in someone else’s shoes. Since Roxanne made this rule for her son, he has rarely canceled family plans."
From infancy, the foundations for emotional stability and social fluency are developed when children make eye contact and interact with active, engaged faces. When I was little, my mom would wear beauty masks. These masks were the kind that were hard and kind of froze your face in place. She didn’t smile or have any expression. Her emotionless face made me think she was mad. Once I asked her, “Why are you mad at me?” She said, “I’m not, I just can’t move my face!” Oh, how important eye contact and engaged faces are to kids! Today, phones are interrupting the ever so important engaged face. The statistics on what they are doing to our children are staggering.
So how does this apply to Children's Ministry? We have a mandate to mentor the generation beneath us! Part of that mandate is to instill in the kids we teach a love for souls. God loves people! He cares about people and we should too. We must teach children empathy. It can be as simple as making your classroom device-free. That goes for adults, too! Teachers, don't underestimate the power of conversation and eye contact. Remember, kids do what you do not necessarily what you say. They will learn a lot by watching how you treat others.
Leave a Legacy!
Want to know more about how social media is affecting our youth? Read Reclaiming Conversation by Sherry Turkle. It's an eye-opener!