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Cell Phone Dangers on Youth Trips

I was reminded last night again about how much technology is changing youth ministry.  A friend had just returned from a youth trip where she was dealing with the aftermath of a senior high youth showing inappropriate youtube video’s to junior high youth.  It made me stop and think about some of the dangers that cell phones present to youth ministers.

Gone are the days when you can feel safe simply asking the hotel clerk to turn off the movie  stations and pay-per-view to your students rooms and you can feel safer (although you should still do this).  Gone are the days when the worst thing that might happen is that they are prank calling each others rooms all night or have brought a dirty magazine on the trip.

The cell phone and internet capable phones like I-phones have opened a whole new world into your youth ministry and youth trips.  Here are some things to be aware of and watch out for:

1. Texting – students can easily communicate without your knowledge today and this provides a dangerous outlet for them secretly planning to sneak out or giving the “all clear” signal to each other.  Of course, it can also be used to send each other scripture verses.

2. Web Access – most of us would never allow our students to bring a laptop computer with them on a youth trip; however more and more of our students are carrying web enabled phones that with a simply web search will bring the world of pornography into the palm of their hand.

3. Movies – many phones and i-pods have enough memory for students to load an entire movie on to their phone.  You may be showing a “G” rated movie on the bus, but they may be watching an “R” rated movie in the back.

4. Sexting – if you have not heard about teenagers sending each other sexy and nude images through their phones, then its time to learn that it is happening across the country.

5. Access to outside world – I remember when we daringly called the pizza delivery guy to bring us a pizza at our hotel.  Cell phones give them access to pizza and more.  Web ready phones give them maps and will help them find just about anything.  If you are at a youth event in town, cell phones give them access to call friends to come and meet them at your youth event which could be good evangelism or it could be a way for them to get around their parents.

Reminder: These dangers exist not only on youth trips, but also anytime youth are together.  Trips just tend to provide more unsupervised opportunitites.

I don’t mean to sound so cynical, but I also want to be realistic about the challenges these new technologies present.

What can we do?

  • You could take away cell phones on youth trips and have a sabbatical from the outside world.  I have found that I get as much push back from parents as I do youth on this idea.  Parents want instant access to their children.  But that does not mean it is not worth doing?
  • You can educate your parents on the new parental controls available for cell phones that monitor talk time, texting, word usage, and web restrictions.
  • You should talk with your students.  Developing a healthy ministry means helping students understand why these things are bad for us not just preventing them from doing bad things.

For more information:

Parental controls for cell phone

Sexting

For something positive and fun to use your students cell phones for on your next youth trip, check out this suggestion from Tim Schmoyer:

Turn your youth group website into an event with LiveStreaming

If you have other suggestions, please comment below or at YMconnect’s Discussion Board

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Categories: Youth Ministry
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