Almost all my evidence is anecdotal and observational, rather than empirical, but here is where I see how the pervasiveness of digital devices is changing our society in negative ways:

I see families in restaurants waiting for their meal to arrive — or sometimes while they are eating. Each member of the family, from the oldest to the youngest, is on his personal device, a cellphone, a tablet, or a game console. Conversation is non-existent. I am convinced that someday soon I will walk into a crowded restaurant and observe that not a single person is talking to any other person who is actually in the room. If they are communicating at all, it is through texting or calling someone somewhere else.

Despite the new Georgia law that prohibits drivers from holding cellphones, we’re all continuing to see cars moving slowly in the fast lane or veering out of the lane, or sitting still after a traffic light turns green. It’s no surprise, if you pull alongside the car, to see the driver focusing on a screen.

I’m hearing parents complain about being unable to get their kids to go outside to play because they would rather inhabit a virtual world than the real one.

I’ve been in meetings with people who need to be giving their full attention to the topic at hand but who can’t resist checking their email every few minutes.

And don’t get me started about church. I know you claim to be reading the Scripture on your phone, but I’ve never seen anyone stare with such focus at the printed word for as long or as hard as some people persist in looking at their screens after we’ve read the text.

As I say, my evidence is anecdotal, but there is plenty of research out there that says we are altering the way we engage with other people, how effectively children are reading social cues and facial expressions, and even the ways in which we think. Despite the obvious, wonderful ways that digital technology has transformed and improved our lives, it is a tool, like fire, that has to be carefully controlled or it can be terribly destructive.

Those who may feel the most stress about these matters are parents who are trying to raise children in this technological environment. Elsewhere in this newsletter you will find the details about a seminar we will be holding during the Sunday School hour on October 21 and 28. We’re calling it “Parenting in the Digital Age” and we’re bringing in experts in child development, psychology, counseling, and law enforcement to help us out. They will be talking about what uses of electronic media are appropriate at various stages of child development, and also warning about the dangers of sexual predation, cyber-bullying, and other problems associated with digital devices.

Whether you are a parent, grandparent, or just a Christian interested in helping to improve our society, I hope you will attend both of these sessions.

I especially want to thank Jane Redman, our children’s minister, for putting all of this together. She and all who work in our children’s ministry are vitally concerned about the welfare of our children, both when they are in our care and while they are out in the world. We’re all in this together. Let’s learn all we can about how to live as followers of Christ in a difficult and rapidly changing world.