Vol. 2 Issue 41 | October 14, 2016

Vol. 2 Issue 41 | October 14, 2016

Three Things This Week

1. The Secret to Making Video Games Good for You

What it is: A 24-minute podcast episode from Note to Self in which video-game guru Jane McGonigal helps us rethink video games and how they can be used for good.

Why it's great: Video games aren’t going anywhere, which means the struggle between parents and gamers to set gameplay limits is just as real as ever. But games don’t have to be a negative influence in your home. In this episode, McGonigal helps change our perspectives on video games and how we talk about them, offers strategies for setting healthy gaming “dosages,” explains why addiction happens, and divulges how to use games to increase imagination. It’s worth a listen!

2. PhotoMath

What it is: A new app that does your math homework for you, simply by using your phone’s camera to scan the problem.

Why it's dubious: It touts its ability to teach solutions step by step, but as the video in this TeenVogue article reveals, it can also be used to avoid learning by simply copying the steps and/or answers. Tempting for students who see homework as a hassle, a distraction from their devices! One way to prevent that is to only install the app on your phone, allowing you to help with homework without giving them unrestricted access. Tools like this are good at the appropriate time, but they shouldn’t be a substitute for learning. The reason to solve (3x-y=21 | 2x+y=4) is not for the answer (x,y)=(5,-6), but to know why it is the answer.

3. Obedience vs. Flourishing

What it is: In our efforts to disciple the next generation into lifelong faith in Christ, we must constantly ask ourselves: Are we helping them to obey? Or to flourish?

Why it's helpful: Our live teams often ask this when speaking to adults because it’s always good to stop and analyze our discipleship efforts. Yes, flourishing can come from obedience, but only when that obedience is motivated by love for Christ. Otherwise (and our teams often observe this), students mindlessly obey rules set by authorities without ever understanding this fundamental truth so eloquently stated by GK Chesterton: “The more I found that while [Christianity] had established a rule and order, the chief aim of that order was to give room for good things to run wild.” Do your teens obey to avoid punishment? Or to find abundant life? This distinction could make all the difference!

Bonus: Here’s a great quiz that asks many questions about a person’s political views in order to assess, based on past voting records, speeches, consistency, etc., which of the seven presidential candidates he/she most aligns with. Can be utilized in the classroom or home as a great starting point for discussions and education about many topics. Users can also compare their results to others’!


Time Well Spent

Ever been frustrated by how much time teens spend on their devices, only to discover that you yourself also spend immense amounts of time staring at screens? If so, you’re not alone. But it’s by design.

At least, that’s what Tristan Harris, cofounder of the tech advocacy group Time Well Spent, says: “‘You could say that it’s my responsibility’ to exert self-control when it comes to digital usage . . . ‘but that’s not acknowledging that there’s a thousand people on the other side of the screen whose job is to break down whatever responsibility I can maintain.’” The effectiveness of their efforts to undermine our willpower are clear, with stories of the physical, social, and psychological effects of tech addiction abounding.

As a Silicon Valley alumnus who’s worked for Google and studied what he calls “hijacking techniques,” Harris has had enough. He’s using Time Well Spent to promote software that’s “built around core values, chief of which is helping us spend our time well, instead of demanding more of it.”

Though the advocacy is in its infancy, he has plans to create a “Time Well Spent” certification or label--much like the organic label used on food--to designate software created with the intentionality and mindfulness values he espouses, making it easier for people to find apps that discourage continuous interaction and distraction. We see tremendous value in this movement for homes, schools, and churches, so keep an eye out for it in the future. In the meantime, here are Harris’ recommendations for using our phones more mindfully right now. And now would be a great time to analyze if our rules for how quickly teens need to respond to our calls/texts are adding to the pressure to never put their phones down.

“There is a way to design based not on addiction.” That’s a movement we can all get behind.