rebelling against low expectations

Busy Signal(s): Our Wired Generation


“Last night, I was watching “Sex in the City” on TiVo with my friend and my dad. I heard this song. I really wanted to download it, but I didn’t know what it was called. So, first I went online and I tried to download. I couldn’t, but then I was online. One of my friends who had been out of town was back, and I saw him online and we started talking. Then I went back to watch “Sex in the City.” I just kept going back and forth. I was eating ice cream too. Then I checked my email. It was late at night. It was getting later. So I was just talking to people. No one really went out because it was Father’s Day.”

~ Heather, 11th grade, Chicago, June 2003 ~

Welcome to the Generation of the Millenials (born 1980+) — we are plugged-in, switched on, charged up, and constantly connected to a network of digital devices and multimedia, bringing the “world” to our fingertips in a way no previous generation has experienced.

According to a June 2003 study conducted by Harris Interactive and Teenage Research Unlimited (TRU), the average 13-24 year old spends a cumulative 50 hours per week talking on the phone, listening to the radio, surfing the Internet, and watching television. That’s more time than they spend in school — and it doesn’t even include watching movies, listening to music, or emailing.

We live in an age where computers, video game consoles, cell phones, satellite & cable television, PSP’s, digital cameras, IMing, PDA’s, iPods and TiVo rule the teenage playground — with more and more teens owning them and using them.

On a typical day, a teenager selects from 200+ cable television networks, 5,500 consumer magazine titles, 10,500 radio stations, 30 million blogs, and over 2 billion websites. There are currently 240 million television sets in the U.S. — 2 million of which are in bathrooms. [1]

Studies continue to show that not only is media and technology pervasive — we can’t get away from it — but more and more teenagers believe they couldn’t live without it. Vicky, a 17-year-old from Chicago, describes life without Internet as, “Tormented: I would just be sitting, trying to think of something to do. That would be my life.”

Clearly, this cultural phenomenon deserves our generation’s critique, as well our involvement. We cannot afford to act as passive spectators in a digital revolution which is reshaping us, our peers, and our world.

The consequences of media saturation, such as multitasking and our dependence on instant gratification, must be addressed. The effects of media saturation on brain function, school and work performance, family relationships, and our walk with God must be carefully examined.

Technology is not bad. We must look for the positive and innovative ways in which we can use and adapt to new technology. But we must never forget what it can’t do — and more importantly — what we can’t do while we’re using it.

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About the author

Alex and Brett Harris

are the co-founders of and co-authors of Do Hard Things and Start Here. They have a passion for God and for their generation. Their personal interests include politics, filmmaking, music, and basketball. They are both graduates of Patrick Henry College in Purcellville, Virginia.


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  • Technology has given us the ability to become more active in our cultures than ever before, but it seems like people have chosen to become more passive instead.

    There’s so much we can do because of the technology available to us. It’s so sad that many people choose to let technology render them inactive receivers of information.

  • Excellent article, Brett. This blog has been an extraordinary encouragement to me to spend the little time I have on earth doing things that will reap beneficial fruit.


  • That was a really refreshing article, Brett. It’s weird, when I think about it, I really can’t imagine a life without internet, television, music, etc. It’s easy to see why our whole nation is “distracted”. Love reading your blog.

  • Just when it was getting good, “to be continued” ???? URGHHHHH! GREAT read! My pastor, Matt Chandler, ( just talked about Christians’ inability to still themselves to hear God’s voice with all the iPods (yeah, I have one too!), radios, televisions, digital satellite, etc.

  • Actually, call me crazy but I’ve been able to hear God’s voice better through technolegy, I mean we still need to make time to read the word and pray, but my main source of fellowship is over the internet, I’ve also been able to reach out to many people and be involved in ministries that I wouldn’t be able to without the use of the internet.

    Well anyway, it amazes me that with all this oppertunity, America still finds ways to do nothing with it.

  • I’m really excited to see the rest of the article.

    I see more teens just wasting away their lives on the internet. One Christian band fansite I used to visit actually held an online prom.

  • It is hard to get away from computers especially (everything else I don’t really get into much)….but with my job, my computer is with me almost 50% of my day. I’d love to get away from it more. But then it is addicting in ways. I find “computer fasts” a wonderful invention. (Vacations help with that).

  • Brett…once again an excellent post! I am so glad you have addressed this issue. Its so interesting (and unfortunate) to see how our societys creative juices are running low. I mean look at all the opportunitys that God has given us. First just take a step back from a screen…and out a door. God has given us a playground through His creation…camping, sports, hiking, fishing, sledding etc. There are also so many things that we could benefit from if our eyes and ears were not engulfed in all this technology. There is reading, playing music, spending time with family and friends…and so many other activities. Think of all that technology has taken away from us. Writing letters has transformed into emailing and instant messaging…spending time with family has transformed into watching TV…playing board games has transformed into spending hours on video games. The list goes on and on. Like you said at the end of your post, technology isn’t bad…but we have to use it in smart ways. I think technolgy provides a lot of opportunitys, but we also have to remember the opportunity we have been given outside of everything that is electronic.

    Sorry that comment was so long…I guess I was making up for the lack of comments I havn’t written =/ I have had some free time on my hands, so I thought I would check up on how you guys are doing =)

    God bless!

  • Great post guys! It’s sad to see how technology has taken over, but I still enjoy the old-fashioned things! 🙂 I chrish my moments of peaceful and reflective silence, and still write many letters! It’s wonderful to see you both take on the issues so many teens face today. Keep it up!

  • Haha, having that quote at the top freaked me out. I was using the regenerate our culture blog network, and this was at the top. The Rebelution: “So, I was watching Sex and the City last night…”

    Good writing.

  • You’re right — WE NEED to use new technology innovatively. Not be “afraid” of it (not a problem for teens, but sometimes for parents, I think).

    I think technology (blogs, podcasts, websites, YouTube, etc., etc.,) one of the best ways to reach young people today. You’re doing that right here on the blog.

    And get this — John Piper has a podcast! WHOOOO-HOOOOOO!!! I couldn’t believe it at first! You should all check it out!

  • I think we have another problem on our hands.i think we really need to pray and do something about celebrities.we need some missionaries to go and witness to them. I want to challenge you brothers and sisters in Christ to pray for the celebrities that they will come to know Christ.and not only the celebrities but those who are influeced by many times we complain about the things they do but doe’nt do anything about it.Heath Ledger just died. The sad thing is he died without knowing Christ.Britney Spears is dying without God.Please,pray about this. your sister in Christ, Hannah

  • Maybe, the technology is to blame for the recent outbreak of teen suicide? My comment is based on this–
    we see “real people” who have the perfect life, and this makes us feel depressed. My thoughts are that we need to be careful what we let ourselves get into.

  • I own a creative nano plus and I use ita lot. A awsome articleon the on the junk we use alot .. and people somtimes just do it to fit in youve inspired to stand out


  • Amazing Brett,you’re right ,teenagers are too wired.I’m not saying technology is a bad thing only if it’s used the wrong way (AKA double edged sword).


  • Wow, this a really good point. (I never knew people had tv’s in their bathroom.) The sad thing is; is that teens have forgotten how to just sit down and play a normal, familly fun board game. Teens now days have to be infront of a computer, video game system, or on their ipod. (I am guilty of those things too.) I think we all need to try to play more board games, and outside games. Stuff that isnt related to electronics.

  • Wow! It’s sad. Even more, it’s scary. Internet is almost a necessity in my life so I’m trying to cut down. I totally love the graphic because it describes us so well. All it needs is a Play Station and Wii. I was on the phone with my friend one day while she was house-sitting, playing on a wii, and making dinner. It was crazy! I’m never doing that again.

  • the internet is my scource of info but im not edicted i agree that american teens are wired to every kind of tech there is I love tv,video games and every other thing out there wich odviously is bad I dont have a cell phone wich is good I guess but there is even a new language its called text of course i know it but who ccan blame me

  • I know this is somewhat off topic, but;
    What are some of you all’s thoughts on creating video games as an outreach tool? It seems to me that there really are no good games (i.e. graphics, storyline, AI) with Christian values. Come to think of it, there doesn’t seem to be any Christian video games at all. (Is there a reason for that?) There are almost always better things to be doing than mind-dulling entertainment, although “For everything there is a season” (Ecdclesiastes 3:1). Marketing would advocate the misuse/overuse of this entertainment. An excuse could be “They’re going to do it anyway. Why not give these pleasure-addicts something at least slightly constructive?” But that’s not good enough. It’s interesting to note that to create one of the most time-wasting products, you need to be one of the smartest and most learned people on the planet. (It’s incredibly complex) I’m very confused. Would some of you just tell me what you think?

    Thanks, and God bless.

  • P.S. Since I’m not one of the smartest and most knowledgeable persons on the planet, I would need a large and diverse team to help me.

  • Wow, tvs in bathrooms? Good idea, why didn’t I think of that…..kidding! I agree, technology is really used for such superficial means, when it can be such a constructive tool for so many things. Myself, I’m not quite as wired as a lot of folks out there, but I’ll admit to wondering what on earth I would do without, say, the internet. Very thought-provoking.

  • This is definitely right. Teenagers have become addicted to electronics. There used to be none at all, but now it seems like that’s all there is. It would be hard now a days not having any electronics. We’ve just gotten used to it.

  • I must not be an “average teenager” 🙂 I do not have a cell phone, and my TV watching is limited to movies and DVDs that my parents approve. I cannot imagine spending all that time on the ‘net, TV, and the phone. How wierd is our generation getting when we have to be sitting down in front of a screen in order to be entertained? Try reading a book.

  • I agree with Katelyn. It’s just a great idea but the problem is that you could also read to much. you need to limit your reading time. But also what we need to think of outreach activities.

  • I’m the same as you, Katelyn.
    The only online contact I have is one restricted internet game, my e-mail, and the Rebelution. My family doesn’t have cable, and, while I enjoy a good TV show off a boxed “Season” set when I’m exhausted, or a movie/DVD, I really write alot in my spare time, (Books, letters, postcards, etc!) and I’ll read anything!
    I wrote down a lot of that stuff to tell my friends at church.
    That is just pathetic….50 hours per week on the phone, radio, and phone?
    I don’t even OWN a cell phone! (My mom wants me to get one though, strictly for emergency purposes, when I’m away from home.)
    I just realized something. This post was written 3 years ago. The results are 3 years old. For all we know, the 50 hours has DOUBLED!!!
    That is just frightening.

  • Alright, let’s slow down a bit. I can see what you’re trying to say and it does have merits. However, you’re attacking the wrong thing. You’re also corrupting your message with fear mongering about “Technology”. Of course we can’t get away from it. It’s great, the biggest irony is that everyone who comments on this is on a computer accessing the internet. How are you getting your message across? The internet maybe? Your last paragraph doesn’t do enough to temper your position.

    @Molly W: Why? Those restrictions are completely unnecessary. If you do all this writing(And reading) in your spare time you should do it because you like to do it not because you’re restricted. A common misconception among the group of readers who read this blog is always the same. The new gun stuff is bad. To respond to a post above.
    Board games and Video games=Same thing. They’re both a game. You’re both sitting down at the same time. More Often than not you’re doing it with friends.
    Spending time with the family has morphed in some cases into watching TV. I think watching TV with family is acceptable but in excess it can be bad. It’s not in all cases like you would like to think. For the record I don’t have Cable nor would I ever sign up for it.
    Writing letters and Emailing/IM is the same bloody thing. It’s just newer,faster, better.

    Technology and the internet is a huge learning tool, yes, there is a balance. But seriously, this same old end of the world as we know it rhetoric is getting tiresome.

    Also, about the 50 hours per week doubling. You do know that’s almost impossible right?

  • I personally love technology video games,iPods,and laptops are all very fun. But but there is a time and a place for them. I use my laptop for many researching school assignments. I only use my iPod for listening to music when i am all done with my homework. I also only play video games after I am done with all my daily chores and homework. As much as I would like to just play on my iPod and laptop all day i take care of responsibility first. One thing i recommend for kids is while you are doing work leave your technology in the next room so it wont tempt you. You should also ask your parents if you are done with your work and if there is anything else you can help with that will make your parents very happy and they will more than likely trust you with more grown up responsibility’s. like getting a license early ;). And if your parents tell you to do something even if you think it should be done a different way just say yes!

rebelling against low expectations

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