Tech Tools and Tips
by Andy Arnold
Tech Tools for Leaders and Youth
Here are a couple of tools I use on a regular basis in my ministry with youth:
Facebook Groups / Chat
In addition to all of the one-to-one communication tools that Facebook provides (such as photos, instant messaging, and notes), the Web site also offers a Groups feature. Log into your Facebook account and click on “Applications — Groups — Create a Group.” Once you’ve completed this, you can invite the youth in your youth group to join. You will have a place to share pictures and videos with the whole group, plan events using a group calendar, and post “Wall” messages (a posting feature on Facebook) to everyone.
Google Gmail and related services
This site is searchable, stores your information online so that you can get to it from any Internet-connected device (i.e., computer, cell phone, iPod touch), and has built-in chat with other Gmail users.
While Facebook messages are great for some people, I find that e-mail is a solid standby. I have groups created in my Gmail Contact Manager so that I can quickly e-mail all youth group members or all those who are participating in a particular trip. E-mail is also more likely to get to their parents.
One of my favorite features, in the Experimental Labs section of Gmail, is the ability to send SMS messages through the chat window. I don’t have a fancy smartphone with unlimited text messages, so I find sending messages with a full screen and a full keyboard to be much easier! I’m sure that parents might find this an easy way to get messages to their kids as well. I also use a Google Calendar to help folks keep track of the events and activities that are part of our program.
I haven’t used this one myself, but it looks promising and is designed specifically for group communication. It’s a free ad-supported service that you can use to send a text message or voice message to the phones of your group members. It’s a great way to have near instantaneous communication with everyone at once. Paid versions of the service that don’t have ads are also available.
I write and facilitate a blog called Tech Geek as a part of the ELCA Youth Ministry Network’s weekly e-newsletter. I, along with other bloggers, write about ways to use a wide variety of new technologies to support our ministries. Approximately each week, we post a new idea.
Tech Tips from National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancies
The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy and CosmoGirl.com wanted to know what attitudes and behaviors teens (13-19) and young adults (20-26) have regarding cyberspace and the sending and posting of sexually explicit texts and images.
From the survey results they are offering tips that both parents and their children should know regarding the interface between sex and technology. For more information on the tips as well as the survey, see www.thenationalcampaign.org/sextech.
Tips for Parents
- Talk to your kids about what they are doing in cyberspace
- Know who your kids are communicating with
- Consider limitations on electronic communication
- Be aware of what your teens are posting publicly
- Set expectations
Before Pressing “Send”: Teen Tips
- Don’t assume anything you send or post is going to remain private
- There is no changing your mind in cyberspace — anything you send or post will never truly go away
- Don’t give in to the pressure to do something that makes you uncomfortable, even in cyberspace
- Consider the recipient’s reaction
- Nothing is truly anonymous
This article appeared in the July / August 2009 issue of Lutheran Partners Online.