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We are becoming the servants in thought, as in action, of the machine we have created to serve us’. John Kenneth Galbraith

The impact of smartphones has not been fully appreciated. It has radically changed every aspect of a boy’s life from the nature of their social interactions to their mental health. What’s the biggest concern for our boys? Nomophobia (no-mobile-phone phobia). ‘The Smartphone Generation’ may go to fewer parties and spend less time together in person, but when they do congregate, they document their hangouts relentlessly—on Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook. Those not invited to come along are keenly aware of it. Accordingly, the number of boys who feel left out has reached all-time highs across age groups.

So what are the implications? Let it be said that smartphones are fantastic inventions and a wonderful convenience but I am still not a convert. Why? Firstly, we are far too accessible to the point where it is increasingly difficult to have ‘down time’ without life intruding back in on us. The opportunity for instant and constant communication undoubtedly make our lives more efficient. It has also made them more demanding and has robbed most of us of the precious few chances we still have to get away from the pressures of life. Secondly, the public and private etiquette surrounding these technologies still lags significantly behind and our common sense and manners haven’t kept pace.

Research reveals the harmful effect the misuse of these technologies is having on teenagers including, depression, addiction and suicide. We are learning that too many young people (and adults) lack the necessary maturity and moral compass that leads to the misuse of these technologies to become a destructive force in both the virtual and real world. We need to develop not our IQ (Academic Intelligence), EQ (Emotional Intelligence) but our DQ – our Digital Intelligence:

We need to develop what adolescent psychologist Dr Michael Carr-Gregg calls our “digital spine” where we set limits, set boundaries, monitor and supervise what young people are doing with these technologies. These technologies are changing the way we related (or fail to) each other as we are so accessible to everybody that paradoxically we are becoming accessible to nobody.

The misuse of technology is dividing us perhaps more than uniting us.

There is no doubt that we live in the age of tiredness and exhaustion given the constant communication where we are always ‘on call’ for others. The truth of it is that that most of us fail to truly embrace what scripture refers to as ‘sabbath’ time. This is where God commanded us to rest and reflect! Amidst the frenetic pace of our lives our contemporary iSabbath is as important as not stealing, not murdering or not lying!

Conor Finn, Dean of Formation