In 1914, not long after the sinking of the Titanic, Congress convened a hearing to discern what happened in another nautical tragedy. In January of that year, in thick fog off the Virginia coast, the steamship Monroe was rammed by the merchant vessel Nantucket and eventually sank. Forty-one sailors lost their lives in the frigid winter waters of the Atlantic.
While it was Osmyn Berry, captain of the Nantucket, who was arraigned on charges, in the course of the trial, captain Edward Johnson was grilled on the stand for over five hours. During cross-examination it was learned, as the New York Times reported, that Captain Johnson ‘navigated the Monroe with a steering compass that deviated as much as two degrees from the standard magnetic compass. He said the instrument was sufficiently true to run the ship and that it was the custom of masters in coastwide trade to use such compasses. His steering compass had never been adjusted in the one year he was master of the Monroe.’
The faulty compass that seemed adequate for navigation eventually proved otherwise.
The faulty compass that seemed adequate for navigation eventually proved otherwise. This realization partly explains a heart-rending picture recorded by The Times: ‘Later, the two captains met, clasped hands, and sobbed on each other's shoulders.’
The sobs of these two burly sailors are a moving reminder of the tragic consequences of misorientation. There are indeed tragic consequences to misorientation. Similar to the compasses of these ships, our hearts serve as the compass to our lives. In the digital age, these compasses are more vulnerable to misorientation than they've ever been.
Similar to the compasses of these ships, our hearts serve as the compass to our lives. In the digital age these compasses are more vulnerable to misorientation than they've ever been.
We’ve seen this in the lives of not only ourselves, but also our students.
For example, a recent study conducted by Barna
revealed the following statistics regarding Gen Z:
- Only 31% of students feel satisfied with their life.
- Only 33% of students are satisfied with their relationships.
- 60% of Gen Z report they feel chronically tired.
- 82% of Gen Z report experiencing at least one traumatic event defined as: “leaving them with a sense of helplessness, terror or distress lasting more than a few weeks.”
Additionally, recent research from Common Sense Media found that the average 13-18 year old spends 7.5 hours/day on their phones.
The average 13-18 year old spends 7.5 hours/day on their phones.
I think it’s safe to say digital disorientation is a defining characteristic of Gen Z. One pastor summarizes it this way: “We are trapped in the lie that mass appeal equals maturity, influence equals integrity, and charisma equals character.”
The issue is that our students are digital natives, but many of us are digital immigrants. So the very ones who are most equipped to lead them in the way are least fluent in the language.
What follows are a series of articles (and videos) to develop digital fluency in order that we may better disciple our kids. The following won’t necessarily show you the whole picture-the data is still coming in, and the whole story is yet to be told. Additionally, there are other books out there that will take you deeper, and I’ll point you to them. But the hope is this will give you a surface glance at different trends and perspectives of what we have seen so far in the lives of Gen Z.
At the end of each of these videos, I'll offer a brief takeaway — maybe a suggested action point or something for further consideration. Here’s the first:
- Make mental health a discussable topic with your kids. Maybe even use the data from this article as an excuse to bring up the conversation with your kids! Kara Powell, the executive director of the Fuller Youth Institute, recommends beginning to form a nighttime ritual that includes asking your kids two things: how are you doing? And how are your friends doing? These questions can begin the process of making roads into the digital lives of our children.
Erik Most has been a High School Bible teacher at Calvary Christian Academy for eight years. He teaches the class "Christ and Culture" and is currently the Lead for High School Discipleship. He completed his undergraduate degree at Wheaton College and earned his Master of Divinity at Knox Theological Seminary. Most serves as an elder at Rio Vista Community Church where he attends with his wife Meagan and their son August.
Be sure to circle back to the CCA Blog next month to hear what Mr. Most has to say for part two of this thought-provoking series!