A couple of news items regarding college students, thanks to the Ivy Jungle Network's Campus Ministry Update:
Video Games and Behavior: A new study has shown a correlation between college students who play video games and several undesirable behaviors such as drinking and drug use. The study, published in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence, showed that most men played video games at least weekly. Women did not play much. Of all who did play, regardless of gender, the study showed a correspondence to higher use of alcohol, drugs, and to poor quality relationships with family and friends. Men who played violent video games showed a greater tendency to violent acts as well. The author of the study would not state the relationship as causal, but sees warrant for listing video games as a risk factor for young adult development. (LA Times January 27, 2009)
Dropping Out for Video Games? FCC Commissioner, Deborah Tate has drawn attention after stating, "One of the top reasons for college drop-outs in the US is online gaming addiction." Tate made the statement in a speech in December, citing the 11 million people who now play World of Witchcraft. Video game makers have objected to her statement and continue to push for a source to back up her claim. (Wired December 11, 2008)
Our Enemy never ceases to find new ways to add to the dysfunction of people's lives and to drive wedges between people. His has the ability to take things created by God or by man and pervert them into things that separate us from one another and from God. He has done it with sex. He has done it with religion. And he is doing it with technology.
Some of the most powerful images of the Church in Scripture are those of the Family of God and the Body of Christ. Some of the most significant factors is spiritual transformation are the relationships that we build with others who are following Christ and who can sharpen us, teach us, protect us, and hold us accountable. Spiritual maturity doesn't come just through the accumulation or knowledge, but also through those with whom we connect personally.
No wonder our Enemy is finding new and creative ways to isolate people. More and more we deal with students who are more comfortable living behind their avatar than dealing with other face to face. Because of this, they often lack significant relationships that can help them grow and develop and learn how to interact with the world.
I'm not a gamer, but I do enjoy technology. I text and check email on my phone. I talk to my daughter in Nebraska via Skype. I use Facebook. I Twitter. I am connected. But none of that takes the place of personal interaction, of face to face conversations, of personal accountability. We who are in leadership need to be finding ways to help people interact with one another face to face and not just through technology. We need to encourage relationships that are real and open.
One of the cutting edge developments in church life are "internet campuses" - church services that are broadcast online and can be observed at home. I've not had a chance to "take part" in one of these, but I want to. The idea is interesting to me, especially when it come to reaching out to those who are distant or far from a church. But part of me wonders if it might also feed the isolation of our technological world. Or maybe it will draw those folks in. I guess we will see.