Have you ever misplaced a child?
That horrible feeling as you realise – “they’re not here!”

The exact same thing happened with Jesus and His parents (the Bible – the gospel of Luke, chapter 2, verse 41, records the incident).

Having visited the capital city, the folks are a full day away when they realise that Jesus is not with his normal “crew”. Frantically they check around, then rush back to Jerusalem – eventually reconnecting with their 12-year-old son 3 days after parting ways!

Mary and Joseph are naturally cross with Jesus for His disappearing act. For His part, this almost teen is surprised that they thought He’d be anywhere other than where He was found.

So far this story could be from any family, country or century.

What sets us, as modern families, apart from this scenario is technology. In 2008 cellphone use in the USA was about 74% of the adult population. Smartphones were not even on the graph. This year, 95% of the population has a mobile phone and 77% a smartphone.

This means that one of the biggest changes to technology is the fact that it has gone mobile, and more importantly is in almost every hand.

Like any good thing that God provides, there’s a potential negative side to all the awesomeness that technology offers.
I’m tempted to list everything that I use my mobile phone for – but won’t! I’ll just confess that recently my daughter, Ruth-Ann, commented, “I thought it was kids who always have their phone in their hand?”

In the scenario above, Joseph and Mary would have been on their phones the moment they realised that Jesus was missing. One would have tried contacting Him directly. Probably Mary would have called Elizabeth first and asked her to put Jesus’ picture out on social media and community pages with a contact number then she would have started contacting Jesus’ closest friends and moved outwards with her digital search. Considerate as He is, Jesus’ phone would have been on silent (he was in the temple with people) but I’m sure someone near the back would have been on their phone, noticed a message and responded to the worried parents “He’s here and safe”. 3 days of prayer, worry and searching reduced to hours!

Technology is also less visible – in the sense that we often use it for a task without even thinking about it. To the extreme that you may use the torch on the phone to look for the phone!

Misuse and addiction are real problems though, and that research is only starting to bear fruit now, as the trends to follow are so new and proper research takes time. One thing difficult to determine is the generation gap. In a sermon about a week ago, the speaker said, “there’s this new thing called Twitter”. March 2006 Twitter went live. Kids leaving primary school this year were born after Twitter!

Space does not allow us to go into much depth – however, there are many online resources which make suggestions on how to identify and manage some of the more common risks.

In closing, though, I’ll mention this news item I read recently.

“A young man in London launched an experiment on Trip Advisor – a social media platform designed to allow the public to rate venues (accommodation, restaurants etc.) He submitted his garden shed as a restaurant. In May 2017 it was accepted and listed, ranked at 18,149 of all restaurants in London. By various deceptions, six months later – on the 1st Nov 2017, “The Shed at Dulwich” cracked the number 1 spot on Trip Advisor! At this point he took the deception further – he accepted a few of the hundreds of booking requests received. In one day transformed his shed into a fake restaurant that matched the impression he’d created online and served cheap, ready to cook meals from the local chain store, ‘blinged up’ a bit. At the end of the evening one couple re-booked for their next visit!” Several thoughts spring from this – an online impression, however false, can sway the opinion of the majority – and this can happen even on a ‘trusted’ platform.

Once a person has bought into the digital deception, reality may not be enough to break that perception! (Bad if criminal – great news if you genuinely want to ‘reinvent’ yourself!)

With “fake news” abounding on the internet, we can believe a lie or become so cynical that we don’t believe anything.
I’m not sure which is worse?

However, as surely as Jesus and his parents were not automatically on the same page regarding His going missing, we and our kids can only get closer to the subject of technology through open conversations.

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