By Yong Soo Li
When my 95-year old mom heard that my 10-year old grandniece was on a school trip to China, she commented, “Hor mia.” (good life” in Teochew). I reminded mom when I was in primary school, she never knew the homework I had to complete but my grandniece’s teachers are in touch with her parents online. When I married in 1985, my flat cost $66,000.00 but today’s prices are in six digits.
Are things for our younger generation as “good” as mom thinks?
Mr Ong Kah Kiat, 57, elder of Living Praise Presbyterian Church and father of three, is concerned that social media is replacing real social relationships for youths today. He adds, “This impacts all generations and parents are not setting the right and good examples.”
He says, “Youths have more contacts in social media but less friends. They share about many things but few that really matter. They shun authentic face-to-face interaction.” He often hears the excuse, ‘no time.’
On the other hand, Mr Irwin Tan, 23, second-year Mass Communications university student, vouch earnestly for students who really have ‘no time’. It is just so difficult to do well in school, yet have time for family and friends. For him “social media is the avenue to stay in contact with friends. Sharing issues through WhatsApp, Telegram and Facebook Messenger can be as meaningful as face-to-face conversations.”
Kah Kiat sees young people striving for their future but also wanting to enjoy what they can in their present with a strong sense of entitlement from parents and society, as if “the world revolves around them.”
“There is constant pressure from the older generation that each of us needs to be better, to rise above the rest,” says Irwin. To him, his generation and younger are “just a bunch of very confused kids who want to experience everything we can, while we still can. We also want to find a way out from the constant stress being stacked on us by society and those around us.”
Changes and needs in our youth scene present windows of opportunities for the gospel.
While today’s youths know much more than their predecessors, “knowledge do not necessarily translate to make a person better. Young people are not at the age to always evaluate what they read or pick up, for example, morality is not considered in terms of right and wrong but as different alternatives,” cautions Kah Kiat.
Mdm Claire Ng, 43, mother of a ten and 14-year old, agrees that youths today are “resistant towards upholding absolute truths and absolute moral values, and feel entitled to their rights, preferences and inclinations. Everything is subjective.” She desires her children to grow up “grasping a deep belief that God’s truth and moral standard sets us free, protects us and leads us into deeper joy and fulfilment.”
She seeks to nurture her children and the church youths she leads towards “pleasing God and not self or man, and to courageously express their convictions and stands.”
For outreach, Kah Kiat suggests “less churchy, more informal settings; being at their water-holes like cafes; small groups with similar interests may work better. Traditional concert-style big meeting with one preacher is out-dated.”
Like Irwin, he thinks engaging today’s teens on social media is the way to go. Born into a digital world, this youth generation cannot imagine a world without PCs, mobile phones, gaming devices and MP3 players. They seem to live online and share details of their lives with a tweet, post or status. Yet “at the core, the problems both generations face are similar,” admits Irwin.
This is why nothing can replace taking a genuine interest in a young person – making time to listen to his questions and cries, understand his struggles and issues, before giving an adequate response from the Bible.