High-tech gadgets brings high risk to families, society

It happens all the time, with increasing frequency.

I see it on the streets, though I notice it most often in office elevators: People just coming and going, their heads down while immersed in their solitary practice of "texting." When I say hello, it's often as if I'm not even there. It's a wonder most survive (especially those crossing busy streets) while sending the latest cryptic notes to buddies and coworkers, oblivious to the world around them. Nothing appears to break the train of thought for those obsessed with experiencing the latest in "social media."

First, a confession: I'm all for technology. I'm hooked. 

I send an occasional text message and stay connected via laptop, office computers and cell phone. I'm an e-mail addict, and I can also be found on Facebook and Twitter with my "friends" (follow@marklarsonradio). Hey, I'm in the communication business. I have a "Nook" for my books and now an iPad for even more portable connections. Then there's "You Tube."

But when is it "enough?"

I've seen family gatherings where some people at the same table send text messages to each other … while sitting side-by-side. Good grief.

With billions of text messages sent each month, it's no wonder things are getting out of control. Never have we had so much high-tech gear at our fingertips … and more information … and yet we seemingly know so little about what's really happening around us.

Questions come to mind: How is it that, in these critical days of a rocky economy and increased concerns about terrorism, leadership, taxes and freedom that a vast majority of Americans take little time or effort to vote?  In June's California primary, the turnout was not much more than in an average election … somewhere in the 30 percent to 35 percent range. Just do the math and figure how many people did not participate. Shouldn't those folks share more "Don't forget to vote" tweets on Twitter? If we can't get people more involved during these times, what does that say about our future?


And the text goes on
Yet the texting goes on, with endless updates on everything from news and comment to way too much information on what each participant is doing at the moment. Who really needs to know every little intimate tidbit in life? 

I find it difficult to understand why some parents decide to give their children cell phones at the earliest opportunity. Sure, they're good for staying in touch with family and for emergencies, but with the latest 3G and 4G access, they also provide numerous threats.

Predators not only troll the Internet (which is easily accessed on mobile phone devices) but they're also getting very creative in their evils ways. Pornographers have found ways to steal innocence via cells, too. And some teens are now using camera-equipped phones to go a step beyond an abbreviated message, sending explicit personal photos in a process known as "SEXting."

There's also the concern with identity theft, a growing problem often linked to putting too much personal information online and over the phone.

Parents, beware. It's not just a matter of financial cost when it comes to texts and other high-speed communication. It's important to see cell phones as portals to the entire world ... with all the good and bad that comes with the territory.

Some moms and dads defend giving their kids too much of this sort of access because "all their friends have it." So what? Do they really know what the kids are doing online, on the phone, in social media?  Who are "friends?" It's entirely appropriate and essential to start getting nosier about all this.

Here's a quick tip: If a student's grades have been heading in the wrong direction, see how much time is spent with all the new technology. Chances are there's a direct correlation between test scores and school performance and too much time on the web or in the land of texting. It's also very revealing to see how well heavy-texters do with everyday conversation, talking out loud. Often it seems nearly impossible.


Enemy of distraction
I think Satan loves all of this. The more we focus on our own issues, making self-absorption an art form, the more he can distract us from everything that matters most. He'd rather see constant chat updates with others than ongoing prayer talks with God.

There's another frightening aspect to this. As we've become more dependent on computers in all forms, we're more vulnerable to what's called "cyber attacks." Every day hundreds (sometimes thousands) of attempts are made to bring down our system. There is no shortage of terrorists and foreign governments eager to destroy our way of life. This can mean everything from messing with the web and stealing information to crashing the economy by creating energy blackouts and hacking into the Pentagon. Recently the White House created a new cabinet-level office dealing exclusively with cyber security.


Security threats
Still, with all the 24/7 threats via technology, I wonder how many of the most dedicated text-addicts know … or care. Heads down, clicking away with breathless updates, what it will take to get their attention?

It will likely take one of the types of disruptions I've noted here. The day that the power's out, when none of the systems work and chaos seems everywhere, technology users will raise their eyes from the screens and ask in shock, "What just happened here?"

I can't help but think of the passage in Luke 21: "Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near."

Let's not miss it.


Larson is a veteran Southern California radio/television personality and media consultant. He can be heard daily in San Diego on KCBQ 1170AM from 7 to 9 a.m., and on KPRZ 1210AM from 2 to 4 p.m. E-mail: mark@marklarson.com.

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Published, July 2010