It was Saturday morning and the stage was set. The sweet aroma of freshly baked cookies filled my kitchen. Board games were stacked neatly in the living room where Pandora was tuned to our favorite station. The sheets were washed and beds were made in the guest rooms. I had even made an extra-comfy sleeping pallet on the floor of one of the rooms with a king-sized egg crate and down comforter.
In just a few hours, my high school small group was coming over for our very first sleepover. We were going to play games, watch movies, order pizza, paint our nails, discuss boys, school, music, parents… talk about some solid bonding! However, that’s not exactly how it went down.
Fast forward a bit and you will see my living room packed with sixteen freshman girls. Board games untouched. Pandora switched (for the 14th time) to a new station. Cookies devoured (some things don’t change). And sixteen smart phones lit up and inches away from my girls’ faces. One girl had actually pulled a chair from the kitchen, hooked up a computer to our TV, and was commenting away on her friends’ Facebook walls. Instead of discussing boys, school, music, and parents, the disjointed “conversation” went something like this:
“Whaaat?! Michael and Jess are dating??”
“Yeah, you didn’t know that? Hey, guys look at the picture I just uploaded.”
“You have got to tag me in that.”
“Have you guys seen Jess’s profile pic?”
“Whaaat?! Jess and Michael broke up??”
And all this took place without a moment of eye contact. The only times their eyes were peeled from their screens was when they took pictures to immediately upload to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr.
“Me and Laney playing Taboo!” (no one actually played Taboo)
“Trying to decide which polish use!” (no one stopped tweeting long enough to paint nails)
“Me and Annie in a sleeping bag. “Tag me!”
To anyone “following” my girls on any social media outlet it appeared they were having fun bonding with their small group. But in reality, they spent twelve social hours competing for the best new profile pic.
Sleepovers have changed. No more board games. No more truth or dare. No more pillow fights (did anyone ever actually do that?). But before you install an anti-internet force field around your home every time a teenager comes over, ask yourself: why have things changed so much? How can I connect to a teen with a smart phone blocking her face? What in the world is Tumblr (and isn’t it missing a vowel)? Then go read this awesome post by Tim Elmore, founder of Growing Leaders and author of Generation iY: Our Last Chance to Save Their Future. In it, Elmore explains the reasoning behind this new obsession with social media and provides some great insight into how you, as a SGL, can connect to the next generation.