Safety First With Youth Communication

Have you ever looked in a teenager’s backpack? How many crunched up homework assignments, pieces of trash, broken headphones, and missing forms can one backpack hold? Thinking back on your grade school days, you’ll always remember the kid who opened their backpack and pulled out their lunch and about 15 pencils, but couldn’t ever find the latest homework assignment. Needless to say, when it comes to most youth, the chances that important information given on paper (or verbally) is being communicated back to parents in a timely manner is slim to none.

While the backpacks of teens may always be compared to something like Mary Poppins’ purse, another area of a teens life that can be a mystery is their online activity. Teens spend roughly 7.5 hours a day looking at a screen, and over 70% of teens in the United States have access to a smartphone, so it’s not just spending time online when they have access to desktop computers anymore. Teens are on the go. But what are they doing online? Snapping, tweeting, Instagramming, posting, and texting … just to name a few common activities. New apps, games, and social media platforms are being used all the time. Teenagers usually use the latest app and become bored with it before you even find out what the app is called. Scary.

While you can do some research to nail down what teens might be doing online, the even scarier thought is who they might be talking to or interacting with. There are a number of message boards, social media sites, and apps (Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Kik, and others) that teens are on. And if they aren’t careful with the settings, anyone can contact them. Research shows that 29% percent of teens make up to 5 friends online.

The fact is, teens are busy. Parents need to get in touch with them, sports teams, jobs, and youth groups all are vying for teens attention and ways to communicate with them digitally. So the solution isn’t to take away the technology to protect them. The church has the opportunity to partner with parents by creating a safe space for teens in youth group to communicate, without fear of who is in a group or who is controlling the group.

The Solution: In App Two-Way Chat

With a church branded app, you can create a chat group for youth group that is controlled by the youth pastor or other leaders in your church. This is the place where updates to events, weekly groups, encouragement, prayer requests, and emoji conversations can happen. It’s one less place to worry about teens online activity.

I know what you’re thinking. Why not use a group text? Why do we have to chat in an app when texting is available? Group texting is an ok option, but an in app chat feature is great option, and it’s often more sustainable long term. Group text message chains are often confusing. Not everybody has everyone’s number, so it might not be known to all participants who is talking or who exactly is in the group text. Also, nobody “owns” or monitors a group text. Who is going to start or supervise conversations? Also, some younger teens may not have a phone that has data or a phone number. They may just have an iPad, iPod Touch, or another smart device that only works over wifi. If they don’t have a phone number, you can’t text them, eliminating part of the youth audience. An in app chat solution also will help your church stay in control of the chat conversation in case of turnover or change in leaders, which will help establish consistency and growth within the group.

For youth groups, it’s more than just communicating about upcoming events and camps. You want to foster an open environment of communication between the youth themselves and their leaders who are there to act as mentors. Having a place to chat online that parents can be assured is safe, youth can have a safe space all to themselves, where they can just be themselves.

Starting a conversation about a church app and a chat feature is easy, and at aware3, you can be sure we’ll cover all the features and unique uses of an app with you. We strive to We help churches communicate and engage with their congregation anytime, anywhere.