Moshi Monsters, MI High and multi-player madness
Think back to when you were a child. What things did you like then? Duran Duran? Fireball XL5? Yoyos? When I was younger, I loved Lego, Going Live and riding my BMX – in fact my life outside of school was often a complete contrast. I would either be inside watching TV or playing Lego for hours on end or I would leave the house on my bike after one mealtime and not come back until just before the next (or be late and get told off).
Whatever you were into, it’s likely that children today will like similar things – playing outside, spending time on a games console (my Spectrum 128 +2 was also a great love of mine), mucking about on a bike, skateboard or scooter. Yet, the world children live in is different now from the 70s, 80s, 90s or whenever you were a child. Their access to technology is far greater – almost half have a mobile phone, a quarter own a tablet – as is their access to information and media, both good and harmful.
When was the last time you engaged with the children’s culture of today? When did you last sit down and watch a TV programme on CBBC? Have you ever played Moshi Monsters? What was the last David Walliams book you read?
If you have children under 11, you’ll probably have a better impression of children’s culture than if you don’t. However, whether we have children or not, as children’s workers we should make a conscious effort to get to know more about current children’s culture.
This isn’t so we can be down with the kids (my use of that phrase should tell you that I’m really not!). Knowing what children are into will help us evaluate resources and assess how children might connect with the activities we run. Instead of dismissing a DVD, activity or event because it isn’t what we think children will like, we can use our knowledge of children’s media to make more informed decisions. We can also take elements of contemporary children’s culture and use these to help them meet God. For example, we can contrast the hidden identity of Spider-Man or the spies on MI High with our need to be salt and light (Matthew 5:13–16).
On the flip side, such awareness also helps us be consciously counter-cultural. We can take children out of their comfort zones and help them meet God in new and different ways. We can provide a space for children to take time out from their hectic lives and relax in God’s presence.
So, ask the children in your groups what they like and go and then discover for yourself what it’s all about: watch Rio 2, read The Demon Dentist, have a go on a skateboard, download Minecraft. Have fun and if anyone asks you why you’ve bought The Beano, tell them that you’re doing essential training.