By Jon Keller

BOSTON (CBS) – I did not know this, but apparently the preferred gender-neutral term for what we used to call “altar boys” is now “altar servers.”

And when some 50,000 of them showed up at the Vatican this week for a visit, Pope Francis took the opportunity to urge the kids to stop wasting “too many hours” on their smartphones or the Internet or, gulp, television.

“Our life is made up of time, and time is a gift from God, so it is important that it be used in good and fruitful actions,” said the Pope. “The products of technological progress, which should simplify and improve the quality of life, distract attention away from what is really important.”

Amen to that.

But as if he anticipated the response from teenagers who say they have to be online to stay in the loop with their friends, the Pope warned that the technology needed to be handled with restraint if it is to serve as “a network not of wires but of people.”

What a great way of putting it, and I couldn’t agree more.

We’ve talked here before about what a crummy form of communication the internet can be, inviting all sorts of cruel behavior that would rarely occur face-to-face, and seeming to unleash the worst in too many people.

Can you have a thousand Facebook friends and still be lonely? You bet you can.

I admit, I spend too much time on my own smartphone, surfing the shallow waters of Twitter during down moments that could be far better spent in quiet reflection, or a quick nap.

But for kids to squander their precious youth and waste their mental energy on foolish texting and surfing is especially egregious.

And the Pope is right on the mark to point this out.

Listen to Jon’s commentary:

You can listen to Keller At Large on WBZ News Radio every weekday at 7:55 a.m. You can also watch Jon on WBZ-TV News.


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