It started for us when our youngest was in kindergarten. ”Hey dad, my friend has an I-Pod. Can I get one?” Before I could even get my mind in a place to answer the question I needed to come to grips with the reality of 5 year olds with I-Pods. What are they doing with them? What music are they listening to? Why would any adult give their 5-year-old an expensive piece of technology?
Once I pulled myself together I said, “no.” At that point he was content with the answer. He is now in 4th grade and there are kids in his class with i-Phones. I wonder now who it is they are calling and who desires to give their 9-year-old a smart phone with a data plan? Where does the madness end?
Now I know I sound mean and out of touch. I assure you I am not against technology, in fact I have a smart phone of my own. I do understand that appeal of the technology, I mean who doesn’t like to play Subway Surfers or Angry Birds? But I do have real concerns when parents hand over the internet to their child with no apparent oversight. Their innocent clicking on some sort of video or link could lead them to a place that no parent wants their child to be. So, we have had to come up with some ways to help our kids navigate this media draw.
Demonstration – Our answer has been to demonstrate wise media use and let our children play games on devices we have control of so that there are no accidental encounters with things we don’t willingly bring into our home. We make the choice to avoid video games that are violent, sticking to sports or other fun family games. I don’t play games I don’t want my kid to play. I believe the example does make a difference.
Oversight - We do not have computers in bedrooms and do not allow our kids to play on the computer without our oversight. It is not that we don’t trust our kids, but rather that we don’t trust people putting things on the internet supposedly for kids. Call me old-fashioned all you want but the battle is for the mind. We have an obligation to help our children stay away from things that will distort their mind.
Saying No and Limiting Time – This is not some sort of break-through concept, but it is a necessary idea to come to grips with. I have no issue with kids playing games or using certain electronic devices. What I think is problematic is the lack of any real boundaries. My kids will beg me to play games on my Nook or phone, but I limit it to only a few times in a week. It seems like they enjoy the time they do have more this way and they find other things to do with each other. If I did not ever provide boundaries, they would play on these things every waking moment. That does not lend itself to a healthy worldview.
Not Comparing - Every family needs to make choices for their families. I know it is easy to look at someone and criticize them for their choices, but how helpful is that? I would rather invest my energy in helping my children make wise media choices while choosing godliness. There is far more at stake here than rules on video game use.
As it relates to so many things, here is a verse that seems to come up a lot when communicating with children.
“For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age,” Titus 2:11-12
It is possible to make wise choices, say no to ungodliness and say yes to things of God. Let’s do our part to steer our kids to God in everything!
These days it seems like there are more and more smart phones with no significant change in levels of smart people. I am not talking about simple intelligence. People are still seeming to do quite well in education and other areas of life. I am referring to other areas, especially relationships. There are a few ways that I have seen otherwise smart people do rather foolish things because of their smart phones.
Inside Jokes and Side Conversations -- I don’t know where things have changed. It used to be when someone was talking, that you were to be listening. These days listening means something much different. Listening now means being in the same room with someone, but browsing the internet on your phone and pointing things out to the people around you. Is that not rude? This does not seem real smart to me because there is no way you are actually gaining anything from the people you are with and you certainly aren’t contributing. This pushes people away and distracts everyone. Nope, not smart.
Posting Pictures of Strange Things Online — With a camera always at the ready, people are taking pictures of all kinds of things. Did you make an interesting dish for supper? Did you run into the wall because you were looking at your phone while walking? It is time to take a picture and post it online. I am not sure how smart it is to post pictures of yourself doing embarrassing things or your friends doing embarrassing things. It is even less smart to post things that are illegal online, but alas, people do that too. Not very smart.
Constantly checking in — I know it is fun to click the little “check-in” button and to tell everyone that you are at Target, but really why do you want people to know that? What if it is someplace more embarrassing than that? When people start checking in from restrooms at malls, then we know the line has been crossed. I just don’t think it is too smart to tell people where you are at every moment and it is also not smart for you to think that people care. I mean, we love you, just don’t tell us everything. I like a little mystery. Nope, not smart.
Using Apps for Things You Used to Do -- How hard is it to make a grocery list? Do you need an App to do that for you? I find it takes more effort to put things into an online calendar than to just write it down. Sure, some Apps are useful, but others are just pure laziness. The verdict is still out for me as to how I feel about the Bible App. I mean, sure you don’t have to carry a book around, but the phone is not the same. What happens when the battery runs out and you have forgotten how to write? Or, what about when you have made your list but you drop your phone on the way into the store and someone without a smart phone runs it over out of spite. Not so smart now, are you?
Airing Grievances About Someone on Facebook — In the heat of the moment, someone might grab their smart phone and post a snarky remark about someone online. It is the “shoot first, then aim” approach. Well, sometime soon the person realizes that they were a bit rash, but it is too late. The word is out and spreading like a grass fire in the desert. Sometimes people are so vague that no one knows what the person is upset about. They do know that they will harm the person who did this to their friend, until they realize that the person being referred to is actually them. Not looking too smart.
Relationship Killing - Lastly, something that I have talked about in a recent post with regards to cell phones in youth ministry, is the potential relationship killer that these little devices can be. There you are out with friends and all you are doing is looking at your phone. What a waste! There was an article I read about how this relates to dating and it is just classic. (Read here) People using their smart phones on dates claimed to have a worse time. Well, if you are on your phone the entire time, I can see why! Again, not smart.
I am not against technology. I just wish people would be more intentional about the relationships around them and with the information they spread around so freely. I know smart phones aren’t inherently evil and I know they aren’t going away. We need to just be aware of them and use them wisely.
This message was not sent with an I-Phone, all typos are my own.