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Parents: Don't Give Your Kids a Smartphone...

Updated: May 23, 2023

We are living in a day and age that revolves around technology, especially smartphones. Our days are filled with them: Tasks, jobs, entertainment, and more all run through these hand-held devices. They dominate our lives.

  • If I go anywhere without my iPhone, the world feels off (and I hate that!).

There are lots of positives to smartphones. My iPhone keeps my schedule, gives me access to 24/7 communication with family, friends, and the Church I shepherd, and it keeps me connected to the news and events of the day. I can also see what everyone else is doing with their days and their lives.

  • And while smartphones and smart technology have certainly added positives to our lives, it seems they have also taken good things away.

  • Gone are the days of privacy, enjoying an unspoiled moment, and unplugged leisure time. Everyone is connected; always.

Technology Changes the Generations

I’m part of the bridge generation, the Millennials — the last generation that remembers life before smart technology, and yet is fairly proficient with adapting to and using it.

  • The Boomers, on the whole, tend to struggle a bit more with technology, although some are fairly proficient. Generation Z, however, only knows a world where smart phones and social media rule the day.

I was part of the first generation of facebook and twitter users. As a freshman college student, I watched as this awkward social media platform called Facebook was born, grew, and eventually, took over public life. I can remember the early days of facebook when people posted all kinds of random, meaningless, embarrassing information (I still cringe when facebook reminds me of those early years).

But along the way, we never stopped to ask if social media was good. We never stopped to ask ourselves, “Is all of this advancement and networking leading us to a good place?” I’m guilty of not asking the question for myself.

  • But now, a more pressing question is before us, particularly the Millennial Generation: What is this technology doing to our children?

What is Smart Technology Doing to Our Children?

Reports today show that the average age at which children receive smartphones is between ages 9 and 11, with nearly all children in possession of a smartphone by age 15.

  • I can recall my own experience. When I was a boy, I thought my dad had to be one of the most important humans on earth because he had a large leather bag that rode in the car with us between the seats. It housed a large plastic box with an equally large phone inside. And when we rode, a bulky antenna was magnetically affixed to the roof. — Official in my book.

When I received my driver's license, cell phones were just starting to become popular, and I received a basic phone for emergency calls. It looked like this:

-Shortly thereafter, the smartphone revolution began…and I still remember the first iPhone, and the big, clunky iPod.

  • But, what has this technology done to us?

What are the studies showing?

The data is not positive. Smartphones—particularly, social media—are not having positive effects on our children and young people. In fact, it seems to be just the opposite. Some very negative things are occurring…

In a recent article in The Wall Street Journal outlines how TikTok is actively inundating teens with negative messages about self-harm, mental health, depression, and even suicide. The article, TikTok Feeds Teens a Diet of Darkness, reports, “A recent study found that when researchers created accounts belonging to fictitious 13-year-olds, they were quickly inundated with videos about eating disorders, body image, self-harm and suicide.”

TikTok is the second most popular social media platform among teens behind Youtube with 67% of teens using the app.

  • Two-thirds of U.S. teens use TikTok, and 16% of all U.S. teens say they’re on it near constantly, according to Pew Research Center. Kids’ frequent social-media use—along with the potential for algorithms to lure teens down dangerous rabbit holes—is a factor in the American Psychological Association’s new recommendations for adolescent social-media use. The group this week said parents should monitor their younger kids’ social-media scrolling and keep watch for troublesome use. The APA also urges parents and tech companies to be extra vigilant about content that encourages kids to do themselves harm.”

The WSJ researchers set up accounts posing at 13 year-old adolescents and spent 30 minute segments scrolling through videos and pausing every so often. “TikTok almost immediately recommended videos about suicide and eating disorders, the researchers said. Videos about body image and mental health popped up on the accounts’ “For You” pages every 39 seconds, they added.”

And with most teens spending nearly 9 hours per day on social media, they are consuming untold amounts of this sort of darkness.

  • Is it really any wonder that our kids are having all sorts of issues with body image, personal self-worth, and mental health?

The Pew Research Center reports that 25% of teens report that viewing social media has a negative effect on them.

  • Also Research studies show a strong connection between use of social media and its undesirable outcomes that increase prevalence of numerous mental health disorders, including:

  1. Anxiety

  2. Stress

  3. Depression

  4. Body image concerns

  5. Loneliness

Anyone working with teens right now will tell you these issues are almost constantly present.

Parents, We are Responsible for Our Children.

On this morning's edition of The Briefing, Dr. R. Albert Mohler made the point that the world does not own our children. They belong to us. In fact, he notes that the real issue in this whole thing lies with the parents. Kids get these phones from their parents. Mohler writes, “I just want to remind parents, you are responsible for your children. You're responsible for setting the rules. You're responsible for what technology they have, and they do not have. You would not, as children and young adults, encourage them to go and play in the traffic, but that's effectively what is taking place in social media. And even if it is sight unseen to you, and that's really the point, isn't it? It's all the more dangerous because it is sight unseen to you.”

  • This is a point that our own local Pastor-Theologian, Tim Bowes, makes regularly.

Social media is having all kinds of negative societal effects. Its having all kinds of negative effects on a generation of young people. As Mohler points out, when given the option, teens today are choosing to forgo time with friends and family in order to have time with Tiktok. Social media is actually making us antisocial.

  • Social media is making us antisocial, depressed, and lonely. But that's not all, it's also making us dumb. Mohler notes that social media is conditioning us to have short attention spans with little ability to sit with and process information.

There are some very basic and essential human skills that are disappearing with the rise of social media…

  • “There are all kinds of other problems related to spending this much time in social media, including attention span, because especially if you look at something like TikTok, it's a very short burst of information. Once you see it, you just move on to the next burst of information. It's something like a digital version of some kind of emotional high, but that is not the way you can read a book. That's not the way you can have a conversation. That is not the way you can hear and learn from a sermon.”

And friends, this is not the way that societies are built, made stable, and securely passed on.

So, given the overwhelming negative effects of smartphones and social media on our children, the question for parents is this: Why are we giving our children these phones!?

Where to From Here…?

For my own part, my wife and I have decided that our children will have very limited access and interaction with any kind of technology. We use laptops for schooling, but they do not have free access. We’ve gotten rid of tablets because our kids become absolutely lost in games and videos, which would often be followed by poor behavior and temper tantrums. We limit tv, encouraging our children to be outside, playing with one another and with friends, doing activities, reading books, building crafts, and exploring the world God has made.

  • There will come a time when our kids will have to enter the world of smartphones. It's part of our world now. But, I will give an account to God for my children, and I want to parent them into that world as best I can.

  • My children will not receive smartphones for a long time. I’m not sure I can say when, if ever, I will place one into their hands. I have considered how to get rid of mine multiple times!

It might seem an impossible thought to not give your child a smartphone, but it's not. It might seem even more daunting to think of taking away a smartphone already given, but its not impossible. Parents, we must look long and hard at the facts and see what these devices are doing to our children…not to mention ourselves!

  • Perhaps this is a place where Christians parents stand against the culture and say, “NO. You cannot have my children.”

  • Its clear that our children are being harmed. They are becoming less social and losing basic human skills; they being inundated with dark, sinful, harmful material that they do not yet possesses the maturity to process; they are withdrawing into themselves; they are losing touch with reality; and they are suffering.

  • Is this really something we can afford to neglect? Is it really worth them having a smartphone for this?

The question before parents now, especially Christians parents, is quickly becoming: How do we parent our children in an ever-expanding digital age?

  • The answers will vary from family to family because there is not one right way. Some parents will give smartphones, and others will not. Some will find a middle way. There is no one right answer.

  • But, we must say this about parenting our children through in these days: We must do so Carefully and thoughtfully.

Check out these other posts:

Also, stay tuned for my upcoming review of Raising Kids in a Screen-Saturated World.

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1 comentario

Stephen P Evans
Stephen P Evans
31 may 2023

I have personally seen the negative impact of social media, tic toc, and other social media platforms on our kids. They see and are engaged in things totally age inappropriate, and are often unsupervised when they use their smart phones. This is a major concern for me.

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