Don’t Leave Children To Their Own “Devices”
An article I read about the prolific use of smart phones and i-pads by the young in our culture had some frightening statistics. According to the American Psychological Association, the average age of a child’s first exposure to pornography is 13 years old, with some seeing it as young as five. According to another survey, 42 percent of children have been cyber-bullied, and more than a third have been actively threatened online. One in five twelve-year-olds has been contacted by a predator.
One doctor, writing at Psychology Today, described how overuse of technology leaves kids “moody, crazy, and lazy”. Phones and tablets over stimulate young nervous systems, resulting in disrupted sleep, fried reward circuits in the brain, multiplied stress, and fractured attention spans. The implication of the article is that the younger the child, the worse the damage seems to become. One Facebook veteran being interviewed went so far as to say, “I’m convinced the devil lives in our phones and is wreaking havoc on our children.”
Are we taking the alarm being sounded? Christopher Null at WIRED magazine thinks we are not. In the article he describes the “ethical debate” some parents think they must have over whether they should respect their children’s privacy online. He quotes an author who makes the argument that supervising our kids’ tech use signals a lack of trust, and only conditions them to accept totalitarian surveillance. Null disagrees. He believes that children should have no expectation of privacy when it comes to their online activity. As a pastor who protects confidentiality, to this I fully agree. Back when drugs were becoming a true crisis, I was, and still am in favor of “room inspections”. The least loving thing you can do as a parent is to leave your kids to their own devices on the Internet or of any other potential source of harm.
While I am no longer of the age of having young children in the home, and therefore do not fully appreciate the pressures faced by parents today, it would seem to me that it would be good to set some boundaries in the home. I am certain that if I had young children, I too would allow and even provide the devices for my children. I love how our granddaughters cuddle up to Becky and do things together on the computer or i-pad. Watching them utilize their own i-pads with ease is adorable. Nevertheless, it would seem to me to be wise to never lose sight of the fact that “we” as parents own these devices, not our children. And “we” as parents can help them be good stewards of all good gifts. Accordingly, as Null states, “we” are entitled to see everything they see. In an age of predators, pornography, and cyber-bullying, to think otherwise is not only foolish, it’s unloving.
Here are three good rules suggested by Christopher Null: 1.No locked doors. 2. Know passwords. 3. Conduct routine cyber inspections. Additionally, M.I.T. psychologist and tech expert Sherry Turkle suggests the idea of “tech-free zones.” Specifically, she suggests that the car, the dinner table, bedrooms, and vacations be designated times and places with no phones and tablets. This gives kids a chance to “reset, to engage in other activities, and to practice social skills not mediated by text messages”.
There is no substitute for strong, positive, interactive relationships with our children. Say YES to them as people. Say NO to their unbridled tech times. God has entrusted these children to us. They are a gift from God.
by Pastor James E. Carver, Sanctuary Church