Smartphones, Tablets, and Christian Parenting
I have lots to be grateful for, but one of my recurring thoughts of gratitude is also really sad. I am grateful to God that, as a Gen-Xer, I came of age right before the digital revolution. That’s because I know that I would have been swept away in a world of temptation that I could not have handled. And I’m not sure what that would have done to me. I say this is sad because I know that my children’s generation, and every generation hereafter has to contend with temptations I didn’t know. As I think about this, I am increasingly perplexed by professing Christian families giving their children smartphones and tablets with unrestricted Internet access.
It’s not that we don’t have the data to know what happens when sexually-forming minds are exposed to pornography. And it’s not that we don’t know the kind of pull to temptation, especially among young males, that comes with the promise of sexual “fulfillment” with the illusion of anonymity. It’s not that we don’t know about the way unsavory characters use the Internet to troll for naïve children to exploit.
So why would you put your child in a situation of that sort of peril?
Given what we know about a.) sexually developing adolescents and pre-adolescents and b.) the Internet itself, it is impossible to rank unrestricted access to the World Wide Web in a category with allowing your child to watch television or to freely roam the neighborhood. It’s more akin to sending your adolescent son to a strip-club for the night because you trust him not to look up from his Bible, or allowing your adolescent daughter to grow marijuana in her room because she likes the bud as a decoration.
We ought to know better than this. By “we” I don’t mean that Christians ought to know better. It’s worse than that. We as human beings ought to know better. It doesn’t take the indwelling Holy Spirit to know that turning a teenager or pre-teen loose with unrestricted Internet access is insane.
Jesus described the Fatherhood of God by noting that no one, not even an evil person, would give his son a serpent when he asked for a fish (Matt. 7:10). Why not? It’s because natural affection propels a father to seek to protect his child from something harmful.
Sadly, though, we see a culture, even among Christians all too often, that is willing to give a child a serpent, as long as he really wants it. After all, all his friends have access to venomous reptiles and we don’t want him to feel different. Plus, we think he’s trustworthy as a snake-charmer.
Brothers and sisters and friends, this is madness.
Don’t get me wrong, I think the digital revolution is largely a good thing. I think children should be reared to see technology as a tool to be used for kingdom priorities. But there’s far too much at stake to turn a developing psyche loose, with no boundaries, with a technology that could psychically and spiritually cripple him or her (and a future family, too), for a lifetime and thereafter. Technology is good. Turning our children over to the cyber-wilderness is not.
Russell Moore is President of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. He formerly served as Dean of the School of Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and executive director of the Carl F. H. Henry Institute for Evangelical Engagement. Dr. Moore is the author of several books including Adopted for Life: The Priority of Adoption for Christian Families and Churches (Crossway)