Nearly 5 years after I wrote the first post I ever wrote that reached viral proportions, I look back realizing the decisions we’ve made regarding electronics were some of the biggest and best to date in our parenting journey. Hardest. Anti-cultural. But it is choosing a living life of moments over a zombied existence.
When I wrote the first piece, I quickly turned off the comment feature on my blog. I’ve never turned it back on. While I received exponentially more positive response than negative, the negatives were so vile, I dared not let it infect my readers. Much of the opposition came from a place of fear. “Your kids won’t be normal. They won’t fit in.”
Is that my parental calling? To make my kids look like the world? To make it so they fit in whatever the cost to their souls? To hand them over to the online world? To give their developing brains over so that all that is still being shaped and formed can be disconnected and twisted by dings and beeps and compulsions and addictions?
I will do whatever it takes to protect my kids. When we place a connected device into their hands, we are removing an umbrella of protection to the souls.
When we place a phone in the hand of our child so we can get through a store, we are training them to be impatient and selfish and distracted. This is hurting their social skills. They don’t see the people around them. They don’t have to respond politely to the nice lady telling them what a darling they are. They don’t have to carry on small talk with the cashier. No, they are buried in their own world of games, separated from actual, real life.
And we wonder.
And we discuss how to teach them social skills.
And we wonder why they pull away from us in teen years buried in an online world we know nothing about really.
And we wonder why they struggle to find purpose and meaning.
And we wonder why depression rates are at all time highs in teens.
And we wonder why they are confused.
They’ve been buried in false realities, lit by the glow of a screen rather than the magnificence of actual life.
I sat at a sporting event overhearing a conversation that took every ounce of willpower to keep my mouth shut. I remained silent only because I’d not been invited into the conversation. Oh but how I wanted to speak.
Two parents discussed their children’s obsession with Fortnite. One said, “I recently read in Psychology Today that it’s actually a good thing how much time our kids spend playing these games. Because if they don’t, and they go to school, they are unable to fit in with their friends. This is actually teaching them social skills. Because they can talk to each other about the games.”
The other parent wasn’t bought in but shied away from a looming debate. The response was general and light.
When in the history of our culture have we ever had to teach our children social skills? It’s never been an issue of concern to the point we are scratching our heads trying to figure out how to get our kids to connect with each other better.
Have you ever watched babies that haven’t been given a screen? They search out eyes. They move toward people. They delight in the simple. They are captivated by the wonder of the world around them.
We’ve lost our wonder.
We are being trained and conditioned to stop thinking, exploring, and creating. This is what is happening to our youth.
The average age of pornography exposure is now 11.
We are experimenting in this social experiment with our children. This should cause us to halt and question everything. Why doesn’t this scare us more?
When I see teenage girls with Instagram friends in the hundreds and the thousands, my stomach hits the ground. I have a ministry with a fairly large blog subscription, yet I don’t have a fraction of the followers of teenagers today. Why are we ok with this for our children? I’ve lived for 41 years and don’t have the online network teens have. This is scary!
We were created for connection. We were made in the image of a relational God. We were fashioned and formed to fit as one body. The body parts can’t exist apart from one another. It is the design of God that we socialize. This doesn’t have to be taught.
Yet here we stand in a culture living distracted and disconnected as never before in attempts to connect with the wider world. This type of connection only leads to a disconnection with the ones closest to us.
In the 5 years since writing the first post, I’m only saddened greater at the state of our parenting in this department. Where are the parents who are willing to fight and stand against culture?
The first post I wrote I believe reached so many because of the tone I wrote it in. I wrote it not with the intent to persuade, but only to share my heart. It was a heart desperate to not miss a moment of this beautiful, fleeting life with them. It was an alternate perspective compared to most pieces written on electronics I later realized. It was a mom’s heart poured out.
With children now on the brinks of 15, 13, and 10 I’m overwhelmed with gratitude we didn’t give in.
A question I commonly get is “Do your kids resent your limits and fight against it?”
They don’t. The reason is that we began discussing our whys way before it was an issue. We explained exactly why we said no. We showed them how much we loved them which is why they can trust us. They know we would never withhold good from them for the sake of being mean.
When we were at dinner, we talked to them, we enjoyed them. We understand this time is a breath, a vapor. They began to notice on their own families unable to talk at dinner because they all lived behind a screen. When they saw with their own eyes, they realized this is not what they desired.
When they tried to make friends with kids who couldn’t talk about anything other than a video game, they moved on to find the friends they could connect with. These people still do exist.
By withholding at younger ages, we are able to begin giving greater freedoms now. Boundaries are healthy and good. We must parent our kids with boundaries for their good with electronics.
When I hear parents say, “I wish I could get my kids off the screens”, I can’t understand this. We are the parents. When they live in our home, we provide shelter, food, clothing, and safety. We are given a responsibility by God to shepherd these kids. We aren’t responsible for how they turn out and the choices they make of their own free will. But we are responsible for how we feed His sheep.
Jesus told Peter if he loved Him, he’d feed His sheep.
If we are charged with feeding His sheep, how does this look in our parenting choices regarding screens? What are we feeding them when we allow them to feast on the online world? What is being digested into their hearts and souls?
Normally, my writing is much softer and more encouraging. But at times I feel compelled to shout from the rooftops to parents with a voice so different from my normal because this is a big deal!!
In church last week our pastor preached a message from Ezekiel about the watchman on the tower. Ezekiel was called to warn the people of what was to come if they continued in their ways. Sometimes this is how I feel. Like I have to stand on the watchtower and shout to parents everywhere to watch out. Danger is ahead. Don’t go that way. Stop. Retreat.
Every moment we have with our kids is a gift from God. Why do we want to give those moments over to the screens who don’t care at all about our kids beyond the trap of the moment?
Parenting is for the long haul. Making daily sacrifices for our future.
Maybe we start here. What do we want our relationships with our kids to look like in 20 years? What kind of human citizen do we want to raise?
Well, that is determined by choices and actions we make and take today.
To read more I’ve written on this topic, visit this link. At the bottom are links to many screen-driven posts. Also if you go to the blog page and scroll to categories, choose electronics, you will find many more on this topic.