“I am convinced the devil lives in our phones and is wreaking havoc on our children.”
The above quote is from Athena Chavarria, a former executive assistant at Facebook. For the last decade we’ve been told about all the benefits of smart phones—they will make us more efficient, they will connect us like never before, and they will help our children learn. It now appears that all of these claims are false.
Instead of making us more efficient, our phones distract us from our tasks so that we get less done; because they encourage us to multi-task, the things we do get done are often done poorly. Instead of connecting us, the various social media apps we access are increasing our hatred of one another (according to one recent poll that I can’t seem to track down now, partisan hatred has risen three hundred percent in the last fifteen years); others argue that our political divisions are the worst they have been in over a century. Finally, phones are destroying our children’s ability to maintain focus and to think linearly, which is inhibiting their ability to learn.
Instead of being tools to learn and to increase our productivity, our smart phones have become mini TVs and video game players. Don’t believe me? Watch a dozen phone commercials and pay attention to how they are marketed: every single commercial markets phones in terms of how fun and entertaining they are.
This isn’t even the worst part. Phones have contributed much to the pornographization of our culture. Consider recent statistics from just one website. "In 2017 alone, Pornhub hosted 28.5 billion visits, an average of 81 million per day, the overwhelming majority based in America. All told, visitors to Pornhub last year searched 50,000 times per minute and 800 times per second.” In the time it took you to read to this point in this message about 100,000 people searched for pornography on just one website. Take that in for a second.
These issues are leading the people who design phones for our children to keep them away from their children. Tim Cook, the C.E.O of Apple, said that he would not let his nephew join social media networks and Steve Jobs would not let his young children near iPads. Chris Anderson, former editor of Wired, founder of GeekDad.com, and chief executive of a robotics and drone company had this to say about the smart phone. “On a scale between candy and crack cocaine, it’s closer to crack cocaine.” He went on. “We thought we could control it. And this is beyond our power to control. This is going straight to the pleasure centers of the developing brain. This is beyond our capacity as regular parents to understand.”
Within the last couple of years there has been a fleet of high-profile Silicon Valley defectors “sounding alarms in increasingly dire terms about what these gadgets do to the human brain.” They are creating no-tech homes, sending their children to no-tech schools, and going to incredible lengths to ensure that their nannies keep their kids away from screens.
Ok, so why am I saying all this?
I want to encourage you all to both limit your children’s access and monitor what they are accessing.
Screens distract us immensely and limit our ability to concentrate and think clearly. It is next to impossible to have sustained thought on a difficult topic without self-control and developed concentration. And yet self-control and developed concentration are exactly what constant screen exposure destroys. Without the ability to sustain thought, your kids won’t do well in school. Period. There is no getting around this. What is more, they will have a very hard time growing in their faith. Try reading Paul’s letter to the Romans without sustained thought. No matter how great a sermon your pastor preaches, without the ability to concentrate those words will fall on deaf ears. High screen exposure will stunt your child’s intellectual and spiritual development. So limit it.
It is also important to monitor what kids are looking at. Social media undermines our well-being. It has been argued convincingly that social media is in part behind the surge in teenage depression, anxiety, and suicides over the last decade; to the extent that we can measure it, it appears that happiness increases by an average of 45% in people that quit social media for as little as a week. This isn’t to say that all social media is harmful or wrong (full discloser, I am a member of a social media service), but we ought to be very cautious as to when and how much we let our children access social media.
While social media has some good uses, pornography does not. Pornography is rewiring the brains of our young men and women, perverting how they view themselves and others, it is leading young people to delay marriage and have fewer children, and it is destroying and undermining a vast number of marriages. But, that can’t be our kids, right? These kids go to church and attend a Christian school! Consider the following anecdote from Rod Dreher:
A couple of years ago, I spoke with an older pastor who mentored young men at a conservative Evangelical college. The men in his particular group were undergraduates who planned to go to seminary after they finished their bachelor’s degrees. The older man told me that he had 16 undergraduate men in his group.
“How many of them do you think are addicted to porn?” he asked me.
I had no idea, but figured it couldn’t be many. Not from young Evangelical men who are so faith-filled that they believe they have a calling to ministry.
“Sixteen,” the older pastor said. Sixteen young men who want to quit using porn but could not find the inner strength to do so.
These are young men that are planning on being pastors and yet pornography is ripping them apart! We as parents can keep our children from exposure to smut now so that they don’t find themselves addicted and trapped in sin as adults.
Hopefully you all monitor and limit what your children have access to; if you don’t, now is great time to start! Start with one no screen night a week; start by uploading accountability software on your and their devices.
I am not against technology—it can be a blessing when used the right way. (And I see the irony of typing this message on a computer, posting it on our website and Facebook page, etc.) What does concern me is that many of us, myself included, use technology unwisely. If we don’t control technology, it will control us. Right now we as a society are failing to control our use of phones and it is destroying our children’s generation. I would encourage you all to begin to take steps to control it in your homes.