Pornography is devastating. It destroys families, marriages and minds. I know all too well from the marriage and pre-marriage counseling my husband and I have done and the many people who reach out for help since Heath wrote Finally Free. Many times what started as a glance at an image on a smart phone snowballed into a relationship killing addiction. While the problem of pornography is enough reason for parents to carefully consider and monitor their childrens' smart phone use, this is not the only factor to consider. As a former teacher and a mother of three, I have observed many other issues with cellphone (over) use. Here are a few:
Kids need to develop social skills.
How many children in middle school and high school do you know that can speak confidently to adults while looking them in the eye? How many children do you know who are assertive and initiate contact with others, seeking others out in meaningful conversations? If you live in the same world that I do, the answer is probably not many. That is because conversation is a learned skill. We learn it when we observe people around us who are more mature and watch them interact with one another. We see positive interactions and we recognize awkward ones when we are paying attention to the world around us. This does not happen when a child’s gaze is fixed on a small screen.
Children should be learning to serve others.
Like most of us, our kids don’t need any help thinking about their own wants and needs. They do, however, need to learn how to see the needs of others and how to best serve others in tangible ways. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 10:24, “Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor.” Similarly, in Philippians 2:4, Paul encourages us saying “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” How can we seek the good of our neighbors or consider their interests if we don’t know them well enough and are not paying enough attention to recognize their needs? In order to do this we have to consider others, which requires our attention to be focused outwards rather than on our own selfish desires. We, as parents, must remember this and model it for our kids.
Children need to honor God by learning how to speak wisely and kindly with their peers.
Proverbs 12:18 reads “The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” James says our tongues are a “restless evil” and that "no human being can tame the tongue (Js 2:8). How much more is this true of texting fingers? How many of us as adults are guilty of saying things over a text that we would have said in a wiser, more appropriate and Christ-exalting way if we were looking our brother or sister in the face when we said it? Our children are, just as we were (and sometimes still are), immature both emotionally and spiritually. They need to grow up in wisdom so that their words can bring healing and build up. Children must practice living their relationships face to face, saying words to real people with real emotions.
Observing and experiencing the outside world will inspire awe and worship in a way that looking at a device will not.
Observation will expand a child’s imagination and inspire creativity. When they experience life by being present they will notice the created and the Creator in ways they wouldn’t if they were busy being passively entertained. They will go to the beach and listen to the ocean and see the waves. They will feel the wind on their faces while they play on the swings or ride their bikes. They will notice the changing leaves and the ducks waddling by. “For his invisible attributes, namely his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made” (Rom 1:20). Since the beginning of time, creation has pointed to the Creator. In withholding copious amounts of screen time we are encouraging more opportunities for our children to get a glimpse of our magnificent Creator.
You will be a less passive, more engaged parent.
When your children are less distracted and paying more attention to the world around them, including you, your job will be harder. It will be more labor intensive. You will have to answer more questions, mediate more disagreements and clean up more messes. You will also have to take more walks, play more games, give more snuggles, engage in more meaningful conversations and take more seriously your responsibility to live like Christ in front of your closest neighbor. You will have to engage in your mission as a parent to teach your children to be “self-controlled, pure, kind . . . to show integrity, dignity . . . to live upright and godly lives . . . ” (Titus 2:4-7) and to do it all with the end goal of exalting the Giver of all good things. And that is a worthy endeavor.
Lauren Lambert is a pastor's wife to Heath and mom of three children. She lives in Jacksonville, FL where Heath serves as Associate Pastor at First Baptist Church and is the Executive Director for Association of Certified Biblical Counselors.