Smart Kids and Dumb Phones

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Introduction

One of the great challenges that Christian parents have today is the challenge of figuring out what responsible parenting looks like in the middle of this technological supernova we are living in. For example, when should your teen get a smart phone? What are the parameters? Who is competent to police those parameters?

Basic Options

So let me begin with the false dilemma posed in my title. With those two variables—smart/dumb and kids/phones—we actually have four possible situations.smart-phone

  1. Dumb kids, dumb phones
  2. Dumb kids, smart phones
  3. Smart kids, dumb phones
  4. Smart kids, smart phones

I take it that every Christian parent who is not actively neo-Amish would consider #4 the most desirable outcome, but that they would settle for #3 if they had to. The first option is an option on paper, but is decreasingly available with every passing minute. We will always have dumb kids, but we won’t always have dumb phones.

So parents are most worried, reasonably enough, about #2. What are you supposed to do when all your kids’ classmates have the latest phone in their pocket, and your kid is the uber-dweeb with the walkie-talkie? How do you handle the painful conversations about all this around the dinner table?

Unlike the parenting situations in the 1950s—going to a dance, say—this is a decision with much higher stakes. Are you going to let your kids have a device in their pockets that would give them instant access to the wrong side of every town in the world, and which would allow that access in under 30 seconds? “Here’s your new phone, Billy. Remember that Bourbon Street is only two clicks away!”

First Principles

So let’s get it down to first principles. I cannot from this distance say what is appropriate level of liberty in your household, because levels of maturity, intelligence, obedience, godliness, and so forth, vary. They vary among the parents and they vary among the kids. You cannot simply say, “Here, this one size fits all.”

So what can you say?

The basic principle of child-rearing is that it is not our task to get our kids to conform to the standard, but rather it is to get our kids to love the standard.The basic principle of child-rearing is that it is not our task to get our kids to conform to the standard, but rather it is to get our kids to love the standard. Ultimately this can only happen in a gospel-saturated home because it is the gospel of the new covenant that promises to write God’s law on our hearts and on our minds. Righteousness inscribed on tablets of stone won’t cut it, and neither will rules posted on the fridge. The only thing that “thou shalt not” does (on its own) is feed and provoke the desire to sin (Rom. 3:20; 5:20). Coupled with the gospel, the law is sweeter than honey (Ps. 19:10). Loving the standard is therefore a gospel function.

This is important because if you simply make them conform to an external standard (e.g. “no phone for you”), but they do not love that standard, they are still hanging out all day with a bunch of kids who have smart phones. The world is still out there. Do you want to chase them into the world through your hardline imposition of rules that make no sense to them? But at the same time, if they are foolish, you do not want them wandering off into that dangerous world all by themselves. You have to give direction, but direction about what?

Internalization of the standard is the thing you are after, because a time is coming when every parent will no longer have control over the externals of the standard. If your daughter is 15, and you are having struggles over this issue, ask yourself how many months it will be before she is making such decisions without having to check in with you at all. The parental task is to get wisdom in, not to strap wisdom on.

Training Wheels

Now when kids are little, you do have to strap wisdom on. External standards, applied by parents who discipline in wisdom, are nothing more than training wheels. But the point of training wheels is to put them on earlier, and to take them off when you can, as soon as you can.

Too many parents are indulgent when the kids are little—because they are little, the sin can’t do all that much damage. But as the years go by, the consequences of sin grow increasingly worrisome. Teens can get into drugs, into drinking, into fornication, into stupid behavior with cars, and so on. The consequences can be severe, including legal troubles, pregnancies, addictions, or death. When those gnarly prospects start to loom on the horizon, too many Christian parents start applying restrictions. But this is during the time when they should be lifting the earlier restrictions gradually, slowly, deliberately.

And so every conversation between parents and child on this and related topics should be about how the child is doing, and not about the device in question.

By loving the standard, I do not in the first instance mean loving the phone standard. I mean loving the standard of internalized allegiance to the ways of God. I mean loving the whole idea of personal loyalty—loyalty to God and His ways, loyalty to father and mother, loyalty to siblings, loyalty to wisdom, and so on.

Three Diagnostic Questions

So the sum of the matter is this. As father and mother are discussing with one another what their practice ought to be, there are three sets of diagnostic questions they should be asking themselves. First, what is the gospel aroma in our home? Is this a place where the death and resurrection of Jesus overshadow everything? Is this a place of love and forgiveness?

Second, since all these questions reduce to a question of whether the kids have a personal loyalty to the ways of their household, the diagnostic question for parents is this: do you have a personal loyalty to your kids? I am not asking if you love them. Of course you love them. I am asking if they wanted to imitate your personal loyalty would there be something there for them to imitate. Are you expecting unrelenting allegiance from them when what they get from you is unrelenting criticism?

And third, as you instruct and admonish your kids, you don’t do it through abstract worries and what ifs. The issue is not what they might do with a smart phone six months from now. The issue is how they responded to their mom this morning when asked to clear the table, or to make their bed. If the home is crammed full of eye-rolling, sea-lawyering, and back-chatting, then the answer to the phone question is no. When asked what is wrong with smart phones, the answer is nothing. Nothing is wrong with smart phones. We just don’t want to add difficulties when we are not yet handling our current responsibilities the way we ought to. If we can’t clear the breakfast table with joy and gladness, if we can’t get ready for school in a good humor, if we can’t love our brothers and sister rightly, then all a phone will do is make all that worse. If we can’t run with men, how can we run with horses?

As a family we should be interested in passing third grade before talking about ninth grade.

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Rob Steele
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Rob Steele

Typo: “you do not them wandering off”.

Jonathan
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Jonathan

I take it that every Christian parent who is not actively neo-Amish would consider #4 the most desirable outcome We’re less than ten years of advertising and social pressure onto the smartphone era, and it’s already assumed that if you don’t think the gadget is a great idea, you should be mocked. Can we at least have a real discussion on this before assuming that because a device does more, it is therefore better? At the very least, consider this. God made human beings so that in their developmental life, face-to-face interactions and real, present conversations and full-body games are… Read more »

jonmnoel
Member

Yes, this is a real issue. Our kids lament the number of their friends at youth group on their phones, or who are on their phone even when they’re talking to you. It’s not just a matter of the dangers of porn, but of being enslaved to screens and technology, and pulled out of the real world where God has placed us. It’s not just a danger for teens, but for adults. Your phone is either serving you in your pursuit of godliness or you are serving your phone. Why is it considered loving or wise to put kids in… Read more »

Jonathan
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Jonathan

Yes, the very moment when I realized how poorly this was going to go was when I took a group of teenagers on a field trip, that they had signed up for voluntarily with excitement, with their friends, then watched a group of five of them stand in a circle sending content-dry texts to other people and hardly talking to each other or engage with their surroundings at all. And that was just texting, before smartphones and Facebook and Twitter made it far worse.

Billtownphysics
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Billtownphysics

Your concerns are valid, but again, maybe neo-Amish is not such a bad idea. Humans navigated the world for at least 6000 years without smartphones, but eventually even smartphones will look like dated technology. I’m worried about my grandkids being addicted to augmented reality devices in their contact lenses.

disqus
Guest
disqus

there’s an app for that. you can lock down apps with a pass code to make your smart phone dumb.

Jane
Member

What do you do with the point that it’s not going to be possible to avoid them indefinitely, though? If you want your kids to have a way to get a ride home from somewhere, they’ll need a phone. And they’ll need to learn how to navigate the dangers of smart phones, because dumb phones are not going to be a viable option much longer. We just went all (cheap, pay as you go, limited power) smartphones in our family recently because when you have teenaged kids involved with the outside world, not being able to send or receive group… Read more »

Jonathan
Guest
Jonathan

How amazing it seems to me that I got all the rides I needed through my entire childhood without ever owning a phone at all. In large part because I was taught the values of “making a plan” and “sticking to a schedule” and “keeping your commitments”. And, sometimes, I had to bite the bullet and walk home, or get inventive and figure something else out. By the way – did you have a smart phone in childhood? If not, are you experiencing difficult self-control over your use of one now that you don’t see among these children lucky enough… Read more »

jonmnoel
Member

I think it of as junk food. Kids will always eat chips, cookies or other junk food and the carrots and the apples which are nourishing and delicious will be left untouched. Kids naturally want to watch movies and play on phones or computers; it takes no effort to be entertained in this way. Kids should be taught to enjoy reading quality literature, to love knowledge and learning, to love work and the outdoors, to engage people, not screens, things which require input and effort on our part, but deliver far more lasting good.

steghorn21
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steghorn21

Jon, I think Smartphones are way more dangerous than junk food. They can whisk our kids away into a world of true evil. Avoid at all costs.

Billtownphysics
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Billtownphysics

Yes, but we had these things called pay phones back in the day….

Jonathan
Guest
Jonathan

Oh it’s way easier now. Every random person is a pay phone waiting to happen that only requires simple interpersonal skills rather than quarters. I’ve used this technique in international travels without problem.

Jane
Member

Ah, the Amish route. Rely on everybody else for the convenience you aren’t willing to assume the responsibility of maintaining yourself.

I have no problem with anyone who decides not to have a phone. But relying on constant access to a paid service maintained by other people is bad form.

Jonathan
Guest
Jonathan

Actually, no, relying on each other used to be the typical way of life before the false Enlightenment gods of individualism and self-reliance raised their heads. Christ and the apostles are recorded to have done it, often. The command, clear in both new and old, to be hospitable to strangers appeared to be a given and good part of Biblical culture, and surely that expectation would extend to something as simple as using a phone. You see it just about everywhere else in the world that hasn’t accepted the Western separation of community, include some of our own poor communities.… Read more »

Jane
Member

Actually, I think we must be misreading one another, or at least you are misreading me. I rarely have any sense of aggression when I interact with people here, unless they have been consistently aggressive and abusive (which is not remotely the case with you.) My style might be read as aggressive but I assure you it’s absolutely unintended. I think of these as spirited interactions among people of mutual good will, not anything where aggression would have a place. Relying on one another is one thing; relying on the willingness of others to participate in a system you eschew… Read more »

Jonathan
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Jonathan

Yeah, I’m a much nicer person in real life than in the things I find myself typing online, I’ve been told that Pastor Wilson is far nicer in person too, and I just can’t imagine that the kind of sarcasm and insults and condescension and generally biting language that gets passed around here is really how people would speak to face-to-face acquaintances.

Jonathan
Guest
Jonathan

And no, I don’t think it costs nothing, I’ve just tried to point out that there are no costs that can’t be worked around. And I do think some of the costs have hidden benefits. I tried to mention that and address the idea that I’ve “eschewed the system” in my reply to Jill.

Jill Smith
Member
Jill Smith

Hi Jonathan, I do see Jane’s points about the phone. I know you have lived in some tough places, but have you had to envision your teenaged girls in those places without a reliable way of contacting you? As Jane points out, there are few pay phones around anymore. Where I live, “my child’s resources in getting home on their own” would have made my blood run cold. Los Angeles store owners do not, in my experience, routinely offer help, shelter, or cell phones to distressed teens, especially at night. And could you tolerate the thought of your 16-year-old on… Read more »

JohnM
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JohnM

Why would anyone knowingly allow a girl – or a boy – to be by themselves in tough places? Maybe adolescents need more adult supervision, more time doing useful things, less time discretionary time, and less time spent in one another’s company.

So, as you can see, I was only recently chipped out of the limestone and a lot more things than smart phones don’t make good sense to me.

Jill Smith
Member
Jill Smith

I agree with all four of the things you think they need, no question. But sometimes living circumstances impose problems that I didn’t have to deal with growing up. My daughter grew up in a not-too-great section of Los Angeles (though certainly not one of the worst ones), and both her schooling and acting career required her to do things I didn’t find very safe, like ride the subway or, even worse, walk through Hollywood at night to get to the subway. Even once she was driving, this is a scary place for a young girl to be out on… Read more »

JohnM
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JohnM

If it’s water under the bridge let it be.

Jonathan
Guest
Jonathan

Again, we seem to be speaking about these questions as if these situations weren’t the norm just a few years ago. It almost feels to me that we’re saying that if society makes a significant error and expects you to follow along, you must because, good manners. I’m quite regretting using, “ask a random person to use their phone” as an example, as I gave that as an extreme example of how reliable phone access is nowadays. For myself I can only remember having to employ that in countries where I didn’t have another easier way, but in the real… Read more »

Jane
Member

“Again, we seem to be speaking about these questions as if these situations weren’t the norm just a few years ago. It almost feels to me that we’re saying that if society makes a significant error and expects you to follow along, you must because, good manners.” Well, if I gave that impression, I apologize. I think of it more like wanting to maintain a horse and buggy (and please, I don’t mean a disparaging comparison here, so just take the analogy for what it’s worth) when all the rest of the world has automobiles, and then expecting people to… Read more »

Jill Smith
Member
Jill Smith

And even very nice people do have a limited tolerance for sharing their gadgets except in clear emergencies. I would not be very happy if the lady next door routinely asked to check her email on my computer. It may be selfish of me, but it’s true. Anymore than I want her using my sewing machine or my landline. I would be gracious, I hope, but not very happy about it.

Jonathan
Guest
Jonathan

Again, I think this is a failing of modern society that clearly is at odds with the Biblical culture that Jesus and his followers were practicing, if you looked at what they did and asked of each other and even of complete strangers. (Pulling wheat off passing fields, calling forth a boy from the crowd to feed the whole group, going into strange towns and asking for lodging, etc.) It was just assumed, even for centuries after Jesus, that Christians would have a room available for wandering strangers in need of housing. Now we’ve monetized everything, so so many tasks… Read more »

Jill Smith
Member
Jill Smith

My daughter couldn’t always do that. (She still can’t.) Rehearsals run overtime, auditions can be called at the last minute, and she was frequently out in very bad areas (Hollywood Boulevard) well after midnight. Arrangements fell through as they are very inclined to do in California where most people seem to be flakes when it comes to honoring commitments. Her first job was a 55 minute commute to Anaheim at 6 AM–of course I would not have let her go without a working cell phone. Yes, of course, if she had lived 30 years ago, there would be no cell… Read more »

Jonathan
Guest
Jonathan

While I am far more concerned with overly “safe spacing” kids than most Americans are, here I think I have to agree with JohnM. A situation too dangerous for my daughter is also too dangerous for my daughter and a smart phone. (In fact, if it’s a nice smart phone, it might become MORE dangerous for her.) Especially when we’re talking about younger teens, 12-17 or so, I think that “not taking jobs or doing anything else that requires being on Hollywood Boulevard well after midnight under any circumstances” would be a smaller loss for me than “okay, let’s give… Read more »

Katecho
Member

Jonathan wrote: How amazing it seems to me that I got all the rides I needed through my entire childhood without ever owning a phone at all. … Oh it’s way easier now. Every random person is a pay phone waiting to happen that only requires simple interpersonal skills rather than quarters. Jonathan is full of advice on this subject, but shouldn’t parents who take his advice assume that their own children will just pick up on this technique from them? Every random person is a smart phone waiting to happen, right? It does raise the question of why Jonathan… Read more »

Jonathan
Guest
Jonathan

I love shared computer resources! I was able to get any without a laptop until 2008 because of that, and possibly still could if not for where I live. You seem to think you know a lot about me that you don’t. If you want to learn more, you can talk to me like a person. But since you were being mean and not even speaking to me directly as I’ve asked you numerous times in the past, I have to say that I just stopped reading. Anyone else who honestly cares about me as a person and wants to… Read more »

Katecho
Member

No doubt Jonathan thinks it’s mean for others to point out his legalism and hypocrisy, but he doesn’t think it is mean for him to misrepresent Wilson on more than a weekly basis. In any case, the points that I raised are substantive, against the merits of Jonathan’s advice. He chose not to bother to address any of them. Jonathan did not explain how withholding smart phones from his own children is consistent with his argument on how easy it is to borrow phone time from strangers. Jonathan did not address the problem of how to test the self-control of… Read more »

Jonathan
Guest
Jonathan

No, I think it was more that you pretended to know things about my life, even my heart, that you know absolutely nothing about. I did not address your other questions because you refuse to address ME, as a person, or show that you’re the least bit interested in anything I have to say except for a medium against which you can practice your internet combat. Once you speak to me, as a person, and show you want honest answers to honest questions and will respond thoughtfully and honestly back, I’ll be happy to engage any real questions you have.… Read more »

Jane
Member

That’s all very nice and superior. The problem is that not all the adults responsible for your kids in the future will stick to plans and make it so that you can be absolutely certain your kids will be where you expect them to be at a predetermined time. Is that good? No. Is it reality? Well, I figured out about ten years ago that it is. Besides not really understanding the first sentence of your second paragraph, I’ll just point out that my comment said nothing about 11 year olds. I hope you’re right that there will always be… Read more »

Jill Smith
Member
Jill Smith

I think you are right that safe use of a smart phone depends on whether they have been trained to the point that they can take responsibility for their own safety in other areas. It’s a bit like deciding when they are mature enough to go to the mall with their friends. Can they resist peer pressure to do wrong? Do they know what to do with a creepy adult who tries to cut them from the herd? Then, add in whether they have proven that they are internet-safe. Do they freak out when a mean kid sends a cruel… Read more »

Jane
Member

BTW, I don’t think Wilson’s suggesting that everyone who isn’t absolutely thrilled about smartphones is Neo-Amish. But given the choices, what’s left? Either the soon to be impractical (#3), the undesirable (#1) or the monumentally foolish (#2.) Only those who are willing to live with what will soon be an extreme degree of impracticality would go with #3, and while Neo-Amish is a bit of a precious hyperbole, that option definitely requires a degree of principled Luddism at best.

Christopher
Member
Christopher

A phone without the ‘smart’ capabilities is not impractical for a phone, there is a difference between luddism and wanting a functional device that isn’t a ‘gadget’.

Jane
Member

Give it another five years, though. If all you want to do is make calls, sure. But increasingly, people of all ages are finding other methods of communication (e.g. group texting and messaging services) to be preferable. Just know that there’s a cost of isolation if you’re the only one without such access. If you’re willing to be the equivalent of the last person in town without a phone in 1950, then more power to you. But it does have a Luddite effect.

JohnM
Guest
JohnM

You say Luddite like it’s a bad thing.

Jane
Member

Not necessarily. But it is what it is — a conscious decision to cut yourself off to some extent.

I’m not decrying that, I’m just saying that the point is approaching where people who refuse to have smartphones in their homes will be paying a price for that, not merely “not keeping up with the Joneses.” If that’s a price people are willing to pay for the perceived benefits I have no argument with that. I just think people need to quit pretending that not having a smartphone in 2017 is just like not having a smartphone in 2010.

JohnM
Guest
JohnM

I didn’t have a smartphone in 2010 and I don’t have one in 2017, and I can’t tell the difference.

Jonathan
Guest
Jonathan

Actually, I didn’t have a mobile phone again until 2014 (after having had one previously from 2004-2010), and I found I enjoyed not having a mobile phone in 2010-2014 even more than I had enjoyed not having one before 2004. Especially noticing how many fewer hassles I had to deal with than all the people around me who did have one.

Jane
Member

Do you have school aged kids?

JohnM
Guest
JohnM

No. I guess we are talking about things that concern adolescents here, which by definition ought to be passing, and certainly not continue into adulthood.

Jane
Member

Being able to contact your friends according to the means by which they can be reliably contacted is a mere immature bagatelle? An older person can “get away with” never having a smart phone and feel very little effect from it. People who are now adolescent and younger will not be able to easily function in society, at least with extensive relationships beyond the circle of other people who refuse to have smartphones, without one within a decade or so. Again, it will be like not having a phone in 1950. You won’t starve to death and you can get… Read more »

JohnM
Guest
JohnM

Where there is really a basis for friendship you won’t need a smart phone to maintain a relationship. Real friends tend to frequent the same places and do the same things, and know where to expect one another and when. They are able and willing to get in contact with one another, and flexible about it. Maybe a lesson is that people who won’t bother with you other than via the latest expensive gadget are not themselves worth bothering with. Of course having “extensive relationships” is overrated and there really aren’t that many people you need to be in regular… Read more »

Wendell Dávila Helms
Guest
Wendell Dávila Helms

I don’t think the points you make need to in any way be limited to introverts.

Jane
Member

“They are able and willing to get in contact with one another, and flexible about it.” That works for people with their own independent means of getting around. When you have four kids who want to get together that also means four sets of parents with driver’s licenses (not everybody lives in the same neighborhood, that’s all the more true if you’re selective about your circle of friends, and “just bike” doesn’t work real well in winter up north) who also need to be consulted. Again, if you’re fine with your kids’ relationships being limited to people who think exactly… Read more »

Wendell Dávila Helms
Guest
Wendell Dávila Helms

By “teaching my kids the tools for resisting temptation” you seem to mean teaching them that resistance to the tools for temptation is futile.

Jane
Member

It may seem that way to you, but your perception would be wrong.

Jonathan
Guest
Jonathan

A conscious decision to cut yourself off from what though? We all have a fairly finite amount of attention. Giving some of it to the various tasks of a smartphone is a conscious decision to cut yourself off from the things you would be paying attention to if you didn’t have a smartphone. In fact, studies have shown that the mere act of keeping their mobile phone on their desk lowers the quiz scores of students, even if they don’t touch it the whole time, just because its very presence distracts them. When kids choose to use a smart phone… Read more »

Jane
Member

It’s not all or nothing, though. Owning a smart phone and being able to text does not require your kid to keep it on his desk. It does not require him to be texting all day long, or staring at it for any other purpose, or eschewing real relationships and real activity. Ask me how I know this. I don’t disagree with any of your concerns and I am not pushing them on anybody. I’m just saying there will be an increasing cost to not having them. I’ve discovered this by means of being a late adopter, with kids who… Read more »

Jill Smith
Member
Jill Smith

I think that all of these arguments apply with equal force to computers and the internet. How is a smart phone different, in terms of cutting me off from things I should be paying attention to, from having a desktop in every room of the house and a laptop/IPAD I carry around with me? And yet we have accepted the necessity of computer access, even for young kids. My daughter’s high school and college teachers required email/dropbox submission for major assignments.

Jonathan
Guest
Jonathan

I agree completely. My wife and I have only have one computer between us (a small laptop) and I think it will always be that way. Personally for me, everywhere but work I try to keep myself off-limits from internet access after breakfast and before our family’s goodnight debrief. (I check my email and messages to reply to that came overnight before breakfast each day, and sometimes do significant internet reading/writing in the 2-3 hours each night that spell the difference between the amount of sleep I need and the amount of sleep my wife needs.) Otherwise, I primarily only… Read more »

Katecho
Member

Jonathan wrote: In fact, studies have shown that the mere act of keeping their mobile phone on their desk lowers the quiz scores of students, even if they don’t touch it the whole time, just because its very presence distracts them. Did they do any studies involving the students’ hard copy of the latest Harry Potter book sitting on the desk during a quiz? Using Jonathan’s reasoning, wouldn’t the result be an argument against fiction too? If not, why not? Jonathan wrote: When kids choose to use a smart phone instead of focusing their attentions more on face-to-face conversations, real-world… Read more »

Jill Smith
Member
Jill Smith

I think Jonathan has been fortunate in two areas of his life: he seems to have encountered people who like to live cooperatively–almost communally if they run in and out of each others’ houses borrowing onions and sewing machines–and he has trained himself not to rely excessively on some kinds of modern technology. I respect Jonathan’s right to choose this kind of approach for himself and his family, but I don’t see it as in itself morally superior to other choices. I also think he is a bit cavalier in dismissing other people’s assessment of risks their own children encounter… Read more »

Katecho
Member

jillybean wrote: I respect Jonathan’s right to choose this kind of approach for himself and his family, but I don’t see it as in itself morally superior to other choices. Well said. My point is not that Jonathan couldn’t choose an agrarian, low-tech, communal, sharing lifestyle for his family, or eat only pesticide free foods. Lots of (most?) Christian families in history have lived that way. The concern is when he starts prescribing certain lifestyle choices as if they are the marks of moral superiority. Most of Jonathan’s warnings about the negative affects of technology are completely legitimate, and widely… Read more »

JohnM
Guest
JohnM

Except that texting during a sermon is more like writing *and* reading during he sermon, rather than merely reading, and perhaps involves communicating back and forth with someone not present in church during worship, so yes, it is a little different. But then, unless you’re merely glancing over the bulletin, reading during the sermon is not something you should be doing anyway. If I think the sermons are not worth listening to I need to change my church or change my attitude.

Jonathan
Guest
Jonathan

I think Jonathan has been fortunate in two areas of his life: he seems to have encountered people who like to live cooperatively–almost communally if they run in and out of each others’ houses borrowing onions and sewing machines–and he has trained himself not to rely excessively on some kinds of modern technology. I was lucky in that the Christian fellowship through which I was converted into a life of obedience to Jesus Christ also worked to practice the calls to love and community as written in the New Testament. Since then, I wouldn’t say I’ve been “lucky”, as I… Read more »

Christopher
Member
Christopher

Group texting is a dumb phone feature, but yes if people decide to communicate through other applications not having them will be isolating.

Jane
Member

The dumb phones I have had choked and died when anyone with a smart phone attempted to send me a group text. It’s true a dumb phone can send multiple-recipient texts but they can’t receive group MMS or SMS from smartphones.

BooneCtyBeek
Guest
BooneCtyBeek

Your description reminds me of ‘The Precious’ from Lord of the rings.

Katecho
Member

It’s disappointing to watch Jonathan attempt to admonish Wilson about things he never said or implied.

Jonathan wrote:

Now while your kid’s mind is developing, you’re going to have him be
constantly connected, looking at a screen a substantial amount each day,
almost never “bored” or experiencing the quiet of a low-stimulation
environment, and replacing a ton of real-life physical interactions with
screen time?

Somehow I don’t think Jonathan is the most qualified person to be speaking to us about the dangers of being “constantly connected, looking at a screen a substantial amount each day”.

Wendell Dávila Helms
Guest
Wendell Dávila Helms

You’re just envious because nobody likes your comments.

Jonathan
Guest
Jonathan

Katecho, do you speak like this in you face-to-face interactions with other people made in the image of God, or only when you’re hooked up to technology?

No, I don’t spend a huge amount of time looking at a screen each day, and I don’t know why you think I do. Maybe you type slower than me. But I ask – who did you think was served by this comment?

Jane
Member

Can’t speak for katecho, but whenever I’m in a group situation (say a Sunday school class) I always refer to the person whose words I’m referencing in the third person, because I’m not talking directly and only to that person. (E.g., “I agree with what Jim said, but I think Mary had a point as well when she told her lamb not to follow her anymore.”) At least, that is how I’ve always taken katecho’s approach — he’s speaking to all the readers who are paying attention while referring to the person with whose words he’s interacting. It’s unusual in… Read more »

Jill Smith
Member
Jill Smith

“But, going back to Jim’s comment, I think Mary was completely out of line in eating the lamb. She could have simply taken out a restraining order. It would have said “Keep off the grass.”

Jonathan
Guest
Jonathan

Katecho has actually said in the past that “maintaining emotional distance” IS the primary reason he communicates that way here.

Jill Smith
Member
Jill Smith

I don’t recall that, but I don’t personally find it distancing. Formal, perhaps, but not distant.

Jane
Member

A desire to maintain emotional distance is not necessarily rude, though. In fact it might be a defense against the kind of thing we’re all concerned about here — the voices inside the boxes we stare at becoming more real than the ones we hear in real life.
Choosing to maintain emotional distance in a given interaction does not mean choosing to treat the people themselves as unreal, but rather choosing to maintain a relationship on a certain level rather than another one.

Jonathan
Guest
Jonathan

No, not necessarily rude, but I was pointing out that maintaining distance was indeed the reason. There are clearer examples of rudeness in the way he responds, which are exacerbated by the third-person approach (for example, making it very difficult to ask for clarification or apologize for rudeness or offense). But most fundamentally, there is a huge negative difference when one is spoken “about” instead of “to”. You gave the enlightening Sunday School example. Can you imagine the damage if you used that third person approach to speak negatively about one of the students in your class, without even directly… Read more »

Jonathan
Guest
Jonathan

Actually, what you are saying furthers the thing I’m concerned about. If the electronic communication is even more emotionally distant, that increases my concern that it should not be replacing more meaningful face-to-face time. You may have noticed that I make long comments, and try to speak rather meaningfully and emotionally, thus (in part, not in full) avoiding the issues that come with the typical twitter/texting/facebook status communications that I see taking up so many young people’s times. There are things in internet communication that will also be inferior to face-to-face communication (especially for the developing mind), and things in… Read more »

Katecho
Member

Jonathan likes to make much of the form of my comments, but that’s usually when he intends to ignore the substance of them. It’s handy as a distraction technique, I guess. In the meantime, he ignored the glaring problem that he has admonished Wilson for a string of things that Wilson didn’t even say or imply. Jonathan didn’t bother to explain his own hypocritical use of “screen time”. When confronted on this recently, he responded that he only has a laptop, and that it is small, and also old, and now he says that he types really quickly. Imagine Jonathan’s… Read more »

Jonathan
Guest
Jonathan

Of course, you’ve already read my other responses where I explained much more fully the truth of my own life and personal struggle on obedience on this issue (as opposed to the lies you said about me), but you chose to cherry-pick some little things I said and make it like that was my main argument. Not to mention, of course, that “developing” rather than “adult” is of issue here too. There are many things adults can do that are less advisable for children and teenagers. Not, of course, that some of the same warnings don’t still apply, but it… Read more »

John
Guest
John

Smart phones are fundamental tools of modern life, including later activities like work.

Saying that kids, at least at the high school level, don’t need phones would be like saying kids don’t need to learn how to drive, because, hey! Humans were made to walk!

Jonathan
Guest
Jonathan

When did modern life start in your view, 2012? And the form of your argument is, “That which society adapts shall be good for my children.” If you treat the argument about whether smart phones are a positive or a negative to the development of a child’s brain as irrelevant, because adults use them, then you raise your children quite differently than me. I learned how to use a smart phone in adulthood, even though I didn’t even have a mobile phone as a child and I still don’t own a smart phone even now. I’m sure any kid can… Read more »

Capndweeb
Guest
Capndweeb

Neo-Amish… Oh, I like that a lot.

Jonathan
Guest
Jonathan

And while we haven’t had nearly long enough for data on how smart phones affect development, TVs have been around much longer, and what do we see? More obesity, worse attention spans, more limited verbal development, greater difficulties in reading the emotions and intentions of others, more easily distracted, show higher levels of aggressive/violent thoughts, and in many cases addiction-like behavior.

On some of those things, high smartphone access during development will be better than TV has been. In others it will be worse.

And I haven’t even broached the moral/spiritual side.

Alastair J Roberts
Guest
Alastair J Roberts

While I agree with the primary point of this post, I believe that we should be considerably more suspicious of our smart phones than we are. They are devices that encourage certain forms of interaction and behaviour rather than others, especially in their actually existing form. More than any previous technologies or media, the smartphone and the Internet offer a new medium for societal existence itself, one that valorizes the removal of limits and boundaries that may actually be conducive to the healthy development of society and selfhood. For instance, while the Internet allows us to read a wealth of… Read more »

Rob Steele
Guest
Rob Steele

I imagine parents in Martin Luther’s day worried about the effect of the explosion in printing. They would have been right to worry. All kinds of crap gets printed and some people get addicted to it. Smartphones just speed it up. The next revolutionary technology that comes along will make us nostalgic and sentimental about the simpler times we’re in now.

Nathan Smith
Member

“When asked what is wrong with smart phones, the answer is nothing. Nothing is wrong with smart phones. We just don’t want to add difficulties when we are not yet handling our current responsibilities the way we ought to. If we can’t clear the breakfast table with joy and gladness, if we can’t get ready for school in a good humor, if we can’t love our brothers and sister rightly, then all a phone will do is make all that worse. If we can’t run with men, how can we run with horses?” Good thoughts. Thanks. I’m glad I didn’t… Read more »

Michelle
Guest
Michelle

I appreciate this post a lot. I’m part of a fellowship that is currently discussing Sabbath. We reflected this morning at our meeting the added challenges of living in a world where blue laws no longer uphold the keeping of Sabbath, whereby it used to be normative for whole wider communities to cease collectively from our labor and mundane activities so as to immerse ourselves in more reflective activities–for us who believe, in communal, worship-centered rituals and celebrations. It’s still quite possible for us to keep Sabbath, but we have to be more intentional about it, as our towns and… Read more »

Bonhoeffer1945
Guest
Bonhoeffer1945

My 15 year-old son is inclined to work with his hands and so, little by little, I’ve been buying him tools. Hand tools. Last year, a reciprocating saw; this year a miter saw. I watch him carefully with it and, by God’s grace, he’s very safety conscious and methodical. But he’s still VERY inexperienced. A mature adult in our community who’s quite adept with tools cut the top 1/3 of his finger off last year with a drill press. This same adult, when I asked about getting a router – my son’s next desired tool gift – said, “Nah, I’d… Read more »

Larry Geiger
Guest
Larry Geiger

If I never talk to anyone ever again on a phone it will be too soon. I’m that guy. I hate telephones, phones , dumb phones, smart phones and the whole lot. I can communicate somewhat with email and text. I also don’t like graphics on “smart” phones. If I don’t have a 24inch monitor or bigger I don’t want to look at it. Watch a movie on a “smart” phone? Good grief. Anyway, neither son had phones as kids. They are mid-30s now. Both have jobs that require fairly constant “smart” phone access. They picked all this up in… Read more »

J Bradley Meagher
Member

I can relate. I run a scout troop as well, and have noticed that its not just the smart phones. Kids now have high-tech electronic cameras, go-pro’s and hand-held GPS receivers. Welcome to the brave new world! But we can teach these kids that smart phones have incredible advantages. For example, I have on my phone a lot of my maps, scout requirements and even recipes for outdoor cuisine. I also have my KJV, ESV, Greek/English NT & access to a lexicon. The way we get to # 4 (smart kids, smart phone) is to model how best to use… Read more »

JP Stewart
Member

Yeah, the illicit stuff from our day was a lot more limited, though. I’d venture to guess the majority of your Scouts have no filtering apps on their phones. I know of a Sunday School teacher who checked his middle school students and none of their phones had any protection.

Alex
Guest
Alex

Thank you, Pastor Wilson. I always appreciate your exhortations and advice on parenting. Your parenting sermon series and videos (with you and your wife) have been a great help to me as I’m starting out on this parenting journey with 3 boys 4 and under. And of course I have read your daughter’s books as well! I wondered if you could write a post on a comment you made somewhat recently about there not being any bickering between your grandkids at Sabbath dinner. How do you handle sibling/cousin bickering biblically? What does it look like with small children fighting over… Read more »

Jill Smith
Member
Jill Smith

I had only one child, so I was spared most squabbling except among her friends. But I have a couple of thoughts about why I wouldn’t advise “nipping it in the bud.” I think that too often we expect older children to defer to younger ones unfairly. I think that kids’ basic property rights should be respected, even at the risk of tolerating selfishness. The rule can be that if you refuse to share your toys, I will not insist that anyone else share toys with you. The other thing is that I think kids do need to learn how… Read more »

Jane
Member

I think this is right, if by “nip it in the bud” you mean shut it down vehemently without dealing with what’s really going on, though I’m not sure Alex meant that either. You teach kids by precept and example what it means to love one another and act accordingly, and while they’re still mastering that, you insist they don’t transgress certain boundaries of behavior, such as physical aggression over personal desires, rude language, and overtly unkind treatment. But you don’t swoop in and shut down altercations so that they only lesson they learn is “don’t get caught squabbling” or… Read more »

Jill Smith
Member
Jill Smith

All very true and wise. I was a youngest, and I don’t think it helped sibling harmony that my brother was made to give in to me a lot.

Tyrone Taylor
Guest
Tyrone Taylor

Nice use of “sea lawyer”. I guess that’s a Navy thing too. Or maybe that is the origin.

doug sayers
Guest
doug sayers

“The basic principle of child-rearing is that it is not our task to get our kids to conform to the standard, but rather it is to get our kids to love the standard.”

OK, makes sense

Question: How is this accomplished, in light of any reasonable definition of original sin??!!

Nathan Smith
Member

I’m going to say it something to do with Jesus.

doug sayers
Guest
doug sayers

That’s a safe bet. What I’m asking is are there some practical means to this end or must parents wait until God zaps ’em and/or they decide to love the standard? Are there any sure fire ways to persuade kids to love God and His ways?

wisdumb
Guest
wisdumb

Kids will generally love what you love, and they are the best BS detectors. Your passions will be transferred to them, if they see that you believe in them. God doesn’t give us a 100% guarantee, but I bet its above 90%, and that’s an “A”!

The moment of passage – when a child’s faith develops on its own – is when they can understand and own the concept of grace.

Larry Geiger
Guest
Larry Geiger

Hi Doug. Part of it is modelling love of the standard. Do we drive the speed limit? Do we love and care for our wives? How do we manage your finances and our home? How do we serve others? Graciously or reluctantly. etc… That’s not all there is to it but modelling is important.

doug sayers
Guest
doug sayers

Thanks Larry. It does make sense to me that if our kids observe us loving God, His people, and His standards then they will be greatly helped in doing likewise. (Except maybe that speed limit part:) But I don’t think it’s a silver bullet / guarantee, especially from a Reformed perspective.

Jane
Member

Nope. No silver bullet guarantees. Nothing is. You can do all the right things in any area of life and there are no guarantees. But there are ways we’re called to approach things and God is gracious to those to whom He will be gracious — always via means.

wisdumb
Guest
wisdumb

Try Ps 103:17 for your guarantee.

Jane
Member

Guarantee? So no unbelieving or rebellious children of parents who fear God?

wisdumb
Guest
wisdumb

No, it’s probably not a 100% guarantee, but it is more like 90-95%, which is an “A”! It is a generous, general way of giving us parents the knowledge that we have great assistance in the way we bring them up.
Maybe, if it was always 100%, we would slack off on the conditions attached to the promise.

Jane
Member

And specifically modeling *love of* the standard. Living as though we know those things are good in all the ways that good things are good, not just that they’re right or obligatory or keep us out trouble.

Jill Smith
Member
Jill Smith

I think some of it is genuinely being happy people. I think there has to be a visible connection between overall happiness and virtue.

Tim Chesus
Guest
Tim Chesus

Thanks for this post Rev.Wilson, dealing with this right now, as most parents are

ashv
Guest
ashv

I expect history classes in a few centuries to have some slightly incredulous paragraphs about our current technological situation. How will the parents of 2416 explain to their kids that yes, most of the population once walked around with tracking devices that reported their location multiple times a minute (not technically to the government, but available to any government agent who asked), and people were actually excited about this?

ashv
Guest
ashv

Really tough for me to conceptualise the entire problem here, because when I was a kid I habitually walked around with a book since they were often way more interesting than actually interacting with people.

I expect that my kids will start off with a smartphone with no internet access, so they can put books, games, etc. on there and take pictures, plus have a way to call home. Probably will set up a filtered Wi-Fi AP at home for them. But that’s for after they’ve mastered the basics of desktop computer usage and programming.

Katecho
Member

ashv wrote:

Probably will set up a filtered Wi-Fi AP at home for them. But that’s
for after they’ve mastered the basics of desktop computer usage and
programming.

But presumably before they’ve mastered how to reprogram the Wi-Fi AP to remove the filter.

ashv
Guest
ashv

You know the joke about what you gotta know to train a dog, right? “More than the dog.”

Jane
Member

I’m sure you know what you’re talking about better than I, so this is a real question:

how do you put books, games, etc. on a phone with no Internet access? Or do you mean with no ability to surf the Net generally, just access to some specific services? Or something else I’m unaware of?