Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Smartphones and Stupid Parents

Everyone is talking about the challenges of kids and smartphones.  Recently Breakpoint's John Stonestreet wrote the following:
We all know the list of risks smartphones bring to our kids: sexual predators, online porn, cyber-bullying – not to mention, as if I need to state the obvious, addiction. Smartphones provide a perpetual distraction, and get in the way of face time – no, not the iPhone app – real face to face time, something every kid needs with their parents. And if most of us parents are honest, we’re just as addicted as our kids.
Stonestreet went on to say that now, even in Christian schools, teenage girls are wishing that boys would ask them to send nude pictures of themselves, because that's how girls today know that boys like them. 

If you want your kids to have a smartphone, that's on you.  There's no Bible verse that says "No smartphones until the age of 18."  But I keep hearing from parents who give their kids smartphones, and then constantly complain about all the problems and challenges that it causes.  I call this "stupid" for two reasons.  First, because parents are giving their kids something that they know is not good for them.  And second, because there's a very simple solution:  Take the phones away.  Don't give your kids a smartphone.

In my family we don't allow our kids to have smartphones.  Our three oldest children are in the ninth, eighth, and seventh grades, so I get it.  My kids want smartphones.  They have asked for smartphones.  They feel very odd because all their friends have smartphones.  Still, the answer is "No."  Do I believe that smartphones are all bad?  No.  But the risks far outweigh the rewards.  The cons far outweigh the pros.  My kids have their entire adult lives to waste on smartphones and social media.  But while they are kids, under my protection, I say no.  It's just not wise.  Smartphones would be counterproductive to our goal of raising our kids to be fully-devoted, lifetime followers of Jesus.

Christian parenting requires wisdom and backbone.  You must have wisdom to be able to discern what is best for your kids.  To discern the difference between a need and a want.  Remember, your kids don't know what is best for them.  That's one of the differences between children and adults.  That's why God has put them under your care.  All they can see is what is fun and popular.  They have a hard time distinguishing between right and wrong, good and bad, wise and foolish, healthy and harmful.   

But parents also need backbone.  You need the inner strength to tell your kids "No" when they ask for things that aren't good for them.  You need backbone to be different than other families.  To be the weird parent.  Even when kids can see logically that something is not good for them, they still have a hard time saying "No."  They lack the full-grown willpower that adults are supposed to have.  If you don't set boundaries for your kid and tell them "No", then they will continue to choose what feels good rather than what is good.

This is not a condemnation of parents who allow their kids to have smartphones.  This is an encouragement for parents who have allowed their kids to have a smart phone but regret it.  For parents who are having second thoughts about smartphones.  This is your permission to take it away.  To say "No."  To be different.  This is an encouragement to parents who have thus far resisted the trend of giving smartphones to kids.  I think you're doing what is best.  And this is reassurance to parents that your kids will survive without a smartphone.  Having a smartphone in middle school won't give your child a leg-up on the competition when they grow up.  You won't screw up their lives by depriving them of a smartphone.  In fact, you'll be doing them a favor, and one day, I guarantee it, they will look back and thank you for not being like "all the other parents." 

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