Battling for the Next Gen – Cell Phones

 Train up a child in the way he should go;
      even when he is old he will not depart from it.

 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Pr 22:6.

I am about to cross the 10 year mark in student ministry. I will soon be heading to my 3rd church (though the move has been delayed by COVID-19). Over that time and in those churches, I have learned a lot. I have seen some really amazing parenting even in the midst of some really crazy struggles. My purpose in this post is to both encourage parents and to give some observations that may help as they go forward with their families. I started writing and realized this was going to be a really long post, so I’m actually going to break it into 4 or 5 posts. Today, I want to post on cellphones. Check back in to see the rest of the posts.

Cellphones, particularly smartphones are one of the greatest challenges parents face. There is not a one size fits all answer to this issue either, each family needs to take this issue with each kid and make the wisest decision they can. That said there are a few things I’ve learned that I hope parents can learn from as well.

There is no upside to kids having cellphones in their room, particularly at night. At best, kids having a phone in their room is neutral (meaning not good or bad), although I think most scientists studying adolescent sleep patterns would say that it is always negative. Most of the time, kids having a cellphone in their room at night is a negative. I’ve had parents tell me that their kid needs it to sleep for music or whatever, but for the last few thousand years kids slept without them, they can today as well.

I talk to kids every week who spent at least 1 night in the past 7 up until 2 or 3am on their phone. Some of these kids even have safeguards on their phones put on by their parents. There is no perfect safeguard. Cellphone manufacturers really seem to be trying to help parents out, but the reality is, no system is perfect. Start typing “ways around” into Google, it will auto suggest “screen time.” There are hundreds of videos on YouTube and other platforms that can teach your kids how to bypass the locks you put in place. But even if your kid isn’t using them, there still is not an upside to having a cellphone in their room.

The risks are just too high. Most early exposure to explicit content is accidental. Even doing research for homework. I know of one case where a kid was researching a character in Homer’s Odyssey and one of the search results on Google was explicit content. Innocent searches can easily find explicit content.

Social media like Snapchat, Instagram, and TikTok all battle explicit content. They will take it down when it’s reported, but not before thousands of people, often kids, see it. Keeping cellphones in public spaces will at least allow you as a parent to know if they stumble on to something and to have a healthy conversation about it. This can be the difference between exploring explicit content and exposure to explicit content. It makes a difference.

Do what is right for your kids and your family, but please consider carefully before cellphones go into bedrooms or private spaces.

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