Before Your Kids Get a Smartphone
If you’re thinking about buying your kid a smartphone this Christmas, ask yourself: are they comfortable having tough conversations with you? Too often, all that joy, laughter, and spending time together that the holidays are supposed to be about, are interrupted by smartphones. It’s one of the great ironies of our age: The devices that keep us connected are the ones that most often disconnect us. So, if you’re thinking about getting your kids a smartphone this Christmas, check your list twice. As Internet accountability site Covenant Eyes points out, giving a smartphone or some other internet-connected device to your kids without being fully prepared can be devastating. Yesterday on BreakPoint I talked about the awful return of distraction, addiction, and attitude too many parents get on their three- to four-thousand dollar-a- year smartphone investment. If you missed it, you can find it linked at BreakPoint.org. One thing all parents can, and should, do is put filters on their kids smartphones. The good news is that the newest Apple operating system, iOS 12, has a new feature called “screentime,” which gives parents amazing control over the time and use of their kids phones. I learned that from David Eaton at Axis, by the way. But as he also points out, far more important than filters are the relationships and the conversations we have with our kids. Kids are resourceful. If they really want to, they will find a way to get around any filter or program or boundaries we put in place. So we need to ask, as Josh McDowell has been saying for years, do our kids understand our rules within the context of their relationship with us? According to the Bible the two greatest commandments aren’t to obey, or comply. The greatest commandment is to love. That’s because, as Augustine said, we are “love-shaped people.” So the most important thing about us and our kids is whom or what we love. What is it that our kids love most? And what do they know about our love for them? You may have heard the phrase, “The stricter the parent, the sneakier the child.” This can be true, but not necessarily. After all, it assumes that parents don’t have their kids’ best interests at heart and don’t have a strong, open relationship with them. Are we communicating to our kids that we love them and that God loves them? Do they understand that God’s way is not only true, but also good and leads to their life and flourishing? Do they see us as quick to forgive and eager to be gracious? What kind of example are we setting for them? If we want our kids to love God more than anything else, are we? Do we lead the way when it comes to confessing and repenting of our sin? Are we following the technology principles that we expect of our kids? We can give our children the best boundaries in the world, offer the most helpful advice, and implement the strongest filters—and all of that means nothing if they don’t trust us. That’s why we have to flip the typical narrative about smartphones on its head. These devices that so often get in the way of important conversations with our kids must become the catalyst for important conversations with our kids. As I mentioned on yesterday’s BreakPoint, the Axis team has identified over one hundred different conversations you can have with your kids about smartphones. Some are edgy. If your kids have found porn online, or been involved in sexting, or have seen some of the darker parts of cyber-bullying, your conversations need to be edgy. If you’re just starting out, start conversations about how to look people in the eyes, how to use the phone to help relationships and not harm them, and just basic philosophical questions like: are smartphones good or bad? If a smartphone is on your kid’s Christmas list, check out the three free videos from Axis available at BreakPoint.org/phone. They’ll help you assess the boundaries to put around your kids’ smartphones, and help you start having the conversations they desperately need. To watch them, go to BreakPoint.org/phone.