“because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.” Romans 1:25
I’m about to say something very controversial, but I think it needs to be said so here goes:
Smartphones are one of the primary vehicles by which the idols we are fashioning in our hearts are exposed, exacerbated, and accelerated.
They are sort of like the 21st century version of the “golden calf,” where we believe they can somehow satisfy the deepest longings in our hearts.
For example, we are lustful and the phone is the vehicle by which we satisfy that longing by watching porn on our phone, or by sexting, or through snapchat. Another example could be we desperately crave acceptance and approval of man and the phone is the vehicle to satisfy these desires through the “likes” and “favorites” we receive. One final example could be we have a need to be right all the time and the phone is the vehicle by which we can obtain instant access to a wealth of information to pump up our egos.
Parents, when we give our children smart phones, I believe we are potentially the 21st century versions of Aaron in Exodus 32 who when urged by the people of Israel to “make (them) gods who shall go before (them),” politely obliged and from one moment to the next made a golden calf and subsequently led an entire nation into false idol worship and nearly into destruction (if not for the merciful hand of God). We’ll get back to this.
Allow me to bring some sobering facts to your attention:
- On average, children are 12 when they receive their very own smart device.
- One study found that 75% of 4-year-olds own a smartphone.
- Nearly 100% of kids start using smart phones before their first birthday.
- By age two, most children use smart devices daily.
In no way can we even begin to comprehend what negative effects the smartphone is having on our children’s brains. But, what we can comprehend is what negative effects the smartphone is having on our children’s hearts.
Hearts, Idols, And Worship
“Man's nature, so to speak, is a perpetual factory of idols.” John Calvin
Our default as humans is idol-worship. And what is an idol? According to Romans 1:25 (see above), it is anything that we exchange or substitute for God; an “image of God we make for our own manipulation.” (Dallas Willard). As Tim Keller puts it: “It is anything more important to you than God, anything that absorbs your heart and imagination more than God, anything you seek to give you what only God can give…An idol is whatever you look at and say, in your heart of hearts, ‘If I have that, then I’ll feel my life has meaning, then I ‘ll know I have value, then I’ll feel significant and secure.’”
Now back to smartphones and their connection to the golden calf. We can all attest that nothing in our lives distracts or disrupts us more than our smartphones (if a self-evaluation doesn’t do it, then check THIS out for all you iphone users).
As much as we want to believe technology and the information age has changed our lives for the better (and in some ways it has, but that is not the point of this post), in so many other ways, it has done nothing but give us yet another reason to see how quickly we replace God for other false versions/imposters/illusions of gods.
As Christian parents, we are tasked with one mission: to teach, show, and model for our kids what it looks like to know, love, and worship Jesus. To hand our kids a smart device out of convenience, or because they ask for it, or because ALL of their friends have it, or because we just want some peace and quiet, or because we want them to have access to more knowledge (but not wisdom), is to take the easy way out.
In closing, here are a few helpful thoughts to consider:
- Not giving your kid a smartphone doesn’t mean you are depriving them of their happiness (we want our kids to learn what it means to be joyful rather than happy - one of these is positional, the other circumstantial).
- Not giving your kid a smartphone opens up the endless door of possibility (one of the greatest gifts we can give our children is boredom, because it forces them to engage the unknown and learn how to “play” creatively).
- Not giving your kid a smartphone will give them less access and therefore less opportunity to encounter the dark corners of the web (i.e. pornography).
- Not giving your kid a smartphone will hopefully force you to evaluate how much time you are spending on YOUR devices and to reconsider your usage and maybe just maybe, cause you to set some boundaries.
- Not giving your kid a smartphone will provide another opportunity for you to continue to help them see that “our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Phil 3:20). Our children need to continue to be reminded that there is something far better than anything else that this world can offer.
- Not giving your kid a smartphone will give them more opportunity to see that they are not the center of the universe. Smartphones tend to feed into this lie, causing us to believe that because we have instant access to everything all the time, perfectly curating what we see, having our feeds only affirm our narrow-minded, single-dimensional thoughts, opinions, and desires, only helps to confirm that the world really does revolve around us.
There is no doubt that probably most of us are deriving way too much of our self-worth by what’s on our phones. So this post might be more for YOU than it is for your kids. My hope is that you self-evaluate when you read this post. How much time are you spending on your phone? If you are like me then you are spending wayyyy too much time on it. Remember, you don’t need your phone. You are more loved, valued, affirmed, and accepted by Christ than you could ever dare imagine. Nothing else could give you what only Christ can give you. So put that phone down and trust me when I say that if you don’t check Facebook and Instagram 100 times tomorrow, your life will probably be better for it.