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Conventional Thinking: Merry XXX-Mas, kids?

It’s almost time for Christmas shopping, and the normal American “pre-teen” probably will be begging for the latest in digital devices. There’s the tablet, the smartphone and the iPod. Kids these days just have to have the latest and greatest in technology, and parents often give in without thinking about it.

The statistics show, however, that more children than ever are being exposed to pornography at an earlier age, even as early as 8 years old, on these digital devices. The question is: should you get your child or grandchild a smartphone this Christmas? Here’s three things to consider before you do.

/// A virtual ‘loaded weapon’

I have a buddy who, for his son’s 10th birthday, got him his first gun. Many are aghast at this gift. “Why would you give your kid a weapon that could lead to his own harm?” people ask. Setting aside your personal feelings on that topic, many parents buy their kids an Internet-enabled device without even thinking about it.

Would you hand a child a loaded weapon without careful instruction and supervision? Would you allow him to take it anywhere, without limits? Of course not. Neither should parents buy smartphones, which wield tremendous power, without instruction, supervision and care. While guns have, and can, take a physical life, pornography has a devastating, spiritually deadly effect on students.

/// Is it really necessary?

When asked why students want these devices, you often hear things like “All of my friends have one.” When asked why parents got them, you often hear things like, “I want to be able to know where they are all the time.” These reasons are understandable, but they are not sufficient justification for a major purchase such as a smartphone.

For almost the entirety of human history, mankind has survived without smartphones. In fact, these devices are 10 years old or newer, yet they are utterly transforming the way we think and act. We grown-ups were blessed to come of age during a time in which we knew life apart from smartphones. Before you take that away from a child in your life, ask yourself: “is this really necessary?”

/// A blessing and a curse

Internet technology, like any other advancement, can be a huge blessing. The Internet has enhanced commerce, disseminated information and aided the spread of the Bible and even the Gospel. At the same time, the Internet has created a more effective platform to spread lies and pornography. Indeed, Internet pornography is so pervasive, it is the single largest base of content on the whole world wide web.

Jesus said, “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” (Mark 8:36). If you decide to give a smartphone to your student, I suggest at least three actions.

First, set some ground rules including no-phone times (e.g. during meals and at night, you can collect their phone until the next morning). Second, put a good content filter and parental controls on the phone, such as Covenant Eyes or another faith-based filter. Lastly, know all of their passwords and even take advantage of technology apps that enable you to look at what they are looking at, at any given moment. Often times, it is text messages and photos from their peers that are as problematic as what is published on the Internet.

For most households, a 12-year-old simply does not need a smartphone and can get by just fine with a “dumbphone” (i.e. non-Internet-enabled device) or no phone at all.

This Christmas, before you buy a smartphone, do your homework and consider the consequences. That, in the end, is the best gift that good parenting (and grand-parenting) has to offer.

Brian Hobbs

Author: Brian Hobbs

Brian is editor of The Baptist Messenger.

View more articles by Brian Hobbs.

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