I believe that it is safe to say that we all have an instinctive knowledge alerting us to the fact that the deluge of social media, copious amounts of screen time, and the proclivity for electronic addiction has crept up on families quickly and has not been a good thing. For most families, gone are the days of all-night Monopoly games, UNO tournaments, SKIP-BO wars, and Risk battles. Despite our instinctual hesitations, as a society we have collectively and effectively transferred the majority of our kids’ entertainment to some form of electronics.
The reasons are varied: peer pressure (both on the parental side and on the kids’ side), the easiness of it all, and the fact that it has become normative in society. I know there are holdouts, people who have opted not to give in to these stressors, and I applaud you. There are some in the middle, trying to find a balance between too much screen time and so little that the digital future of our world passes them by. And there are others who have waved the white flag and do little to monitor or limit their kids’ access to electronics and media entertainment.
Our decisions or indecision regarding this issue will affect our kids for the rest of their lives. One’s rational brain is not fully formed until approximately age 25. The exposure kids receive to violence, sexual activity, immorality and persuasive ideologies that are all a part of electronic media will, at least in part, form the belief system that stays with an individual forever. I realize these decisions are not easy ones to make. It’s not a straight line or a one-size-fits-all issue. What some can handle another cannot. What sparks a fascination or an addiction in one individual may trigger a lifetime aversion in another. As parents, it is our moral obligation to ensure the decisions we are making regarding electronics and media are spiritually, socially and mentally healthy. This job is ours alone and cannot be left up to children or teens, however persuasive they may be. We must do our homework, learn the language of this new electronic culture and be willing to make tough calls.
Dr. Jean Twenge is a renowned psychologist who deals with many topics affecting the children of “iGen.” She was interviewed for an article entitled “Smartphones raising a mentally fragile generation” (France24.com). “The iGen is the generation born in 1995 and later, and they’re the first generation to spend their entire adolescence in the age of the smartphone…Those children are growing up more slowly. By the age of 18, they are less likely to have a driver’s license, to work in a paying job, to go out on dates … Depressive symptoms have climbed 60 percent in just five years, with rates of self-harm like cutting (themselves) that have doubled or even tripled in girls. Teen suicide has doubled in a few years.”
These are new issues, new dilemmas, and we have a difficult task ahead of us. But we have good instruction that tells us that we are to teach our children in the ways of righteous and holiness. It will take His help and anointing, but I do believe if we do what we can, God will be faithful to place a hedge of protection around the hearts and minds of our children.
“A child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame. When the wicked are multiplied, transgression increaseth: but the righteous shall see their fall. Correct thy son, and he shall give thee rest; yea, he shall give delight unto thy soul” (Proverbs 29:15-17).