Have the Courage to be the Parent Every Child Hates

Recently a man used Facebook Live to air his cold-blooded murder of a 78-year-old man for all the world to see. I heard about it on the news that day; but it never really Smart_techoccurred to me that my kids might actually watch the video. That is until my 18-year-old approached me that evening, in complete disbelief, after having given into temptation. He held his phone up to me, offering to let me view it, saying it was all over the Internet.

I was mortified.

My child had actually witnessed  the murder of an innocent man.

He will never be able to erase that memory.

Normally, I would never have watched this video. In fact, I told him NO. That I wouldn’t watch it. But after talking with him, I felt some obligation to experience what he had experienced. To see how damaging the video might have been. To share his shock. So I gave in. I watched all five seconds of that disgusting video. And then I cried. Uncontrollably.

That night I couldn’t get over it. This is what our children are getting from technology.

My son is technically an adult. But that doesn’t make me feel one bit better. What about my other children? What about your children? What about all those kids out there with smart phones, tablets, laptops and who knows what other devices? Did you know the average child now has a smart phone at the age of 10?! How many of them have seen that video?

The FB Live video was unconscionable on several levels, all of which demonstrate a complete disregard and even an antipathy for the dignity of the human person. But despite the horrific nature of the video, the unbelievable use of social media to share it and the new low to which the world has sunk in terms of twisted “shock value” entertainment, this particular video isn’t really the point of this discussion. I mention it merely as an illustration of the world we are offering our children. A world of degradation and debasement that does virtually nothing to build them up as human beings, and everything to destroy them.

Why are we doing this? Why are we, as parents, following the whims of our children? Of a world addicted to the material? To the self? A world that clearly values pleasure as the Ultimate Good?

WHY ARE WE – adults who are supposed to know better – SO COMPLICIT IN PERPETUATING EVIL?!

I’m sorry. I don’t mean to sound harsh. Maybe you’re not like me. Maybe you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that your child is only using the Internet for good. Maybe your daughter leaves her phone on the kitchen counter willingly and only grudgingly checks it once or twice a night just to make sure no one’s trying to reach her. Maybe your son is only searching holy and virtuous websites and is never exposed to profanity, nudity, lewd humor or worse. Perhaps your children only use technology as a tool for productivity, and never for passive entertainment. Maybe they’ve never wavered in their love for reading and continue to scarf down a book a week, despite having instant access to texting, social media, Netflix and – should I say it? – porn. It’s very possible that all the access to the world at large has strengthened the faith of your children. And that you suffer from no friction whatsoever in your house when it comes to technology.

If so, then perhaps I have yet to meet you. And your children are definitely an anomaly. Because according to Common Sense Media, more than half of teens admit to being addicted to their phones and 78% of children check them at least once an hour. Not only do they check them, but they feel an obligation to respond to texts, etc. immediately.

Common Sense wrote a white paper, wherein they reviewed several studies on teens and  technology. In it, they conclude that

“multitasking, toggling between multiple screens or between screens and people — which is common for kids doing homework or socializing — impairs their ability to lay down memories, to learn, and to work effectively. Additionally, problematic media use can harm face-to-face conversation and undermine the development of empathy.”

And if that weren’t enough, our children are exposed to bullying, constant crass language, immoral behavior, immoral photographs, poor advice, and the incessant stimulation of pleasure iconography through photo after photo after photo.

Kids spend too much time with their peers; they are addicted to the likes and the shares and the comments and the … (fill in the blank here). They spend more time watching other people live their lives than actually living their own. In fact, there is a direct correlation between depression and the amount of time one spends on social media. According to government data released in November 2016, “the rate of suicide deaths among children between the ages of 10 and 14 has doubled. And yet, we continue to play the game.

I cannot begin to count all the conversations I’ve had with parents about this topic over the years. I’ve not met one yet that believes all this technology is fine. If you are the parent above, God bless you and please offer advice for the rest of us because virtually every parent I meet feels like a victim of the culture.

I don’t know about you, but my husband and I have been deliberating daily about the whys and wherefores of technology for years now. Our journey began several years ago when our oldest child saved his own money to buy an I-Pod. We had virtually no idea what an I-Pod was at the time. But we’ve been learning about that and more ever since.

The fact is that we can tell ourselves all day long that the benefits of technology outweigh the negatives. We can excuse our permissive attitudes regarding all this access by deflecting.

All their friends have it, and, well, what are we to do? They’ll be alienated without it. 

WE are the PARENTS! WE are supposed to be the first educators of  our children! WHY are we delegating that responsibility to complete strangers whose values are completely antithetical to our own? And if we’re not delegating, then at the very least we are passively allowing complete strangers to influence our children in ways that we cannot possibly even conceive.

In our house, I’ve sort of comforted myself with the thought that we’ve had restrictions. We’ve never allowed our children carte blanche with their phones, etc. Our teens didn’t appreciate it, but we’ve never allowed them to have their phones at night. They drop them off in our room by 9pm on school nights and 10 on the weekends. When friends stay over, all devices (including those of their friends) are turned in when adults go to bed. No phones at the dinner table. Internet restrictions, etc.

But as we pat ourselves on the back for having limits, we are screaming on the inside because we have this agonizing feeling gnawing at the pit of our stomachs that NO CHILD needs so much access to friends. NO CHILD needs so much access to the outside world.

And yet, ours have it.

How are we, as parents, supposed to raise our children to center their lives on God when our influence is reduced to a footnote that hardly compares to their world of social influence?

Do you walk around feeling alone in your convictions – believing this world of constant interaction and worldly access is wrong; but afraid to make the tough choice to say NO? Maybe you’re worried your kids won’t like you? Or maybe you’re worried they’ll feel left out?

Whatever the reason we’ve allowed our kids so much access in the past, couldn’t we render it irrelevant it if we just banded together?

THAT is the purpose of this post. My husband and I are tired of struggling alone with all this technology. For once, I’d like to make a shout out to other parents!!!  Will you band with us and make the tough choice to rid the world of kids with technological appendages?

For us, this video must have been the straw that broke the camel’s back. Because we’ve finally found the courage to say NO.

We’re asking you to join us. Your solution doesn’t have to look just like ours. I make no claims on what is the best solution – and we are absolutely open to suggestions.

First, I’ll admit that we didn’t take action with our 18-year-old. In prudence we decided that confiscating his phone would not be the best course of action. But we did have a conversation. That said, our 16-year-old doesn’t like us much right now. He has been reverted to a flip phone. His Internet access is now limited to our large, dated, living room computer – visible from any angle in our great room. Our almost 15-year-old daughter doesn’t own a phone. She has an I-Pod; but she has little access and has been forewarned that if anything happens to it, there will be no replacement allowed.

And the three younger kids? No chance they are getting their hands on portable technology. If I could speak to any parent of younger children, my advice would be – don’t even go there. Children have such vulnerable hearts and their perspectives are still being formed. Technology is far more dangerous than beneficial for them. Even in schools it is proving toxic.

Band with us. It may be hard to take a step back. But let’s each have the courage to be the parents that every child hates. Together, we can make a difference. Yes, it’s a sacrifice. Yes. People are going to think we went way overboard. Yes. Our children will call us extreme. But when it’s all said and done, do we want to be any other kind of parent? I mean other than extreme?

If extreme means we refuse to condone evil? I say, YES. If extreme means we’re all in for the sanctity of our children? I say YES. If extreme means we’re bucking the system? Going against the grain? I say, YES.

Because isn’t that what we’re called to do as Christians?

Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by he renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. — Romans 12:2

It will be tough. But just remember,

Blessed are those what are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. — Matthew 5:10.