But immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints; and there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. -Ephesians 5:3-4
|OK...not a .410 shotgun, but it was the best picture I could|
find to help make the point!
I was never allowed to use the gun without my dad being present. I was required to keep the safety engaged until the moment I was ready to pull the trigger. Even with the safety engaged, I was required to always point the gun at the ground while walking through the woods. I was never allowed to take a shot without knowing exactly what I was shooting at, and what was in the distance behind that target. He taught me all the safety procedures of firearms, along with how to maintain the weapon, so that it would be most effective, and so that I would be a good steward of the gift I had been given. And, of course, there were constant warnings that if I was ever caught using the gun in the wrong way, I would lose it forever. The potential risks were simply too great for Dad to ignore.
Whatever we expose our children to, whether we are talking about guns, cars, internet, cell phones, school, sports, or going to the movies, the bottom line is that parents must take the lead in investigating all the potential risks, and then act proactively in preventing disaster before it sneaks in the back door. Our children are, after all, children. They are typically clueless on the big picture. However, they are keenly aware of the moment, and they know exactly what they want to maximize the moment, regardless of what ramifications it might bring later in life.
This is why we should be extra careful with the modern cell phone and Facebook issues with our children. Like that shotgun, we are handing over a very dangerous object to our kids, and we often leave them unsupervised "with the safety off". The risks can be much greater than we realize.
When any of us recall our middle school years, we probably remember much of it as times of social positioning, cliques, fashion statements, selfishness, and major chemistry changes within our bodies. The same girl who was detestable to me in 5th grade, now is suddenly very, very intriguing. The group that I hang around with defines me as "cool", "nerd", "jock", or some other label that tends to stick through the majority of the remainder of the school career. Once those groups form, there are often accusatory words that flow between them that are intended to raise the social status of one at the expense of the other. It was, and is, a difficult and potentially cruel period of life. The same tendencies that we had at 12-15 years old are alive and well in today's adolescents. The nature of the flesh has not changed. Unkowingly as parents, we often hand them instruments that are specially designed to enhance these early teen tendencies.
Think about it. Facebook enables us to choose or reject friends, just like picking teams for football when we were young. There is increased social status when the popular guy or girl accepts my friend request, and humiliation when they reject it. In addition, we can post pictures of the party we held over the weekend, where we invited only certain friends, for everyone to see whether they made the cut for the party or not. If I buy a new fashionable outfit, or if mom and dad get me a nice car, I can show it off immediately to everyone who didn't get such things. If I have a conflict with someone else, I can speak derrogatory things about her with all my friends in the comfort of my own home, without the possibility of a face-to-face exchange. To a lesser extent, texing can do many of the same things.
This is not to mention the void of "real" communication skills which our children are missing by primarily speaking with one another electronically, or the fact that having my face buried in a device, while other flesh and blood people are trying to have a conversation with me, could be considered very rude or disrespectful. Culture is certainly changing on these things. Additionally, I have not mentioned the possibilities of open access to the internet at a young age, and the impact that is having on how our society views itself and how people view each other. We have become a restless people in constant need of noise, entertainment, and stimulation.
Now, I am not saying that it is inherently wrong to send texts or Facebook messages. I text all the time. My wife has a Facebook page. What I am saying is that the negative attributes of the human flesh can be easily accentuated through these social media, and have the potential to cause much damage to the psyche of others, especially in oversensitive adolescents. The difficult social aspects that you can remember from middle school have become daily routine with the click of a button in the 21st century.
As parents, it is our job to study all the aspects of Facebook and cell phones before we hand them over to our kids. Much like that shotgun, if we don't train our children how to use these things wisely, they can be psychologically lethal in the wrong hands. Just watch the news to see the consequences of kids being cruel to other kids. The wave of technology has hit us like a tsunami over the past 20 years, and most adults are totally unprepared to handle it with wisdom because they simply do not know the potential risks. This kind of stuff did not exist when we were growing up. We tend to treat it like our parents treated video games back in the day. My mom and dad simply thought they were buying me a toy to play with. While most of it was harmless, there were things to avoid that they were generationally blind to.
Similarly, we hide under the guise of giving our kids a cell phone or Facebook to increase our own communication ability or for them simply to have a new "toy" to enjoy, but fail to see what it does to affect their communication with the rest of the world. I encourage you to open your Bible to Ephesians 4:25-5:7 and read what God says to us about good, Biblical communication with one another. After you read that passage, open any Facebook page you would like and see if it mirrors that scripture. If your child has a Facebook page or texts regularly, I doubly encourage you to do this. It is a great teaching time for them to examine their own words, and hold them up against the light of scripture.
"Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear." - Eph. 4:29. Can Facebook and texting accomplish the purpose of this scripture? Absolutely! Does it usually? Absolutely not.
Parents at HCA, let's unite together in holding our children to a higher standard than the world has to offer. Who cares what the popular trends are in the world, if they do not line up with God's Word? Texting and Facebook are modern conveniences that can make some of life's communication needs much more convenient. But please understand that convenience must always be trumped by holiness. If my convenience leads me to act or speak in un-biblical ways (again, read the scripture in Ephesians), then I am better off being inconvenienced.
I shared the following statistics at Friday's meeting:
· 95% of kids 12-17 years old are regularly online.
· 80% of those are using a social networking site (primarily Facebook).
o 64% post pictures and video of themselves
o 58% reveal where they live
o 10% post their cell phone numbers online
o 31% pretend to be older than they really are
· 84% of 15-18 year olds own a cell phone. (up from 45% in 2004)
· 60% of 10-14 year olds own a cell phone.
· 22% of 6-9 year olds own a cell phone.
· Within three years, nearly 60% of 8-12 year olds will own their own cell phone.
Of teens who own a cell phone…*
· 54% have received spam and unwanted texts (12-17 year olds).
· 52% regularly talk on the phone while driving (16-17 year olds)
· 34% regularly text while driving (16-17)
· 26% have been bullied or harassed through texting (12-17)
· 15% have received sexually explicit (“sexting”) text messages (12-17)
· 79% of youth pornographic viewing happens in the home.
· The largest group of online porn viewers are 12-17 year olds.
At HCA (survey of current 8th graders [14 year olds])
· 87.2% of 8th graders own their own cell phone (34 out of 39)
· The average age at which they got their first phone was 11.5 years old.
· 38% have internet access through their cell phone.
· 82% have a Facebook account
· 93% post pictures of themselves online
· 55% list an age that is older than reality
· 23% post their actual address or phone number
· 24% say they have been harassed or bullied through Facebook or texting
· 69% say they have seen other kids harassed or bullied through Facebook or texting
· 40% say they have accessed websites that their parents do not approve of
As you can see, our kids struggle with the exact same issues that other kids struggle with. Let's not pretend that Christians or Christian school kids are immune. We must expect that children will act like children, regardless of their environment. The real question is whether adults will act like adults. Our hope is that at HCA, we adults can be more proactive and provide more accountability as we parent and teach our children and to "train them up in the way they should go, so that when they are old, they won't depart from it."
It is my honor to work with your kids, and to support you in training them according to true biblical principles. Your children are a blessing to me. Please let me know if there are ever needs or concerns along the way.