Could Technology Be the Biggest Threat to Our Kids’ Faith?

Could Technology Be the Biggest Threat to Our Kids’ Faith?

Could Technology Be the Biggest Threat to Our Kids’ Faith?

 

A few weeks ago, I spoke in a church about the truths that combat the technology lies I write about in Screens and Teens. Near the beginning of my message, I said something like this:  “I hope you’re concerned about lies being told about the God of the Bible, Christianity, and other religions. They are dangerous and potentially misleading your children. What if I suggested there’s a source of lies that’s more influential than the TV news?“

Everyone was paying attention. When I suggested it’s technology causing especially young people to believe lies, I think many were doubtful. Thirty minutes later they weren’t.

Of course, I’m not the only one who understands how our current culture can negatively influence us and the young adults and teens we care about. Brett Kunkle and John Stonestreet have studied our culture and people well to draw significant conclusions for their excellent book, A Practical Guide to Culture: Helping the Next Generation Navigate Today’s World.

Read Monday’s important blog by John if you haven’t already. Today I’m sharing insights from Brett about technology. We see eye-to-eye. His opening comments about why we must be aware of the power of technology are compelling. His list of how technology can specifically interfere with teens’ faith development is alarming. His 9 points will cause you to think. I doubt you stop there. Brett, John, and I hope you make changes if the list and his other thoughts are relevant to you. (I can’t imagine they won’t be!)

Technology is not the only thing Brett and John include in A Practical Guide to Culture that distracts our children from pursuing Christ and Christlikeness. Their complete analysis is one of the reasons I highly recommend the book. You’ll understand more about the culture; young people’s beliefs, decisions, and attitudes; and why to stay current and concerned.

Enjoy this, benefit from it, and then I encourage you to share it. Let’s work together to inspire many people.

 

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Guest post by Brett Kunkle, Founder and President of MAVEN

Certainly, the host of intellectual challenges our young people face are a threat to their faith, such as the atheistic arguments of a college professor or the anti-Christian views of a secular culture. But how often does the typical evangelical kid face the arguments of an atheist or a skeptic? Here and there, but it’s probably not a daily encounter. Of course, we still must equip our kids with good apologetics and worldview-thinking so they’re able to deal with skeptical challenges to Christianity.

However, how often will our kids face the challenges of technology? Every. Single. Day. Technology is omnipresent in a student’s world. Whether it’s the internet, social media, or their smartphones, students are bombarded daily—no, hourly—with the pressures and provocations of technology. And those challenges can be just as powerful as the challenges of the atheist or skeptic.

Technology can:

  1. Make students passive and apathetic.
  2. Create distracted young minds.
  3. Decrease student’s desire and ability to read.
  4. Decrease student’s attention spans and the ability to think and concentrate.
  5. Decrease our ability to think deeply and carefully.
  6. Create addiction to the screen. (Indeed,some research suggests teens are replacing their drug addiction with smart phone Teens are addicted to social media, as well.)
  7. Rewire a student’s brain.
  8. Inculcate the values of pop culture.
  9. Allow unfettered access to pornography.

Ultimately, the impact of technology has tremendous potential to slowly but surely erode and undermine the faith of the next generation. So what are parents, pastors, Christian educators and youth workers to do? Put in some hard work to understand this technological revolution and be intentional to combat its harmful and corrosive effects on our youth. In addition, find ways to harness technology for good. Here are five suggestions to equip yourself so that you can equip your kids:

  1. Read A Practical Guide to Culture: Helping the Next Generation Navigate Today’s World.  John Stonestreet and I spend part of the book tackling technology, showing how it shapes our kids, as well as offering practical steps parents, youth leaders and pastors can take to help guide their students through this challenge.
  2. Kathy here – Brett kindly recommends my book this way: Read Kathy Koch’s excellent book, Screens and Teens: Connecting With Our Kids in a Wireless World.  Kathy helps parents understand the lies that technology feeds our kids and offers helpful practices parents can put into place in their family life. I’ve used her many of her insights with my own
  3. Subscribe to The Culture Translator weekly emails from AXIS and “gain weekly insight into how pop culture, technology, and media are influencing your students.”
  4. Set aside some time to read this interview on“Smartphones and How They Change Us.” It offers some of the most penetrating insight that I have ever read into the impact of technology on our souls.
  5. Read John Stonestreet’s post“Amusing Ourselves to Death” from Summit Ministries. It’s excellent.

Choose one or two of these suggestions and start immediately. The faith of your kids—and the next generation—may depend on it.

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What do you think? Do you especially see evidence of one or more of Brett’s nine points in your teens or teens you serve? How can you talk with them about them? Which of the five suggestions will you follow through on? When? Now? Great!

I certainly recommend you purchase A Practical Guide to Culture: Helping the Next Generation Navigate Today’s World for any adults who care about and work with young adults and teens.  Also, if you know young adults frustrated by their own generation and concerned, buy this book for them. I’m buying copies for Christmas gifts for my niece who teaches and coaches in a Christian school and my nephew and his wife who work with teens in their church. Who do you know who needs this book?

Check out Brett‘s ministry at www.maventruth.com. Read the “about” page and you’ll see how much he and I have in common. I’m eager to see how God is going to continue to use him now that he’s launched his own ministry. And, if you don’t already follow John’s work at BreakPoint, the nationally syndicated commentary on the culture founded by the late Chuck Colson, www.breakpoint.org and the Colson Center for Christian Worldview, www.colsoncenter.org I encourage you to. I depend on both to keep me informed with truth. It’s right to care and to stay informed. More than ever before, we need to discern who to listen to and who to follow. These men are all about Jesus and truth. (By the way, if you’ll be coming to any of the Great Homeschool Conventions in 2018, both Brett and John will be speaking at all five.)

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Brett KunkleBrett Kunkle is the founder and president of MAVEN (www.maventruth.com), a movement to equip the next generation to know truth, pursue goodness and create beauty. He has more than 25 years of experience working with junior high, high school, and college students. Brett has developed a groundbreaking approach to mission trips, creating a one-of-a-kind experience that immerses participants in real-life engagement in apologetics, theology, worldview and evangelism in Berkeley, California, and Salt Lake City, Utah. In addition, Brett is a Teaching Fellow at the Impact 360 Institute. He was an associate editor for the Apologetics Study Bible for Students and co-authored A Practical Guide to Culture: Helping the Next Generation Navigate Today’s World. He received his Master’s degree in philosophy of religion and ethics from Talbot School of Theology. Brett lives with his wife and kids in Southern California.

Lie #4: “I Am My Own Authority”

Last Sunday, it was my great joy to facilitate a small group in my church who has been going through my book Screens and Teens. I was asked to teach about the fourth lie I address in my book: I am my own authority. I thought I would share what we did in hopes that you might find this a valuable way to spend some time with adults or teenagers in your life.

To review and to begin thinking about this lie, I asked what evidence they saw in the past week that each of the first three lies is believed by people. I also asked how that lie is related to the lie that we think we don’t need anyone else’s authority. We had a great discussion and I think you can as well.

  • Lie #1: I am the center of my own

What’s the evidence people believe this?

How is it related to the lie that I can be my own authority?

  • Lie #2: I deserve to be happy all the time.

What’s the evidence people believe this?

How is it related to the lie that I can be my own authority?

  • Lie #3: I must have choices.

What’s the evidence people believe this?

How is it related to the lie that I can be my own authority?

Then, after reviewing information in the chapter from the book about the authority lie, I asked three questions.

  • What are the dangers of no authority?
  • What are the dangers of bad authority?
  • What are the benefits of good authority?

Discussing these questions with your teens could be profitable. Also, ask them to define “bad authority” and “good authority” and see if you agree. Share your definitions.

How would you discuss the benefits of God’s authority? Or maybe you could spend time discussing reasons God is a good authority for us to trust. That’s what I chose to do.

I listed some of the attributes of God to make the point that it’s Who He is that should allow us to trust Him as authority. And isn’t the same thing true of us? It’s who we are that is going to encourage people to view us as an authority and to trust us as authority. It is not the number of policies or rules we set. It is not how we do or do not deal with those who break them. It’s about our character, our identity, and our essence.

You could discuss this idea, too, if you believe it would be worthwhile or simply reflect on this list by yourself. In what ways do you see the quality related to God’s trusted authority?

  • Wisdom (The ability to devise perfect ends and to achieve these ends by the most perfect In other words, God makes no mistakes.)
  • Infinitude (God knows no boundaries.)
  • Sovereign (God is in control of everything that happens.)
  • Holy (God is set apart from all created beings. This refers to His majesty and His perfect moral purity.)
  • Omniscient (God is all-knowing.)
  • Faithful (Everything that God has promised will come to pass.)
  • Loving (God holds the well-being of others as His primary concern.)
  • Omnipotent (God is all-powerful.)
  • Self-sufficient (God has life in Himself. He has no needs and there is no way He can improve.)
  • Just (God does not conform to some outside criteria. Being just brings moral equity to everyone.)
  • Immutable (God never changes.)
  • Merciful (God is actively compassionate and kind toward those who don’t deserve it.)
  • Good (God is kind, cordial, benevolent, and full of good will toward men.)
  • Gracious (God enjoys acting on His love and giving great gifts to those who love Him, even when they do not deserve it.)
  • Omnipresent (God is always present.)

I’ll end the blog like I ended our group discussion. Here is your homework assignment. If you claim that God is your authority, what is the evidence? In other words, if I spent 24 or 48 hours with you, how would I know that God is your authority? As I thought about this last week in preparation for Sunday’s lesson, I was both encouraged and humbled. I set goals for this week. Perhaps you’ll do the same.

Even More Good Reasons To Take a Tech Break!

Would you like more good news?

On Monday, I shared that kids can learn impulse control and self-regulation by playing and interacting with their parents. This has maybe never been more important since using lots of technology delays the development of both.

There are more reasons to play with children and teens. Skills essential for school success that are part of the executive functioning part of the brain are affected.

Do you want your children to be successful with these skills?

  • Creative thinking – able to think of ideas and answers that aren’t obvious
  • Flexible thinking – able to connect ideas uniquely that don’t automatically appear to go together
  • Higher-order thinking – able to analyze, synthesize, predict, evaluate, infer, interpret, and reflect
  • Task persistence – able to stay the course and complete work independently
  • Emotion regulation – able to identify emotional responses, respond to people and situations with appropriate/healthy emotions, and not be controlled by them

I imagine you want children to have these skills. There are two things to do:

  • Play with your children; don’t just watch them play. Social and unstructured play that does not involve digital devices engages and improves these skills.
  • Talk with your children. Parent-child interactions are essential. Talking while running errands, completing chores, playing, hanging out together, and the like will enhance these executive functioning skills.

Have you had a similar thought to mine while reading the skill list? I know adults who need these skills. Maybe playing and conversational interactions with others would help us all.

As I wrote on Monday … Play and talk with your kids. Interact with them when you do things together. Take breaks from technology regularly. Repeat. Play and talk with your kids. Interact with them when you do things together. Take breaks from technology regularly. Repeat.

Helpful Guidelines for Kids With Screens

When is the last time you highlighted an article so much that the whole thing was yellow when you were finished? For me, it was just yesterday. I read the new report on “Media and Young Minds” from the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Like many people, I am very concerned about the number of young children I see using old phones and iPads of various sizes. Even if the game being played is developmentally age-appropriate, it still grieves me. These children are with adults who could be interacting with them. They could be learning from others and bonding with people. They’re being allowed to be self-absorbed and self-centered.

For example, on Friday, a young boy was walking in a crowded airport while playing a game on a mini iPad. If I wouldn’t have moved, he would have walked right into me. The adults with him seemed oblivious. Or, they were aware, but weren’t concerned. Or, they were aware, but gave up trying to change his behavior.

I grieve for the adults, too. They seem to be choosing something easy – children who entertain themselves – rather than something better – interacting with children. Adults are missing out on the bonding, too.

Perhaps you read my book Screens and Teens and are aware of the five big lies technology use is teaching our young people. Partly because of these lies, the longer we wait before exposing children to technology, the better.

But there are many reasons to delay and avoid technology use altogether. And, when using it, there are important guidelines to follow. Very important!

Allow me to highlight a few conclusions from the report. For example, you’ll read about the value of interacting with kids while they’re using technology. Maybe the finding that children’s obedience improves when parents decrease their own technology use will appeal to you. Or, how about the dangers of always using technology to soothe children? The statements about this common occurrence are among the most important, in my opinion.

I pray the following will be thought-provoking. I pray you’ll consider making changes if they seem appropriate. Please share this post with those in your circle of influence you may be concerned about. For those who want to read the entire policy statement, it is available here.

  • “Children younger than 2 years need hands-on exploration and social interaction with trusted caregivers to develop their cognitive, language, motor, and social-emotional skills. Because of their immature symbolic, memory, and attentional skills, infants and toddlers cannot learn from traditional digital media as they do from interactions with caregivers, and they have difficulty transferring that knowledge to their 3-dimensional experience. The chief factor that facilitates toddlers’ learning from commercial media (starting around 15 months of age) is parents watching with them and reteaching the content.”
  • “It is important to emphasize to parents that the higher-order thinking skills and executive functions essential for school success, such as task persistence, impulse control, emotion regulation, and creative, flexible thinking, are best taught through unstructured and social (not digital) play, as well as responsive parent–child interactions.”
  • “Heavy parent use of mobile devices is associated with fewer verbal and nonverbal interactions between parents and children and may be associated with more parent-child conflict. Because parent media use is a strong predictor of child media habits, reducing parental media use and enhancing parent–child interactions may be an important area of behavior change.”
  • “For parents of children 18 to 24 months of age who want to introduce digital media, advise that they choose high-quality programming/apps and use them together with children, because this is how toddlers learn best. Letting children use media by themselves should be avoided.”
  • “In children older than 2 years, limit media to 1 hour or less per day of high-quality programming. Recommend shared use between parent and child to promote enhanced learning, greater interaction, and limit setting.
  • “Avoid digital media use (except video-chatting) in children younger than 18 to 24 months.”
  • “For children ages 18 to 24 months of age, if you want to introduce digital media, choose high-quality programming and use media together with your child. Avoid solo media use in this age group.”
  • “For children 2 to 5 years of age, limit screen use to 1 hour per day of high-quality programming, coview with your children, help children understand what they are seeing, and help them apply what they learn to the world around them.”
  • “Avoid using media as the only way to calm your child. Although there are intermittent times (eg, medical procedures, airplane flights) when media is useful as a soothing strategy, there is concern that using media as strategy to calm could lead to problems with limit setting or the inability of children to develop their own emotion regulation.”

Your thoughts? Maybe go back and skim these points and choose some to think more about. Or, read the short report to see what else the authors recommend. What might you want to implement? What will you do? And, what have you been doing well regarding technology? Feel good about it!

Replace False Helplessness With Clear Problem Solving Skills

Kids giving up. Kids not asking for help. Kids asking for help when they should know what to do on their own. Sound familiar? These are common frustrations.

As I write about in Screens and Teens, helplessness can be an effect of digital devices. Kids of all ages believe things should be easy, learning shouldn’t take any effort, and winning should be guaranteed. Of course, none of this is true!

Many parents and teachers tell me that kids are hurrying through their work, not concerned with excellence. They skip things they can’t easily do on their own. This is true of academic pursuits, musical practices, and handling chores around the house.

When children aren’t sure what to do, many aren’t asking for help. Perhaps they can’t admit they need it because “everything should be easy.” They might not even know what kind of help they need. When that’s the case, asking for help is nearly impossible.

Some children get easily scared of something that looks new and hard and ask for help before making honest attempts on their own.

I feel for these children and for you because this isn’t healthy, but it is stressful. The next time you see kids behaving in one of these ways, maybe you can use the example of an escalator to open up communication.

Remind your kids of escalators they’ve seen in movie theaters, shopping malls, and museums. Ask them to picture two people on an escalator when it unexpectantly stops. They realize it’s broken and they feel stuck. They wait quite a while, just looking around. Then they begin to shout,

“Somebody help us!!”

“Help us! The escalator isn’t moving!”

“We’re not moving! Somebody get help!”

Hopefully your kids will see how silly that is. Perhaps you’ll all have a good laugh. Then talk about what they could they have done instead. “Walk up the stairs created by the escalator, of course.”

Exactly. Take a step. Get moving. Do for yourself what you can do.

Joy Abounds At Tech Free Church Camp

More Kids Enjoy Being Offline Than You Might Think

On Monday night at camp, three-fourths of the students raised their hands. Interesting! I believe even more would have raised their hands on Thursday if they would have been asked the same question.

930 middle school and high school students from one church spent last week at camp together. They were without phones or other handheld devices. I was so glad to be there to speak.

Mud pit. Unique slides and other activities in the lake. Mountain biking. Crate stacking. Zip line. Rappelling. Riflery. Slip ‘n Slide. Archery. Orienteering. Hiking. Super swing. So much more.

Connecting with Disconnected Tech-Savvy Teens (BibleGateway Blog)

An Interview with Dr. Kathy Koch

I recently had a fantastic conversation with Jonathan Petersen who writes for the BibleGateway Blog. We discussed topics from my new book Screens and Teens: Connecting With Our Kids In A Wireless World. He has published our conversation in an article titled, “Connecting with Disconnected Tech-Savvy Teens: An Interview with Dr. Kathy Koch.” Here is the introduction:

Aided by the convenience and constant access provided by mobile devices, especially smartphones, 92% of teens report going online daily—including 24% who say they go online “almost constantly,” according to a new study from Pew Research Center.

Technology is a non-negotiable for success in our educational, vocational, and social cultures. Yet, with all the advantages there are inherent dangers, deceptions, and abuses that can contribute to self-centered character, negative behaviors, and beliefs that inhibit spiritual growth.

Click here to read the full article where we cover topics like:

  • Technology is here to stay. Is that good or bad?
  • How does our modeling of technology effect children?
  • What ways can technology add stress to a teens life? … make parenting more difficult?
  • What lessons can we learn from Nehemiah and Mordecai?
  • What sites and apps can contribute positively to the technology culture?

I want to thank Jonathan Peterson and the BibleGateway Blog for the opportunity to discuss this important topic.

Ask A Teen: “What Are Your Values? What Matters To You?”

There's A Good Chance You Will Be Encouraged By Their Response

Yesterday it was my joy and privilege to share with 12 preteens and teens during the traditional Sunday school time at my friend’s church. I came away encouraged again about these generations. Seriously – if you haven’t spent time lately with teens, please do. You’ll then be able to reject media’s lie that they’re all lost, all selfish, and all entitled. These kids were “all” something, but not those things.

The very beginning encouraged me. They didn’t know what I’d be speaking about because I didn’t want to bias them toward a topic. I began by asking them, “What are your values? What matters to you?” They answered:

* Friendship * Education
* Small Church Family * My Rabbits
* Time With Family * Laughter
* Trying To Find Truth * Small Sunday School Class
* Friends * Children
* Music * Faith

After asking them about technology they do and do not use, I cautioned them to be careful. As I briefly taught about each lie, they began to see that their use of technology could change their values. They listened intently. Their values are good ones and important. (I wish you could have heard about the rabbits.)

Help Children Prioritize Joy

Happiness is great. Yet, there’s so much beyond happiness.

My smile began five words into the sentence. It started small, but a few words later is was full. By the end of the sentence my smile was complete.

Reading my friend’s sentence made me happy and increased my joy. It was a deep, heartfelt joy for a good friend. It was good. It felt good. Joy is good.

I want our teens and children to know the feeling of joy and to want to experience it often. There are other feelings worth prioritizing, too.

Love Power Triumphs Over Screen Power

Love is very powerful. It motivates sacrifice. Generosity. Awareness. Growth. Security. Risk. Love. Change. Peace. Obedience. Joy. Service. Forgiveness.

Love is more powerful than fear or anger or force or threats. Or anything.

Love wins.

Love wins even over screen power. I hear it often. Children and teens use screens more than their parents would like. Many adults have been honest to say they, too, are using screens more than may be appropriate. This is especially true when they think about their responsibility as role models.