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BONUS Back to School #3 (Part 2): Three Examples of New Tech Conversations

In our previous conversation we discussed how to handle conversations about new tech with our children. Today we’re going to walk through specific conversations addressing three tech parents hear about most often: smartphones, social media, and video games.

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Welcome to the gospel tech podcast, a resource for parents who feel overwhelmed and outpaced as they raise healthy youth in a tech world. As an educator, parent, and tech user, I want to equip parents with the tools, resources, and confidence they need to raise kids who love God and use tech.

Hello everyone and welcome to the Gospel Tech podcast. My name is Nathan Sutherland, and this podcast is dedicated to helping families love God and use tech. This last Tuesday, we had a conversation about what do we do when our child comes home from school and really wants that new tech they saw. And it was basically focused on starting with it’s okay to say no. And continuing to, before we introduce tech, we need to answer three questions. Is this tech safe? Does this tech support our family expectations? And does it support our child’s purpose and their potential? We went through what that looks like. You can go back and listen to Tuesday’s episode for that.

But at the very end, I promised a more in-depth dive into kind of what would this conversation actually sound like? And that’s what I wanna do right now. I didn’t want to extend that one into like the mid-thirties or even to 40 minutes, because it was a lot of information already. So, this episode will be shorter, hopefully. And it’s simply diving into what do we say when this comes up? So, let’s jump right.

We are going to address three types of tech today. We are gonna talk about what happens when your kiddo comes with a smartphone. What happens when they come in with social media? And what about when they come in with a pitch for a new gaming system, or video games in general?

And to frame this conversation, we have the three pieces. We’re gonna say, is it safe? Is it fit your family expectations? And does it line up with your child’s goals and purpose. And then I’ll try to give you like my hot take on that so you can kind of hear me process it. Hopefully this will set the stage for what it would look like for you.

So, your child comes home. They say, mom and dad, kids in class have smartphones. I want a smartphone. And you have that deer in headlight look. And you’re like, I have a feeling. Like this probably isn’t something I wanna give them, but I don’t know why. Remember, it’s okay to start with a, no. It could be no, because I’ve got a Spidey sense that something’s wrong here. It could be no, because we’ve had bad history, either with this young person you’re talking to, or with a friend or another family member. Or no, because we need to do more research. So, you can start with a no. Just understand that just because you don’t quote unquote have a good reason, doesn’t mean you have to somehow magically say yes.

So, we start then our research, our finding out with, is it safe? When my six-year-old son Owen, when, or I guess he’s no longer six. When Owen came home as a six-year-old from kindergarten and said, “mom and dad, it must have been five mom and dad. I want a smartphone. Kid in class has it, he plays video games.” we had to have this conversation in real time. And the first couple questions, right, they’re like, why buddy? And that was where we learned that a friend had it in class. And what was he doing? That friend was playing video games and Owen thought that was awesome. So, let’s talk that out. Versus is this safe? I, I gave a list and I’ll include it in the show notes. If you go under the podcast, you can scroll down, and it’ll show it to you. But the idea is like, we need to know what’s motivating him. And then these seven questions for it being safe is, is it tool & drool tech? does it provide access to the internet? Because the internet contains things like strangers. People who are gonna try to actively engage our kiddos. They contain bullies. Kids who might be mean to our kiddo, whether or not they know them. Are they containing pornography? Which is the number one way kids run into pornographies through the internet, and just meaningless distractions that aren’t benefiting our child. Especially a child who’s sitting in school who is there to learn something other than how the internet works and the netherities on there.

So, does it provide access? The Internet’s gonna be important and does it provide apps? Apps are through lots of different devices, but smartphones are app delivery systems. So, that’s worth noting as we run through this. Will be around strangers? This would be like, if they’re on a game specifically, like my son said, Hey, I wanna play X game. All right. Well, does that game have internet access where strangers are gonna be in your forum, or in your, whatever your game? What am I looking for server? Something like that. Is it easy to put down or is it designed for engagement where it wants to take your time, your focus and your money?

Can it be overstimulating? And have you proven that you are able to be trusted with this degree of technologies is just wise. So, as we talk that out, is it safe? We want to keep that in mind with this smartphone and this young person, and I got a one outta seven. Owen is trustworthy. He has continually done what we ask when we asked. He’s continually shown that he makes good decision decisions when he is left on his own. He can be given an instruction and then I can walk away, and he will do that thing that I asked him to do. Right. Like, I understand that if I ask him to make good choices on the internets, he’s going to make the best choices he knows how. I also know that he’s six. Right. So, like that goes into this, this category.

So, I I’ve done that. Some of that’s just mental math. I’m not asking him every one of these, keep that in mind. This isn’t an interrogation with like a single light bulb. Like where were you on the night of the seventh? So, we are gonna ask these safety questions at least of ourselves. Talk a couple of them out with our young person. Get to the motivation.

Then how to support our family goals. So, under our family goals, we recognize that we as a family have a limited amount of focus, time and energy. We have a limited amount of financial resource. So, how are we gonna spend it? And we have motivation, or we have priorities, like family meals. We’re not gonna ma maybe eat every single meal of every single day together, but we have a, we have a number of dinners. We try to hit four family dinners, where we’re all around the table and we’re all eating together. That goal is only four because a couple nights a week, either I work, or someone’s got a sport or something. And a couple nights a week, someone comes in the kitchen, just absolutely famished, and it’s like 4:00 PM. So, we’ve decided at some, sometimes one day a week, usually, that we’re just gonna feed that person. We’re gonna eat dinner or some form of dinner, but it’s gonna be early. That’s our family compromise on that situation. Our two boys are growing like weeds, and we found that we’ll feed ’em twice: like that’s great. We’ll feed you now and we’ll feed you in a couple hours again.

So, that’s our family goal. That’s a priority for us. We also have goals for family activities. There are things that we’re gonna do as a family. Whether that’s a game night or a family walk or a, a fire in the backyard, whatever it is, that’s a goal for us. We’re gonna have goals of playing sports. Our kids are gonna play one sport, a season. Hadley’s doing an adorable little tumbling class. Owen is playing basketball. Henry’s playing soccer. Okay. So, that’s a goal for ours. We have goals for school. We believe that academics are valuable. They’re not the answer. They’re not gonna make you good. There’s plenty of evil people who are super smart. Some might even say wicked smart. But it is important and it’s a way God works in us. And I found the more I learn, the more I see God at work in all areas of life. So, that’s a priority. Friends in real life relationships, church commitments, serving, having a job and doing work, even if that’s family chores work. Even if it’s chores you don’t get paid for. So, does it support your family goals? A smartphone helps with none of those. It’s, there’s no benefit for my six-year-old having a smartphone in that situation.

So, then I look at, does it line up with my child’s goals and purpose? Well, my child’s goals and purpose. This might seem like a huge conversation. Like, I don’t know if there’s six, but they have a goal and they have a purpose in Christ. How is this phone helping them achieve that? At the end of the day, my son said, dad, I wanna play games. Games that are fun. And so, I take that. That’s part of my son telling me, dad, this looks exciting to me. And I, as a loving father go, man, I want my son to do exciting things. And he says that game looked fun to me. That boy was playing. I go, I, I want my son to have fun. Right. I want him to play games and enjoy life. So, I’ve looked through, is it safe? And I came up with a pretty hard, no. And then I looked through my family goals and I was like; this smartphone does not support any of these goals that we’ve got. And then I looked at my kids’ purpose and go, alright, Playing games and having fun can be part of my child’s purpose. If this is something he says, turns his crank and gets his brain going and gets his focus and his attention, that’s actually good.

So, then I walk through this, and Anna and I had a conversation. We’re like, we, we absolutely are not doing a smartphone. Like that’s not gonna happen. Maybe there’s some kind of static gaming system that he could participate in, which by the way, we’ll get through in the third part of this conversation. But for us, this is a no on a smartphone. That smartphone is not safe. It does not support family values and it does not help my son achieve his full potential. And I’ll actually take a hot take on this. I’ll take it one step further, since we’re talking this out together. I would argue that for most people’s kids, smartphones are not a great option.

A dumb phone can be great. Maybe by the time your kid is out of middle school but let them have that childhood. I’ve heard 15 thrown around as a number. There’s not a specific, hard science on that. It’s just saying that if your child needs it before they leave your house at 18 because that’s something they want, and they wanna engage in that world, we need them to at least be in a safe enough spot. And I, I do not see any argument for that in middle school. I do not see any value add of that smart phone functionality. The app delivery system, the strangers, the bullies, the pornography, the distraction to be in front of a child who’s younger than 15.

If you’ve already given it to your child younger than 15, I’m trusting that you’ve answered these three questions, and that you have the accountability and support set up. You have something like BARK that looks for more than just pornography, but it also looks for bullies and conversations and internet searches that show interest in drug and illicit materials or, self-harm or any other kind of mental health situation that might be going on because you are being a present loving parent.

If you don’t have those, start the conversation. And it’s okay to recognize that, man, this just wasn’t good. I’ve done a reset, son and daughter of mine. I can see that this isn’t helping you. And I’m sorry that this is something we extended to you. Let’s go back and find a way to make this work. What would the dumb phone look like? What other aspects does the smartphone provide you that we can provide you? Can you use social media through a public device at home, right? Which is the conversation we’re getting into next. So, stealing my own thunder here. But I would simply say, before 15 parents you can do that. You are the parent, and I trust you when you make that decision that you’ve made it eyes wide open.

If you realize that, man, that was maybe a little preemptive, maybe a little early, you can always go back. It doesn’t mean it’s fun, but it is important. And it shows your child that even adults make mistakes, and it needs to be done in love. You don’t just drop the hammer on them. You made this decision presumably with them. You can make the new decision with them as well. So, that would be what a smartphone conversation can sound like, and sound like in our house. And again, we’re opting for dumb phones for all the things. If your child, didn’t say video games and said, man, I’m at sports and the coach changes it, or we need to be on this group text or whatever it is, dumb phones can do that. And if they have to be on a Instagram group chat or whatever, they can do that through a PC, they can still view all of that. So, they could get on the family computer and be a part of the the soccer practice chat, or whatever’s happening there. And if there’s really something. I don’t know. I don’t that that’s another hypothetical, I guess you could run down that rabbit hole, but the idea being there should be safe ways for your child to engage that don’t require them to have a full functioning smartphone, just to participate in a junior high sport.

So, then that brings us to social media. So, if your child really wants to be on social media, this is usually what they mean when they ask you for a smartphone. That’s the tricky part of this conversation. Your kid comes home and says, mom or dad, I just was at school, and everybody is on, whatever the app, is TikTok, Snapchat, Instagram, probably not Facebook, but they’re all on WhatsApp or whatever, the, whatever the social media of choices for that child’s friend group. They’re all in discord. That would be a common one.

Then we have to have this conversation. And this is usually what they mean when they say mom and dad, I want a smartphone. And you ask them why. And they will usually wind back around too, because I have the desire to be part of social media. So, let’s jump right into it. What does it look like to have this conversation about social media? First, we have to ask, is it safe? The answer is no. Social media’s not safe. The social media is the internet. And sometimes it’s the internet in its worst form, and sometimes it’s the internet and it’s best form, but it’s not safe.

And as you walk through that list of safety about, well it’s, it’s definitely drool tech. Provides access to the internet, which means strangers in pornography and distraction and bullies. It is an app. That’s important, because it’s designed around a certain focus and social media’s focus is to retain your attention. It wants you to stay longer. It wants you to come back more often. And it wants you to make them money, either by spending your money or by being there, and then learning about your user profile and then selling that information. So, when you click on something you like, or if you comment on something, or if you scroll back to a video and re-watch it on social media, and then realize that there’s ads on, like, we go and check out recipe, and there’s an ad that pops up for the general content that you were looking at on social media, that’s what social media’s doing. That’s how they make money off you.

It is absolutely overstimulating, especially in the, so the rate at which you can ingest social media is overstimulating, but also the information. You can go from a picture of your best friend, you know, doing something cool to horrible news about, you know, let’s say the war in in Ukraine, excuse me, war in Ukraine to like puppies and like, it can… the whiplash you get emotionally, as well as the brevity of that information, you don’t have time to process the tragedy you just witnessed. You simply are told it and it can make you feel really anxious and really overwhelmed and really hopeless and helpless, which is not something we want for our young people.

We experience that as adults and I would encourage even, we need to kind of take a step away from that. And then again, is it, is your child proven to be able to handle this level of responsibility? I would argue that’s actually an unfair question in this case, because I don’t think this is a responsibility thing. I think social media is currently developed to be unhealthy. There are very few family supports that you can even do. Snapchat has a little bit; Instagram has a little bit. The state of California just passed a law saying that they’re going to require tech companies to be responsible. So, that’s great, but that isn’t a final solution. That’s just a start to the conversation.

Your child has asked you, mom and dad, could I have social media. You’ve asked, Is it safe? The answer to that is no. And it’s a risk reward trade off. Is this worthwhile? If you wanna make it safe, if your kids already on social media, there’s two things you can do the first, you need to make sure it’s in a public space on a public device. Shared a little bit about that, but the private devices, personal devices, mistakes get made more quickly. They can be made, made in just moments of weakness late at night, early in the morning when you’re bored, when you’re lonely, like they can just, one little mistake and it can really, really go off sideways because this is made over high-speed internet.

It’s no longer limited by the people, you know, or the places you can get to physically. You can get there with just a couple keystrokes or through a single connection on a social media app. So, public device helps with that. Public location then helps with making intentional decisions, cuz there’s more likely that people are going to see what’s happening. Right. We wanna make sure that we are having interactions that are public in nature. And that is what we’re trying to support with social media. If we need private relationships, those can be in person and those can be done healthfully as well.

The second thing we can do is we can add a buffer between our children and the unsafe things of the internet. Again, we’re going in eyes open. We know that is the internet we’ve been on on ourselves. We’re not suspicious of our children and trying to like, catch them doing the wrong things. I think sometimes as parents, we almost start to see our children as the problem. And like, if we could just really catch ’em or make ’em scared enough that like they’ll make good decisions, and that’s not what we’re trying to do here. And that’s not living outta the hope of the gospel. That’s living outta fear of our own human nature. And instead, we need to recognize like, no, I love my child. This is out of love. And so, I’m going to create a buffer. I see this as kind of the seatbelt of social media. We have to have some form of accountability, and parenting allowed through whatever devices we provide our children. So, if that’s tablets, if that’s smart TVs, if that’s Wi-Fi, if that’s internet through a smartphone, or another tablet device, we need to be present so our kids, aren’t the only one, seeing that content. Because we can’t expect them a to always make perfect choices, and B to always self-report when they make a mistake, and C to always report someone else, when something happens to them. There’s a lot of shame that goes with being wronged on the internet and in real life. And we cannot expect a timely and completely accurate self-report for the wrong, that goes on in this world.

We add accountability. There are whole episodes on this that we’ve recorded for the podcast. You can go back and look at how do you make your home network safe? We’ll cover it again in a couple episodes, but I would just say BARK is a great spot to start. They look at more than just the images. Images are important, but a lot of other internet hurt goes on. And again, see this as the seatbelt for whatever the device is. It’s not gonna stop mistakes from being made. It’s gonna mitigate some of the damage, and this is not the spot to save money. By the time we have the devices that are getting us on the internet, by the time we have smartphones and PCs and tablets and gaming devices that can go on the internet, we need also be purchasing the other item. You wouldn’t purchase a car and then try to save money by not having a seatbelt. You’re not going to purchase a smartphone and then try to save money by not purchasing the support to keep your child and your family safe. So, those are two ways to keep your family safe. In this situation, the internet itself is not safe. Social media is not safe, but it certainly can be a risk reward that you weigh out. Look at how it impacts your family. Is this a net gain for our family? And then your child’s purpose. Again, if they say something like, well, I really want to be an influencer, then we’re gonna have that conversation of, what do you wanna influence in Christ? We call that being an ambassador for Christ. It doesn’t always have to do with how many followers we get, right. That Paul really lays out neatly this conversation about man. Like I, I water, but God makes these seeds grow and Paul might plant the seeds. Like we don’t always get to be the one to reap the harvest. And see that work done. But that there is work needed in Jesus says that workers are needed for that harvest. Influencers are needed for Christ. But we need to talk about what’s our heart in it. Can we be safe and well on this? And if we feel like we need an app to make a difference in this world, we misunderstand the gospel. That we don’t need anything other than Christ. There are certainly ways he’ll call us to work, but there are individuals who are called like Isaiah, to just missions of futility. like I say, it was called by God who will go for me? And Isaiah goes, I will, Lord, what do you want me to do? He’s like, I want you to preach to this people that they need to repent. And he’s like for how long? And God goes until they don’t listen to you, and they go off into captivity. like, until I judge them for their rebellion, that’s what you’re gonna do. Ready go. And then you get the book of Isaiah, which is 30 plus years of Isaiah doing exactly that. And then writing while they’re in captivity, cuz he stays behind.

So, that, just that idea, like let’s just capture what God’s vision is for us. It’s not for us to be rich and wealthy all the time. It is for us to be rich in him, and for us to bear great fruit, and for us to live life to the fullest. And that doesn’t always mean we’re gonna be popular, or the people are gonna like us or have lots of followers. So, just have that conversation with your kiddo. And I would again, encourage you to think strongly about putting up a buffer, putting it in a public spot, and potentially even just delaying this until your children are older. And at least more able to handle the conversations and explain how they’re feeling and what they’re experiencing, just to keep them safe.

So, all right. That social media that is smartphone. I hope you’re hearing the, over the overview, the overarching arc of this. Wow. I really, anyway, you get what I’m trying to say there. I hope you are seeing the way this conversation can. you do not have to take my prescriptive hot takes on social media and smartphones, but I hope you hear how I’m processing. And when you disagree, I hope you can find your specifics for why, and then use those to parent well, okay. Cause that’s all I’m asking you to do is make sure that you have your basis, your expectations, and you’re able to communicate those clearly. I’m explaining from my experience, from my research and from my parenting standpoint, where I come from, and what I would encourage a family to do.

Which brings us to video games. And I am so glad I didn’t include these in the other episode, cuz I had more to say than I thought. But in video games your child comes and goes, oh mom and dad, so, and so has a really cool computer at their house or they have an Xbox, a PlayStation, they have a steam deck, they have a switch…. they have this cool thing and I want to be a part of it. Can I have it? You’re gonna go back to, is it safe child of mine? Right. And run through those same questions. Does it like, depending on the device, sometimes they have internet. Sometimes they don’t. Sometimes they’re run entirely around. Sometimes it’s just a cartridge you slide in. There’s a lot of ways to get into this, so we need to have that conversation.

First of all, right, how does it fit? There’s also an underbelly to most games, and I do want to take this opportunity to just walk through what that looks like. So, up until 2001, video games were just games that happened on screens. And, and that is important to understand. That there was a shift in 2001 with the release of the Xbox and the introduction of halo. It was the first game designed with a behavioral psychologist on the design team. And that behavioral psychologist just gave feedback. Hey, this sound, this flash, these Challenges in, in a level will keep people playing. Having transitions that aren’t completed levels, you just walk across the map and a new title comes up. And now you’re in the third level. Instead of the first. First time I played halo with a buddy I was a senior in high school. We, we started at probably nine or 10:00 PM and around two or 3:00 AM, we looked at each other and we’re like, when does this level end? Like, normally there’s a very clear, like you beat it. It gives you a score and then you click to start the next level. Halo didn’t do that. Halo just rolled. We realized we were like two thirds of the way through the game. we had no idea that that’s what was happening because it was a seamless narrative, and it was flowing beautiful visuals. And we were absolutely engrossed with it. That can be really cool. It’s a very fun experience. And yet that began a form of engagement that’s different.

Let’s look at what games actually are. So, when you look at games, games have a challenge. They have a goal, and they have a set of rules. So, if you play bocci ball where you toss one ball towards a little smaller whiter ball, and the closest ball gets the most points. That’s a game, right? It has a clear, it has a clear goal. Be the close to the ball. A challenge who can do it. You’re going against others. Now you can’t play bocci ball by yourself, and a set of rules. There’s a right and a wrong way to do it. There are ways to throw, there’s things you can and can’t do. And that’s the game of bocci. You follow the rules in order to have this competition. Tennis, football, volleyball… all games, board games, like monopoly ticket to ride car Cassan, settlers of Katan. All of these games have rules. They have competition, they have a goal, and they stay within that. However, Some games, change that. Not all of ’em. So, if you go back to Mario, on the original Nintendo, you have a challenge. Enemies. You have jumping and gaining points. Those are all parts of the challenge. You have a goal, save princess peach. And you have some rules. Don’t fall. Don’t touch the bad guys, at least on the sides. You can jump on their top usually. And you can jump on the bad guys to eliminate them. There are things that bend the rules like flowers and stars. Those, you can spit fireballs, or you can grow huge with a marsh with a mushroom. Star makes you invincible for a short period of time. That is all part of the rules of a game. However, when you go to modern games, post halo games, they have some extra goals added in. And again, this all comes back to engagement. They wanna keep your time. They wanna keep your focus. So, they want you coming back more often, and they want to keep your money.

There are really three things that are gonna add to a game to do that. They’re gonna try to keep you playing with things like side quest. Or medals and rewards. If you have any family members who play call of duty, they have one of the best engagement strategies for keeping you playing. It’s called prestige classes. And I’ll just nerd out on this for 30 seconds. Prestige classes mean you say there’s 40 levels for your character. So, you’re earning XP experience in the game and you’re leveling up your character and you reach level 40. You can now cash in your 40 levels, become level one again, but now your prestige class one, and you re level up. And they’ll unlock some kind of little perk for you in the process, but it’s the same maps. It’s the same multiplayer. And what that means is they just made eight times the amount of gameplay, without making any new maps without making any new programming or coding. All they need to do is do these simple little unlocks. And there comes a point where you’re so invested, cuz you’ve done so much, that you might as well just keep playing even if the game’s not fun anymore.

That is the thing we need to keep in mind when we talk video games in the modern era. That you can be engaged in something that’s intended to be challenging and fun. And now it’s just what we call grinding in the gaming world. You’re just grinding, and you’re just getting rewards that you never even wanted, but they’re there. So, you’re just gonna keep doing it cuz you’re already so far in.

The other thing the games will do is they’ll want you to come back. So, that’s to keep you there. They’ll give you lots of side quests. So, in a game like Skyrim Skyrim. An amazing game, but it takes, you know, a hundred plus hours to actually play all the parts. You can beat it in eight hours if all you do is the main storyline. No one who plays Skyrim is there for the main storyline. Everyone’s there to be, you know, 15 minutes into the main storyline, but already have the best armor in the game, cuz they beat all the side quest first. And that is it is part of the attraction of the game. It’s part of the amazing part of the design. It’s part of what people love. That and Making the game break and doing silly things in it. But, like riding horses up mountains, but that’s what keeps you there and playing that same game over and over again. What gets you coming back is that a game is built to have you never be satisfied with a single play through. So, any battle Royal game, if there’s a group of people doing like a hunger game style, battle to death, so Fortnite would be an example, apex legends, Overwatch. The idea be behind Royal games is one play is never satisfying. You’re always going for a win. You rarely get that your first try. It takes a lot of practice. So, that requires people to come back frequently. Even if the game only lasts 10 to 15 minutes and random drops.

So, a game like destiny two. Where you can play a level, be the boss, and there’s a small percent chance, 3%, maybe that they’re gonna drop this special item. And if they don’t, you have to come back, and you play it again and you play it again. And so, random drops get you coming back. And if you get it, it only drops for you. So, now your friend has to come back, and they need to get it. Or you need to come back and get that other loop for that other character, cuz you can play more than one class. So, that’s how they can get you coming back multiple ways. Again, the point is no longer the challenge, the goal, the game itself, it’s not a game anymore, it’s this engagement process. It doesn’t mean it’s not fun. It does mean that it’s gonna take more time than it probably should. And it’s likely to take precedent over things you should be doing. Where you’re being convinced you need something that you actually didn’t want in the first place.

The third form of engagement. They wanna get your money. And this happens in a lot of different ways. They’ll get you to pay to advance faster. So, clash of claims does this like, oh, you ran out of, you know, this particular material, it’ll take you X amount of time to recharge. So, you could pay money to recharge. Or, oh, it’s gonna take 24 hours to develop this new technology, but you could pay to develop it right now. It could be anywhere from 50 cents to five bucks. But it’s a way of getting you to just, well, it’s true. It’s my weekend. I don’t get to play for another week. I might as well pay the money right now, so I can keep enjoying this game. You can pay more money to get cool items, like skins or dances or even just stuff in the game that you can carry.

So, fortnight as probably the preeminent game in this. Fortnight, oh, my goodness for, I will either have you purchase a battle pass, or you can win one through gameplay. So, it’s technically free to play, but this free to play game brings in $5 billion a year. So, they do that by releasing dance moves that are popular, or at least famous. They release skins of characters. So, you can be Patrick Mahone or you can be Darth Vader or whatever. Or you can get items that are unique to this character, and you either get ’em by purchasing a monthly pass, so for 12 bucks a month, you can join the fortnight crew. And as part of the crew, you get these items given to you, or you get a certain amount of V bucks, which is the end game currency. Or you can just spend real world money to get this stuff.

And it’s just the same as having a cool pair of sneakers. $150 sneakers don’t work better than an $80 pair of sneakers, but your friends might think they’re cool. Or if they’re yeasys or something, they might be $600 sneakers. Or air Jordans, or whatever it is. Your friends think they’re cool. And they give you that social cache, the same thing works in the game. Your friends think that skin is cool or that item is cool. So, it’s worth the. 10 bucks or whatever it is. So, keep that in mind that that’s one way to get you, to spend your money.

A, a third way to get you to spend your money is to pay access for stuff. So, that would be the battle pass. Just to be a part of this game. Xbox has their Xbox monthly subscription where you, in order to play the online game. So, you purchase the game, but you can’t actually play it online against the competition, unless you pay money to be a part of their network. So, that’s another way they get you to pay money. And again, you’re paying for it and it’s the same cost every month, whether or not you use it. So, it adds this kind of weight of like, well, I’m already paying for it now, I’m wasting money. So, I have to play it more to make it worthwhile. And they also just charge you for upgraded versions. For DLC that are gonna allow you to play new levels and stuff.

So, I would strongly encourage you to think, as you think through the engagement strategies of modern video games, to think through whether it’s safe. So, the online side, certainly whether the games line up, whether it’s lines up with your families, expectations of time and whether this is in the best interest of a young person. There are games that are great. Again, pre 2001 older systems are solid. There’s a company called analogue. A N A L O G U E. They’re outta Seattle. They sell out every time their stuff drops. So, I’m sorry. I’m not super helpful in suggesting this cuz they sell out in minutes, but they produce these really nice systems that play old school games. And it’s not the ones that come preloaded. I don’t like those because you don’t get a choice of what games are gonna be played, but they are, they, you enter an old cartridge, and it can play that cartridge. They have like a game boy version. They also have like a super Nintendo or a PlayStation. And I think there’s a lot of promise in that because you can get a, a new digital experience with an old-style game.

So, I like that. I think the Nintendo switch is your next best option. If you have to pick a system for some reason, Nintendo switch has some great parental controls and they’ve made 30 ish years of investment in making series that are good for kids. By good for kids. I mean, safe in their content and in their focus. So, Mario is a great is a great series. The Zelda series by and large has a lot of positive going for it. They still can play games that are mature and are even ported over. So, they have doom, and they have Skyrim and they have some of those other games. But the Nintendo series of Pokemon and such, are generally themed around younger audiences. Mario cart, Mario party, those kinds of things.

What we did with our family. And I’ll just kind of end on this note, is because of my personal history, if you don’t know anything, the short version is I played video games in an unhealthy way. I eventually saw them as the driving motivation, beyond the things God was calling me to. And even despite the things, God was calling me to. The three things that really made me concerned as I was growing older gaming, is I could remember gaming, but not remember who was there for it. I remember there were people. I remember specific events. I couldn’t remember specific individuals. I couldn’t make plans in my real life, my real job, because success was so easy. And video games quickly became that ultimate fun. On a reset, I was, I was batting a hundred. I was, I was fully unhealthy in my reset. It was impacting every area of my life. And so, my bad experience with video games. Leads me to say, Hey children, I love you. We are gonna play those at other people’s houses. We’re gonna have conversations about what we look, what that looks like, and how we know if that’s healthy. And we’re not gonna have that be a part of our, our family rhythms.

It does not fit with who and what we want to be. At this point we don’t even have a TV in our house, not cuz we’re scared of TVs. We use our laptops to watch shows, but because in my life, I really want our house to reflect what’s important to us. Not an original idea, by the way. This was inspired by Andy Crouch’s tech wise family. Great book. If you wanna go read it. But I said, Hey, like, we can still watch our, our shows. We have Hulu right now. We can watch that off a laptop. And then we put the laptop in a drawer, and we close it, and we don’t look at it. Doesn’t hang on a wall. It doesn’t remind us that it’s always there waiting to be watched. And we feel no investment to this thing, or we’re not beholden to it.

We go get it when we want it. And then we put it away. And it’s worked fine. We’re going on, I don’t know, a year and a half plus of doing that. And so, this stance on video games is a similar stance. There will be a part of life. You guys will play them. You’ll probably enjoy them, but we’re gonna make sure that by the time you engage them, you already know what real life looks like, and how fun these other things are, so you can acknowledge this is fun and enjoyable and you can walk away. Because it’s lining up with your purpose, our family expectations, and our hope for safety for you. So, moms and dads, listening to this grandmas and Papas, listening to this, loving families, and mentors, listening to this, I hope you hear in this conversation, how we can have this conversation about tech. How we can understand that this is something important to our kiddos and value them in having this conversation. How we can look through, is it safe? Does it line up with family expectations? Does it line up with your hope goals and expectations? And then if it doesn’t, we can lovingly have that conversation. It doesn’t mean we just have to come down with a, a hard and fast rule. We can have it be a process and an understanding, and maybe just even a season. It can be given and then recognize, man, that was either the wrong choice or this is the wrong time. Like we’re not earning this opportunity right now, and we can move it to a no, out of love. Not out of fear, not out of control, not out of just a confusion that we don’t know what it is. We’re not gonna let ourselves stay there. We can say no for a season. Get informed and then make a loving decision on it.

So, I hope that this was encouraging to you. I hope that you feel like you know how to have this conversation now. And I hope that you’ll share it with others so they can have it too. I think I promised a 12-minute episode. I got a little excited. So, I hope it was encouraging and that you’ll join us next week on Tuesday, as we continue this conversation about how we can love God and use tech.

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