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Gospel Tech: Crash Course #7: Back To School With Roger Smith

Roger Smith is a 30+ year educator, the VP of a national sports camp, a parent of two young adults, and a major advocate for young people growing up in a tech world.

Roger has been on the front lines of education since the advent of the personal computer and the internet. Now his elementary school students show up with smartphones and are issued school laptops. In today’ interview he shares encouragement for parents, timely reminders, and some impassioned challenges for how we can fight for our children in this tech world.

Show Links:

Gospel Tech

Protect Young Eyes

Learn More About NBC Camps

A Great Dumb Phone for your Family: Gabb Wireless



Book Recommendations:

  1. Hooked, by Nir Eyal
  2. The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry, by John Mark Comer


Purposely. Your life. God’s purpose. Listen at

Nathan Sutherland: Hello everyone. And welcome to the Gospel Tech podcast. You are listening to our seven-episode series, that is the Gospel Tech crash course. If you have found us through the Purposely podcast network, if you’ve just found us through friends, who’ve shared it, you wanna start here because we have 120 some odd episodes at this point and that’s a lot of information. So, what we’ve done is we’ve condensed. The top seven, an op episode on each of the topics that parents ask us about most, this is video games, social media, and smartphones pornography, safe tech at home, just the big picture on technology and the gospel. That’ll ground us in this conversation so that you can then go back and make sense of what you’re gonna hear.

But you don’t have to start at episode one and listen to two plus years’ worth of content. So welcome to the Gospel Tech podcast. Thank you for being here. I hope you are encouraged and I’m excited to be on this journey with you.

Welcome to the Gospel Tech podcast. A resource for parents who feel overwhelmed and outpaced is they raise healthy youth in a tech world as an educator, parent, and tech. 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 today we actually get kind of a special treat. We are going back to an interview I did last year with a friend of mine named Roger Smith. Now, Roger is a local teacher. He is a dedicated advocate for young people, and he is an experienced coach, as well as a teacher.

He’s worked 30 plus years with a group called NBC camps. They’re actually the, the nation’s largest, really the world’s largest overnight basketball camp. And that’s actually where I met Rog for the first time was as a camper 20 some odd years ago. It’s actually where I met my wife, full disclosure that will come out in the interview.

So, we have had this really cool journey of watching Rog both as a mentor, and then just as a man of God who loves young people, who loves his family, and who kind of is at the forefront of, of work with technology and with faith, and in the schools, as well as this family, as the young people that then come up and work in his organization because a lot of campers end up working for NBC and just, he’s a man that I love to pick the brain of.

And as I was thinking of my sons, going back to school this year, they’re now seven and five. So, they’re second grade in kindergarten, this interview came up as my wife and I were talking. I was like, you know what? Like it’s such a solid reminder of what we can do to love our children well, so I’m actually, this, this is a repeat of an interview, but it got so buried. it’s like way back in the first like dozen or so interviews we did, or I actually entire episodes we did, that I wanted to bring it back up to the top and just give this fresh look at the wisdom that Rog has gained by faithfully following the Lord, a little bit of his testimony that’s in there, with his two kiddos and specifically his oldest Luke.

And he’ll share a little bit about that. And then specifically his insights on what is the place of technology, because it’s not something we’re gonna just run from. As we start school, some of us started school and are now getting put back into our homes and we’re kind of freaking out, right. Or some of us see that coming and the anxiety we feel is real.

And I want to help us, and I, I want Roger’s voice to help us parse through what of that fear is something honest concern that we need to act on. What of that fear is just because frankly it’s stressful and there’s a lot of anxiety in life when kids move back into the home again, and that wasn’t the plan.

And what of that fear needs to be handed over to the Lord and say, Lord this, this is not something that I should be trying to control. Is something I’m giving to you. And how do we determine, like, what does that look like to love God, to use tech and to have the gospel at the center of our technology use.

And Rog does amazingly well, so that’s our conversation today. So, with no further ado, let’s get this conversation started.

Roger. Thanks for being with us today.

Roger Smith: You betcha.

Nathan Sutherland: Yeah. So, everyone, we have Roger Smith with us today. He’s the VP of NBC camps out of Auburn, Washington. While he’s the site director in Auburn, Washington. Yeah, the NBC camps a little bigger. He’s been a teacher for, is it 30, 30 years? Yeah. 30 years now. Yeah. All elementary. Have you taught all grades or has it been…

Roger Smith: Third grade for the first 10, and the last 20 have been fifth grade.

Nathan Sutherland: Fifth grade.

Yeah. That is fantastic. It’s beautiful age. And, and then as a parent, yeah, you’re here as well. With two kiddos going into third grade and going into eighth grade, which is like right in the wheelhouse of our tech conversations. Yeah. And Roger’s been a huge deal in Anna and my life. We actually met at NBC Camps, which is a whole nother story for another day, because I’m not a basketball player and I should not have been there, but the Lord used that to blow my life up, which was fantastic.

Roger Smith: You were awesome my friend. Thank, thank you. And you married up like all good men do. My goodness. So, so far up, which is just incredible.

Nathan Sutherland: Yeah. But really excited to have you here today to kind of hear from your expertise and your experience in the area of the gospel, because that has been a major area of your camp.

I mean, the camp is we wanna make you a better player and we wanna make you a better person. Mm-hmm so talking about kind of your experience and how that has changed in this revolution. I mean, your career has spanned now from the introduction of the internet, And the personal computer, to everyone comes with a, a supercomputer in their pocket.

Yeah. And just kind of, what does that look like on a camp standpoint? What does that look like in an educational standpoint with younger kiddos. And then as a parent, like, how are you navigating this world? So, our audience is a lot of parents and a lot of grandparents Who are trying to process, how do we connect the truth of gospel to the technology we live in without being afraid of everything and hide in a box like we’re told to be in the world, but not of it. So, my hope today is to kind of pick your brain on some of that and get some of that. So, I guess to start us off, why don’t you tell us a little bit about your fam and how you came to a point where you were wearing all three hats, cuz that’s it’s a journey.

Roger Smith: Sure. Yeah. yeah. You bet. Well, first of all I’ve been married for 18 years. To my beautiful wife named Jess. And we have two kids, like Nathan had already said, we have Luke who’s 13 and Lane who is eight. And it’s been a, it’s been a journey. My, my son was born with a very special heart. He was a single ventricle baby. So, he said five open heart surgery since he was born. And God really just used that in our lives to kind of just make us really be able to walk the talk of loving Jesus and having faith and knowing that God has a plan. So, he teaches us that on a daily basis as we are so thankful just for his life.

And every day we get with him. Laney came beautifully in, on a sunny day, like today and just no issues for, from her end and, and was a, a blessing to us, and a walk of faith to have a heart baby and then decide, no, we’re gonna try again with a, with a little girl, and know that, Hey, listen, you know, if she has a heart condition, then we’ll deal with that too. But God blessed us. And she is, has a perfectly healthy heart. So, they are the joys of our life and the gifts of our life. And we are so thankful for them. So, that’s, that’s kind my parent hat.

I started thinking about teaching even as a high school student teaching and coaching. And that’s when I started working at NBC camps. NBC camps was in my life from age nine, and I’m 52, and this will be the first summer in the history of my life that I will not be doing NBC camps. Thanks to COVID because of, because of COVID 19. Yes. So, NBC was a place that my parents chose for me to be at because it was a Christian had a Christian emphasis. And so, I grew up going to NBC.

Then I grew up going on tour with them. They had international tours and after that tour some of us were selected to work. And so, I started working at camp and coaching there, and realizing how much I loved kids and loved being around kids in, in that aspect. And so, I’d never stopped working at NBC and I just kept going on and I kept moving up and up.

did everything from sweep floors to now running one of our larger sites in Auburn. NBC camps is almost a 50-year-old camp, and God has continued to protect it throughout every season. And this is a season where he’s continuing to do that, hopefully. So, in new ways, in new ways, that’s for sure.

So, and then I decided to go to Pacific Lutheran university where I got my educational elementary degree in both K through eight, and then regular ed, and then K through 12 and special ed. And then I got my master’s degree in curriculum and instruction. From, go bulldogs, the Gonzaga university.

So, THE Gonzaga, the Gonzaga university. So, that’s kind of how all three hats fit on my head right there.

Nathan Sutherland: And yeah. No, that’s, that’s incredible. I, I want to kind of step back cuz when we talk Luke, I mean we’re talking technology and, and we’re coming from all sorts of, but, I mean, Luke has been an example of how God uses people with special, I mean, special degrees, and specialized educations and then specialized tools. Yeah. Five, five heart surgeries.

Roger Smith: Yeah. Five open heart surgeries. And his first one was just amazing. We, we knew nothing about open heart surgery. We knew nothing about any kind of heart conditions. Nothing it, and congenital heart disease is actually the number one defect in the world for, for young kids to have, whether it be as severe as my sons, or just as simple hole in the heart where they can go in and close. It’s not really simple but based upon the spectrum of things. It’s, it, it, it’s one of those things where they can really go in and use now through catheterization and different things like that. They can go through and do lot of surgeries just through that process. So, technology has been extremely advantageous in how that…

Nathan Sutherland: Even on a baby, a baby leg, you can?

Roger Smith: Not, not so much on a baby, but they, but more on a, on a, on a, on a larger human. But it is, it is as, as a baby, they go in and, and yeah, they have to, they have to perform open heart surgery. That heart is about the size of a small raspberry and those docks are in there for four to six hours rewiring and they are absolutely amazing. That’s incredible. Children’s hospital in Seattle has, they’re just incredible. And their pediatric cardiology unit is unbelievable. And the nurses there are, we just believe sent from heaven. They are, we Came into contact with so many nurses that not only love Jesus, but were incredible with, with us and with our, with our journey there. So yeah,

Nathan Sutherland: no, that’s, I, that just excites me because we talk about technology and there are some drawbacks at times, right? But to see like, no, like. Like we can point to people that are here cuz God’s used this technology. Yeah. So, thank you to anyone who is a doctor or a nurse or working in a medical field, because we know that those heart surgeons and specialists, they didn’t get there overnight. Yeah. They dedicated decades of their life.

Roger Smith: Very true.

Nathan Sutherland: To begin that career and then to be able to work on yeah. A raspberry sized heart. Yeah. Right. For four to six hours. Mind blowing. So, I just, I just in hearing that I wanted to kind of recover… camp has been incredible by the way, audience needs to know Rog literally when I was at camp.

So, I went to NBC for just training because I was a wrestler, football player, and then it was summers and I was like, I need to do something other than just like sit here and get lazy. So, I went and just worked out and I remember D-Day. We would go in for defensive day, go to the gym. There were three different rotations to this D-day hour and a half long section.

And you ran each of them. Yeah. Like you were upfront defensive position for a solid hour, three times in a row. Yeah. Which still blows my mind. I was always like, ah, this will probably make sense when I’m an adult, I’m an adult. Like it’s been 20 years. It does not make any sense.

Roger Smith: Those are the old days. My friend, those are the old days. So, 52 now I get a defensive stance for about 10 minutes then I’m like, that’s good.

Nathan Sutherland: That’s cuz I’m right down there. Like 30 seconds. Yeah. But this is the reason I cycle because it’s so much lower impact. But no, that’s incredible. So, then you became a teacher, you have worked for 30 years with elementary school kids. Yeah. I think. Actually, I’m gonna jump. Yeah, let’s go. Let’s go teach first. Let’s walk into that. So, okay. Let’s talk with your teacher hat on, yeah, I mean, just one minute. So, I’m an eighth-grade teacher, so I get this a lot. I’m gonna pass it back to you. Why fifth grade for 20 years?

Roger Smith: Yeah, i, I, I think For us, and I teach with an incredible guy named Mr. K Cranston. We’ve been teaching together for 30 years. So we team teach. We have a wall that opens up. He is basically my work wife. He is awesome. And I’ve learned so much from him as well, but I think one of the reasons we’ve stayed at the elementary level is we get seven and a half hours a day with our kids.

The junior high’s great. And there’s incredible teachers there at the high school and the junior highs as well. Man, they get 15 minutes and then they gotta move on. For us, we get our kids all day long, and that was something that has been really the, you know, the strongest reason why I’ve stayed at the elementary level is because the amount of time I get to spend with my 28 kids worth, 32 or, well, we started with 40 last year, so, but, but we just, we love that amount of time.

Nathan Sutherland: Yeah. Yeah. And that is huge, right? Like that’s my number one frustration with the middle school was I love that I get to see 150 different kids, but it’s 50 minutes. Right. It’s a minute and 37 seconds or whatever per kid, if I don’t teach or answer any question. Like it’s just so segmented. So that is really cool.

So, then, you’ve watched ’em come in. So, in the, on the tech side what are some of the benefits you’ve seen? I mean, over 30 years, again, like green blinking screen with a little cursor. Yeah. Right. 26 years ago. Yeah. To now, where we have one to one devices and, and online platforms and even COVID has taught us the, the online fun of trying to teach groups from home through zoom or whatever. So, what have been some benefits you can peg of like, this was beneficial. This has been positive for my teaching experience?

Roger Smith: Yeah. I, I think, I think with technology, one of the things that has been helpful is really the creative design of new curriculums that come across that are digital. There’s a lot of kids that we’re learning that have a lot of different learning disabilities. Obviously, as we know, and simple things like being able to, being able to color code sentences with different words, that mean different things. Kids can pick up on those colors. That’s a lot easier to do in a computer platform than, or in a tech technology platform, than it would be say in a book where you’re having to go through and, and make these words all blue, or this, these words. You can change a color of screen. So, for some kids that struggle with the ability to read a certain color background now has been, been shown to make those kids have that easier for them to read.

I think the simplicity of being able to use animation color and kind of creative design behind how education kind of jumps off the screen. I think those things have been extremely valuable in, in balance. And I think, I think for elementary kids in particular, I can talk about kindergarten. In first grade in particular, the way the alphabet is given, the way words are sound out. Your site words, all those different things come alive on a screen where in a book it can be like, mm that’s interesting.

Nathan Sutherland: Hard to hold a six-year old’s attention.

Roger Smith: Yeah, boy, you get ’em on that. And, and that’s, that’s part of the that’s part of the, the, you know, deal that kind of makes it tough, is like, wow, these are all these incredible programs.

Right. I really, my kids super engaged, but the problem is they become engaged for not just 30 minutes, they move into an hour or two hours. And then they move to another screen and another screen. So, that’s, that’s where I know we’re gonna talk about the balance. Yeah. But there has been a lot of really good things that technology can bring, again with, with just making sure that it’s balanced and, and being able to watch and have good boundaries on, on the timeframe that you’re, you’re using those.

Nathan Sutherland: Yeah. Cuz that, yeah, the engagement is awesome. Right. That’s often as parents we’re like, well, is it educational? Are they engage and enjoying it? Like then we’re fine. Right. But that when they’re using screens like that, they’re not just learning the alphabet. Like they’re also learning this screen is fun to learn the alphabet. Right. Right. The screen is fun to learn math. Yeah. And then the screen kind of is the one thing that doesn’t change, and they go, well, I like, I like the screen a lot.

Right. And then that kind of becomes like a, well, it’s not on the screen then I’m, I’m probably not going to be as engaged with that. Right. Right. Like it almost has a, whatever a… I can’t even think of it, suppressing effect. Yeah. On what might be a natural level of interest, you almost have suppressed natural interest lower.

Roger Smith: Right. And I think the tough thing for the sake of engagement. Yeah. I, I think you’re exactly right. And I think that’s a, the tough thing that we’re finding out as parents and as teachers and as educators, and the more and more we get into this, the hard thing is that engagement piece is such a big carrot, that sometimes we forget what’s going on there is how much stimulus they’re getting. And so, that stimulus then breeds this automatic, automatic, automatic. And when it’s not there, you lose interest. And so, when you’re younger and you have that immediately, that causes the kid’s ability to be able to stay focused in a conversation. Or when you actually do have to get a book out and read and go through, that causes them to disengage sooner.

So, that’s something that we have to find a balance for and be able to level out. And we have to be really, really careful of, I think.

Nathan Sutherland: Yeah. Yeah. Well, and, and then on that, like some of the negatives then that are starting to rear their head, obviously some of the attention focus issues of if I’m not constantly throwing up a new carrot, or if the same carrot stays there too, they’re getting flighty on me. What have you seen as some of the, some of those drawbacks and I mean, we’re talking fifth grade?

Roger Smith: Yeah. And I think, you know, coming into fifth grade now, so many of them, so many of our students have cell phones. Smartphones.

Nathan Sutherland: Yeah. I wanna talk on that in a minute.

Roger Smith: I was wondering, do you have 15 hours? Cause I but I, I think, and tablets and even my own kids, you know just the, the screens at home, I think as good parents, you’re trying to always balance that, and you’re trying to figure out what’s the right amount. But we can definitely tell there and, and it’s been proven for years, well, proven for years in our classroom, we always used to call ’em game heads. Right. Which, which would be a term that we would use, like, we would know within you know, literally a couple days, what kids had had been watching more TV than other kids. In the old days when you had, you know, the old game stations, when those kids were on ’em all the time, we would know, because those are always the kids in our classroom that would be the least focused.

And we would be able to say to them, Hey, listen, how many, how much video game time do you get? Oh, I get play video games all the time. Well, we knew that going in because they literally could not stay on point. And this is back, you know, this is, this is back 10, you know, 11 years ago, even we’re seeing this.

And we had said for years, like there’s a problem. Like if you’re gonna play a ton of video games and watch a ton of TV, those are the guys we struggle with the most in class. And, and sure enough, every single time in our own little Petri dish, we would be able to see, and we’ve been barking about that for a long time.

Like, you’ve got to stay off the screens. You’ve got to balance that out. And so, it’s nice to have the research now to back us up. A little bit because parents are now starting to take a real serious look at that, like, okay, this is, this is a problem. Problem now is there’s you know, 10,000 more tech things out there than there ever were. But so there’s a lot more a lot more temptation to, to do and be on different screens. But yeah, it was definitely evident, long before all the research came out as well.

Nathan Sutherland: Yeah. Which is, I mean, that’s one of the things just drives me bonkers in COVID. I’m watching this right, of, of kids and, and where are the kids that I’m so connected with, and I communicate with them, what are they doing? What are they going? And one of the big thing’s kids will complain about is, well, there’s no one outside mm-hmm right. Like. I go out there, but like, I’m the only kid on the street, right. Not who lives on the street, but like, I’m the only one outside. Right.

So, then they’re like, well, I go to where the other kids are. Right. And they’re on social media and they’re on the games and they’re doing that. And it is this kind of cyclical argument of like, well, I need tech so I can be connected. But tech is the thing that keeps me from being connected. Right. And so like, that’s where the people are, but that’s like, I’m not making any friends or I’m not developing, or I am but it’s costing me something, right? Yeah. And I’m not, I’m not able to maybe be as engaged and I. It is an interesting thing. Yeah. So, it’s interesting to hear that from the, yeah, from the elementary level. At a middle school, we definitely could tell yeah, I can, I know what you’re saying, where you, you have those kids whose social skills are different.

Or I could always tell, and by the time sarcasm is developed to its, you know, Zenith at a eighth grade, right. Where I’ll be like, oh, that kid’s a Reddit kid. Right? Like that kid spends a lot of time on Twitter. Right. Like I can just. I know memes that kid knows. And from the jokes that kid makes, like, I know how much time that kid spends online.

Like, that’s a deep diver right there. Right. That is, that is really interesting. Well, I guess and my piece, I guess I’d go twofold, go parents, and then kids as a teacher, what if you could make one rule for the classroom and every kid would follow it? Like what one rule would you make? I guess it can be related to tech, but I guess just I’m intrigued by, if one rule it’s a mandate and everyone’s going to say yes, Mr. Smith, and it’s gonna work?

Yeah. I,

Roger Smith: I think boy, I don’t, I don’t know, you know, as far as one rule I, I think our rule is balance. It’s, you know, as far as you, you have to, you have to be balanced. Like, we say it all the time, we’re not gonna try to, and I tell parents a lot too, like you can’t isolate your kids from tech because it’s there. Yeah. You have to learn how to navigate it the right way. And so, the right way is doing your research. Know what the tech does to your child’s brain. Understand what the tech, how powerful the tech is that yes, what the tech on the exactly like on, on the iPad you can, or on your iPod, you can actually, you know surf the web.

And so, you know, it’s, it’s amazing to me how many times a parent will come in and not understand the tech that their kids are using. They don’t, they feel like it’s safe. They didn’t know there were these scars, they didn’t. So, I think the education piece is important for parents. But the one thing that we tell our kids, because to go into a kid in 2019 and 20 and say, Hey, listen, get rid of your phone. Get rid of your tech, get rid of your… that’s just, that’s not gonna happen.

And but to go in and say, listen, you need to consciously think about having balance in your life. Not just, but in every area, not just in tech, but in every area, but having balance that, okay, this is what technology does to your brain. This is what it can do. And so, educating them on the neuro piece of that, and then being able to get them to buy in.

And it’s amazing. One thing I will say about the millennial group, for sure, they’re incredibly intelligent. They are super, super bright and, and we tell ’em that all the time. You are so smart. And part of that is because they have information at their fingertips. They are able to dive into all kinds of information. They are extremely well versed in a lot of different things, and they know about a lot of different things. And so, for them to appeal to their intelligence and their IQ and say, so think about it, if you know, this hurts your mind and your brain, and it’s amazing how that education, you know. A lot of people think, oh, do they really buy into that?

I’m telling you, yeah, they do. They just need to know about it. And, and then giving them and empowering them to say, you get to make that decision. So, that rule of balance, I think, would be, and, and having them buy in… now that’s fifth grade. Right. And a lot of people say that’s a 10, 11-year-old, do they really?

You haven’t been in a classroom with a 10- and 11-year-old lately, they can make lots of great decisions. They know, and they can buy in, and I think from what we’ve seen with our kiddos, they’re super motivated to do the right thing. And they want to do the right thing. And so, and they, they need to learn and be educated on, on how tech is good, but how tech can also hurt ’em.

Nathan Sutherland: Yeah. And I love that because that is, first of all, it’s, it’s hope focused, right? Like we are focused in on, like, we’re not scared of technology. It’s not a boogieman. Right. We’re not throwing that other, like you’re gonna ruin your brain, which is what I was always told when I was gaming growing up. Right. And, and what parents meant was we see a difference in you that is not positive. Yeah. It’s not making you more, Nathan, it’s making you more of whatever this game is. Right, right. It’s, it’s sucking some of your soul out. Right, right. And it’s replacing it with just empty feelings. Right. And so, I think that hope focus is like, man, like you are so smart.

And you are so, so parents, when you’re listening to grandparents, when you’re listening and you start to see that we, we use that term, the reset… does this tech impact your relationships and responsibilities, your emotions, your sleep, your enjoyment and your time. right. If you can look at those five areas and say, no. Like my tech does not impede it, doesn’t get in the way of my relationship’s responsibilities, emotion, sleep, enjoyment, and time, then we’re fine.

Mm-hmm right. Your kid’s doing great. Maybe they need to like, go get a new hobby, but like they’re, they’re doing fine on the tech end. But when we start to see like, man, there’s this gap. Like that kid’s coming in and he can’t hold the conversation. We don’t just blast tech. Like we build the conversation, right. We engage that kid in a relationship and it’s something that will, will help him with. And I love that idea just of what you said of like, these kids are smart and they don’t like to feel like they’re being gamed, which parents and grandparents, this is the time we cannot handle this conversation like it’s a conspiracy. Okay. They do not want to hear about a conspiracy about how those people out there are trying to destroy kids, cuz really at the end of the day, that’s not, that’s not true. These companies are trying to make a profit and they have found a hyper effective way to do that, which is engagement.

And that’s what education is getting sold on. They’re looking at student engagement. Yeah. This kid is focused on math and that math score went up. You can prove that. And it’s true. Yeah. What’s hard to measure is, oh yeah, but that kid’s interest in paper math, that kid’s interest in focusing for long periods of time off of a screen, is going down. And it becomes this kind of difficult conversation.

But when we look at it in light of a reset, we go, yeah, you know what, But your ability to engage relationally, your ability to be happy in life, has lowered. Yeah. Even though this other stuff is, has helped.

Roger Smith: And, and I think there’s a, and I know you make this in, in listening to you talk and learned a lot from you as well, and, and I, I think there, there’s a big differentiation between educational technology, and then the enjoyment of technology. Yeah. The constantly looking on your Twitter feed and seeing all kinds of nonsensical things. I mean, when you, I, I mean, I I’m 52, so I can, I can, so, parents and grandparents that are out there, I mean, realistically, do you really need to see what you ate on Friday night because your Teriyaki dinner looks so great.

I mean, the ability to post, and Nathan, I’m sure you’ve heard this in his podcast, or you’ve read it, but it’s, it’s so true, this constant ability to share everything that you’re doing. Okay. That that’s a stimulus that I think becomes outta balance and outta whack and makes you a little funky on the other side. The ability to never call but only text. I was just talking to a young lady who’s going to getting prepared to get a very nice scholarship to go on and play in college. Yeah. And we had to really work on her conversation skills, by way of phone. Not to, because of any fault of hers, but everything was done by text. Well, these coaches like to call and talk to you. And if they’re spending 30 to $40,000 a year, they want to know that you are on the other line, end of the line and alive. Yeah, and they are looking for that expression. They’re looking for that ability to talk and be able to carry on a conversation.

Gaming, I know, my son has, has an Xbox and we use that in balance. But I also know that we can see too, we call it his game head. Like if he comes off of there and he has been on there for longer than, you know, 30 minutes or so he gets wonky and weird, and he wants to disassociate and decide to almost dumb down his life, and use gaming as a tranquilizer for boredom.

And that becomes a major issue. So, some of these engagement activities educationally, if that’s what it was, if it was an educational platform, they definitely, you wanna balance have balance there too. But that’s way different than most of the media usage that my students are doing is not educationally based. Right. It is based upon social interaction. It is based upon gaming. And those are the ones that as you so eloquently state in, in several of the articles I’ve read or heard you speak, is that those are the things that really can cause damage. And, and they do. Yeah. They really do.

Nathan Sutherland: So. Yeah. And that’s where we, that’s where we break the tool tech and the tool tech. Right? So, doctors saving kids’ lives with heart surgery, and robotic machines, that can go through, you know, catheter systems to repair hearts. Tool tech, right? It’s operating at the pace of real life. It’s building and creating, and it’s being driven by the user. Where drool tech is what we’re seeing, right.

Where it’s passive and it’s faster than real life, and it often has built in rewards, looping us back through where we are being used. And we talk about on social media, right? The idea that you have to pull to refresh your social media, like right. They could have just given to that. That’s a, it’s a slot machine trick that’s being used, right?

Yeah. And if you guys wanna read a great book, Hooked by Nir Eyal, is a great, example, and that’s N I R E Y A L, hooked, is a great book to kind of introduce this concept of what our social media, and what these big tech companies are using, and then how those are being implemented. And he’s not saying it’s bad, actually.

He’s actually telling people how to do it, but it’s a super interesting read if you’re interested cuz that’s, that is what we’re seeing in that blurring. Right? Mm-hmm like, well now we have educational products being released with this gamification tied in. Yeah. And, and you see some kids get in their faces absolutely eaten off, right?

Yeah. Where they can’t pull out of that task and go to the next one. And, and we’re seeing some of that. So, then I, I just wanna, I wanna focus you cuz you mentioned smartphone. So, I guess with the teacher hat still partially on let’s move to parent and teacher. Smart phones. I guess…

Roger Smith: i, I, I, I’m just gonna tell you, I probably show on my age even at NBC, it’s so funny because over the years, you know, we never used to have to worry about phones coming to camp. And then we ended up stating about 10 years ago and, and saying, Hey, listen, we’re, we’re not gonna allow smartphone just for campers. Yeah. For campers. We’re not gonna allow smart phones.

And, and it was just so funny because most of the generation of people that were sitting there were my age. Right. So, they remember payphone, right? Well, well with camp and all those types of things, like you need to be there and focus. So, it, it, we’d use a 10, 10-year spectrum here. At the beginning of that 10 years, it was like very few, and then, you know, three or four years in there was a few more and parents were still great. And then about five or six, seven years in that’s where we hit this kind of, I could feel the audience in my parent orientation looking at me like, yeah, but, you know, I got it safety issues, and we gotta make sure that they can call. And they can, whereas we all know when we went to camp, there was zero communication with anybody.

And I, and I, I get that. And I, and I understand that perspective that there does need to be a safety. And yet we were still trying to say, Hey, parents, you know what, we need to, we are gonna make you make the decision, right? We we’re, we don’t want ’em here. We’re not gonna be responsible. Which is interesting because, you know, 50% of them took ’em, and 50% of them didn’t right.

And so, but then in the last year, or so last couple years, I’ve noticed more of a willingness. They were excited that I was the bad guy, because they would go and say, Rog said you can’t have your phone at camp. And so, they, they almost wanted me to say, Hey, listen, hold that, hold that line. Make sure that they don’t. They don’t need it here. If they need to, get their coach has a phone, they can call an emergency. They can grab anytime they want. we still allow parents to, to make the decision. And interestingly enough, there’s fewer, there was fewer phones at camp in the last couple years than there were five or six years ago, which is interesting.

It’s but that’s just, again, another little Petri dish that I’m able to see. I see, I see that movement where parents are starting to understand more and more. And it’s kind of a good thing. You hear all kinds of business trips now where they take the phones before they even start the seminars. They, they put their phones in a basket. Nobody listens. You know, it’s social socially. Good social etiquette is to not have your phone sitting on the table. You turn it on off. You know, all those types of things. So, people are becoming more and more aware of the issue.

I will tell you this, as an educator for 30 years, camp director for 35, there is no single thing that I have seen damage families or relationships more than the cell phone. The ability for kids to get into drama that they don’t need to be in, the ability for them to immediately send a message that had given them 30 more seconds to think about, they should have never sent. Kids have made more mistakes on the, the power of a cell phone than in any other venue of media that I have seen. And I tell parents this all the time, it’s a distraction to your home. It’s a distraction to them at school. It is a distraction to them emotionally, socially, and spiritually. And while it can be a really powerful tool that can, can allow them to do certain things that are good, I think more than not without very extremely strong boundaries, without extreme boundaries on it, it becomes a device that is hurtful. And as guys there’s, there’s no bigger drama then on the cell phone. I mean, you’re just involved in things you don’t need to be involved in. And so, I think I’ve seen it over and over and over and over again. You ask my students, they will all say Smitty says, cranny says, I don’t need a cell phone.

I don’t need a cell phone. And the kids that actually, Whose parents have, have decided to take that away, they have come back and said, I’m so thankful. I’m not in the drama at junior high, cuz I don’t even know what’s going on. Yeah. So, I think those are extremely dangerous and they still are, especially when, when parents just kind of think, oh, it’s a phone. I know what they’re doing. I kind of check it every once in a while, but man, I’ve seen a lot of hurt and a lot of damage done with those.

Nathan Sutherland: Yeah. And John Mark Comer’s outta Portland, Oregon, and has a, has a book called oh my goodness. What is it? Fight hustle. The end, the ruthless elimination of hurry is what it’s called.

Yeah. I was thinking of the podcast he did with Jefferson Bethke, but the ruthless elimination of, of hurry. Wow, is basically, he says you gotta be more Amish than you. Right. Like, we’re not, our goal isn’t to be Amish, but you probably have to be more Amish than you think. Right. And that idea of like, man, there are so many positives to this, but mm-hmm, like, what are we giving up getting there?

Yeah. And what is this cost balance? And, and, and yeah, that, I love you just put that so well, this idea of our kids certainly gets advantages from that, but the number of disadvantages, the number of things with the kid, who’s lacking a prefrontal cortex. Until they’re 20 something really. Right.

Especially in young men that, that is so late in developing and that’s the part that inhibits thoughts and words and action. Right? That’s the thing that lets you go, is this a good decision? Like, we’re acting and then going, my six-year-old son, why’d you do that? Right. And he just literally shoved his brother off the trampoline headfirst. Right? Like why did you do that? I don’t. I don’t, I literally am just now recognizing what I did, father. Like yeah, no idea. Yeah, that was that’s so good.

Roger Smith: I, I, I think also there, there is a choice, and if you are really concerned about your child being able to get in touch with you, you do have a choice. You have a choice for a, a small phone that only has ability to not text. That only has the ability just to, to call. There’s no camera. Son’s cell phone is so stripped down, I think our landline has more options than his cell phone does. So I, I…

Nathan Sutherland: Is it a, is it a, is it a smartphone? Is it a flip phone? What do you got it?

Roger Smith: Well, there there’s, he, he was really cool at junior high, because he was the only kid with a flip phone. And so, which was hilarious, his buddies all thought that was great.

Nathan Sutherland: Yep. I’m sure. I’m sure he loved that.

Roger Smith: He did. He actually embraced it quite a bit. Was kind of neat to see. But, then they also make a smartphone now that looks exactly like a smartphone. It’s the Gabb, yeah. And, and there’s nothing else.

Nathan Sutherland: Does he use that?

Roger Smith: He does have Gabb. Okay. Yeah. And so, and so you, you have a choice now as a parent and why? I, I just think it’s important to draw the line. You can, you can draw the line now and go through that little bit of a war with your kid, or you can face you know, the, again, them getting messages that don’t intend to get. Or pictures that they didn’t realize they were getting. And we say to kids all the time, remember, as soon as you hit a delete key on your phone, and you think it’s deleted, it’s not. And so, the ability to think that you’re cleaning things up, or you’re not able to be tracked, and you’re not able to be all that stuff, can be unlocked and found.

And so, anytime you press send on a cell phone, you better understand that there’s a footprint, and now, you know, you’re gonna be held responsible for whatever that says.

Nathan Sutherland: Yeah. And I think, I think that’s huge. I think you guys should start like a, like a wall where just huge famous people who did what we’re asking you not to do, and like, we’re just gonna put ’em up. It’s smart idea. Just a bunch of pictures because this idea of like, well, that happened to those people over there. Right. But like, I’m a good kid. Like I’m working hard. Like, everybody makes mistakes and be like, no. Like here’s people who they have amazing degrees. Right. And they’re powerful individuals, and they’re extremely well informed and they’re influe… Like these are people we would consider important individuals. Right. Like, and maybe just post the number of like followers they have on social media. Like this person has 4 million followers, like, right. And this is what they just got.

Right. Cause I think just in the last nine months, we could find a lot of individuals who would have some cache with name, brand, that you would recognize, and have done some things you’re like really? That is amazing to me that like that, that, that occurred. And that you were thinking that that would be okay.

That that would work out for you. Right. Or that you’re surprised that this occurred. And I just, I think there’s a, just a shout out Justin Bieber. I think he’s had publicly apologized 28 times; I believe. And he’s not 28 years old. Right. So right. When you look at like, all right, so it’s like two or three times a year that he’s had to make like formal apologies, for things that he’s posted or done and, and. And I think with him, it’s not about like, well, it hurt his brand. What what’s this example when someone saw it’s like, that was awesome. I wanna be like, right. I wanna be like JB. So, I think I love that advice that you’re giving to people. And when you look at Laney then, does she have a smartphone yet? Does she have a gab phone?

Roger Smith: No. No.

Nathan Sutherland: What’s that? So, she’s in third grade.

Roger Smith: Yeah. Third grade. So, Luke, Luke didn’t have any access to any phone till age 13. Okay. And then that phone is stripped all the way down. Gets turned in at night. And same with their tablets. Their tablets always turned in. They have, we have similar things to what, you know, you have instructed, and other you know people that understand what this is. So strong boundaries on timeframe and minutes used.

And we are, we are, you are guilty in my house before proven innocent. So, you are not innocent. And then before guilty, you are guilty first. So, we kid ’em about that a little bit, but we monitor everything. So, any, anything they’re on, whatever, we have the ability to see everything and, and that’s a great thing about now.

There’s so many, I, again, parents for me, if, if it it’s amazing how many things are out there that parents again, and I’m coming from an educational standpoint, just don’t know. Like they just, and that’s why I’m so thankful Nathan, that you’re, you’re doing this because I think you’re alerting us to, Hey, there’s all kinds of things you can do to stop the invasion. You know what I mean? And there’s all kinds of safety measures that you can do. I think the biggest thing that hurts parents is a lack of education on what social media is. On what it does to your brain and what actually is out there. You have to be smarter and more aware than your child is on the new programs, the things that they can put on their phones, the things they can download that look like normal apps. They, they even have apps that look like their educational apps that you can download to your phone, but actually their communication apps that get around parents even be able to see tech. Be texting or anything.

I mean, there’s so many things that I could go into where parents have said, well, we thought this, well, we thought that, and their kid just owned them because you didn’t, you didn’t pay attention. You didn’t research the app. You just let him download. It’s a free it’s, it’s a free for all. Yeah. There is no good thing that happens after six o’clock on a cell phone. So, I, I, you know, it’s, it’s not good to have anybody having, you know their phone in their bed at night, texting, and talk to. I, there’s nothing as an educator, or as a mentor to lots and lots of kids or a coach that we’ve, we’ve ever seen. Even the college programs are going around these days and, and basketball programs are collecting cell phones at night. Okay. So, there’s guy, I mean, they that’s how big a deal it is. It’s like, it’s just too much of a distraction and I think that’s really good to, to, to let parents know. Listen, there’s always an out. You, you always have the opportunity to sit down and talk and bring it in love and say, Hey, listen, we care about you. We love you. Here’s some things that we need to do as a family and work together towards that.

Nathan Sutherland: Yeah. And I think I cuz there is this feeling like I always get parents, like how do I know everything they’re going to do forever? And I’m like, well, you talk to them, right? Like that’s how, because let’s say we get this, you know, button down tight enough that this kid’s never gonna make a mistake without you knowing about it. At the end of the day, if there’s no report, there’s no relationship. Like God knows everything we do, but that doesn’t make us stop. Like we, what makes us stop? Like the love of God. Like recognizing, like why would I make this decision that hurts someone who loves me so much when I could be with the person who loves me so much and enjoy that even more? Like this is just a, it’s a shadow, it’s a lie.

The way our kids are gonna grow to hate the things that are hurting them is to actually be in the presence of the God who loves them.

Roger Smith: It, I, I agree a hundred percent and I think one of the, one of the blessings God has given us is people like you, and other people that are out there in the industry right now, giving us the opportunity to be able to share with our kids. We can’t underestimate our kids’ own intellect to say, I don’t want this to hurt me. I, I can’t tell you enough that we have incredibly bright kids, and they want to do what’s right. So, but it’s up to us to give them the information. And guys like Nathan have provided us as parents, the opportunity to share specific scientific based research about how this neurologically hurts you. Yeah. And the pathways that it’s creating. And I just think sometimes we, we don’t give our kids enough credit to think like, oh, they’ll get that.

Nathan Sutherland: What, how do you determine if a kid is like, how do you define success for kids? Like when they’re, cause it’s a big part of education, we’re preparing you for future success. Right, right. It’s success in whatever field, basically to have as many opportunities as possible, for success is possible. It’s when my eighth graders, like, why does this even matter? Right. Right. Because the grades don’t matter in eighth grade and you get in all this stuff, and be like, man, like, I want you to be able to like, do the thing you love and not go, man I wish right. I wish I had the opportunity. But now it’s like, it’s, it’s unreachable for me. Like, you don’t need to go do these things. You don’t have to go to college. Right. But if in four years you get there and want to go to college, I want that to be an open door for you, right, and not a regret. So, what, when you talk to your fifth graders or to your campers or to your mentors, mm-hmm or mentees that are mentors for other kids. What, what do you say? What do you kind of set out for them as that idea?

Roger Smith: Well, they’re, I, the idea for success is that. You outwork, you, you never get outworked ever. And the, the old concept of work’s done at five, I still, till 5:30. Practice starts at four. I show up at 3:30. The consistency at which you can teach yourself how to work hard and be balanced, so you don’t become a workaholic. But the fact that you can outwork the other person in your field, is where the performance gap decides to narrow. So, we talk about performance gap all the time in my classroom. There’s three. You have great. You have good. And you have poor. It doesn’t matter if you are a teacher. If you’re a pastor, doesn’t matter what occupation you’re in. You’re either great, you’re good, or you’re poor. And in between that is a space, and that’s what we call performance gap. The best way to narrow performance gap is work ethic. Work ethic, work ethic, work ethic. It is much easier to go from poor to good, in my opinion, than it is from good to great. Good to great is where you start to separate in the 80-20 rule. Where you start to decide that you’re gonna be uncommon because you are gonna do the little things well. And so, the, the interesting thing about this is the more that we talk about that as fifth grade to fifth graders, they eat this up all the time because they’re not used to hearing it as much. So, they love the idea of trying to be uncommon. We do a little thing called mental toughness where we’ll sit and I do it with every group that I’m ever in, whether there’s 300 campers or 28 fifth graders, or 17 college kids.

I’ll say we’re gonna go into mental toughness. So, we’re just gonna sit quietly. It’s obviously a biblical principle and discipline as well to sit in silence. We’re just gonna do it for one minute and see how 60 seconds, what that does to you in 60 seconds. And it’s amazing after 60 seconds they’re like, oh, that was a long time.

You know what I mean? And that’s, that’s where, so in our class we try to build that up. Like, Hey, we’re gonna go mental toughness for two minutes, and we’re gonna go to three minutes and that’s the good news is that you can build that within kids and within people. And so, that, my, my big thing will always be hard work, pays off. Hard work, pays off, and doing the small things well to make the big things happen. Be uncommon and do what everybody else is not doing. And work to be somebody that God has anointed to be the very best that they can be. And I, I, I think that, that all of us have that inside of us and, and God gives us that gift. We just need to unlock.

Nathan Sutherland: I don’t know about you all, but hearing Rog talk like this, just, it gets me pumped up. Makes me want to go do wall sits and run the miles fast as I can. But my hope for you in this conversation is that you heard something that you can take, and pray through, and ponder, and even ask your kids about. Something that will encourage you as you are raising your children in a modern tech world. As you’re sending your kids to schools that are filled with technology, and as your kids are navigating their own lives and their own faith, as they’re wondering, what does it look like to love God and to use tech? Because it, we need more than just really good rules. Rules are going to help our kids. They’re gonna provide safe boundaries. They’re gonna provide great conversation pieces, and model what it looks like to love God in action. But good rules are not enough. If it, if they were, we wouldn’t have to move past the Old Testament. We would need no new covenant. But we do.

We need hearts that are renewed, and that reality of a holy spirit, that it dwells, that changes us from the inside out, impacts our technology as well. So, I hope you heard something from Rog that will get you thinking this week. If you have any questions, you can email me, You can find us on social media, if you’re on there, at lovegodusetech, on both Instagram and Facebook. And you can also visit our website, where we have a lot of resources. We have the Gospel Tech workshop on there, where you can make a family tech framework that establishes kind of the ability to fight for your family, not just with them when it comes to tech technology. And you can join us next week as we continue this conversation about how we can love God and use tech.

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