Do our children need social media? It might be the wrong question. There’s lots of stuff we don’t need but we still enjoy, and as loving parents we want to give them good gifts. So when your child asks for social media, or a smartphone (which is almost always a sideways request for social media), what do we say?
Today we’ll dive into this conversation looking specifically at TikTok as our example. In our discussion we’ll answer four questions about TikTok, and social media in general:
- Do we have a hedge?
- Is it tech safe?
- Does it fit our family expectations?
- Does it support my child’s purpose?
Purposely. Your life. God’s purpose. Listen at onpurposely.com.
Nathan [00:00:08] Heavenly Father, thank You for this time. We’re going to talk about technology and the Gospel. I pray for wisdom and sharing about the right tech when it comes to social media and that You would open our hearts and minds to see Your Word, to do Your well, and to love our kids well in this digital age. In Your name. Amen.
Nathan [00:00:24] Hello, everyone. My name is Nathan Sutherland with Gospel Tech, and this podcast is dedicated to helping families love God and use tech. Today, our conversation is continuing that thread of the best of tech, and it’s specifically looking at social media today. Is this?…And we’re actually going to drill even a little bit deeper into TikTok specifically, not a huge deep dive, but just that’s going to be kind of our main returning conversation point. It’s one that a lot of young people use. It’s rapidly growing. There’s lots of discussion around it. So when we talking about, all right, when it comes to the best of technology, should our children be on social media? How do we handle that conversation? And then with the specific example of TikTok for our child comes to us says, “Mom or dad, can I be on TikTok?” How do we answer that? Today’s conversation is supposed to help you do that. We’re going to really ask four questions. So first, we’re going to talk about do we have a hedge? The second is going to be, is it safe? The third is going to be does it fit family expectations? The fourth is going to be does it fit our child’s purpose or their potential or is it just a good idea in this season is really another way to say it. So first, the big picture of kind of technology in general is do we do we have a hedge? And then really it’s three parts. We want to have the right tech at the right time and within that to make sure that it’s safe. So that’s going to be our conversation today. I hope it’s encouraging and helpful for you. And with no further ado, let’s get this conversation started.
Nathan [00:01:50] 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. Thank you to everyone who has helped make this podcast possible. Thank you for listening. For liking. For sharing and subscribing so you don’t miss any new content when you subscribe, either through podcast or on YouTube. If you’re watching this on YouTube, if you subscribe, make sure that you get all the new content. Also helps other people find us as people start to like and they comment as they subscribe and I guess review and view again new content. The algorithm really likes that. It means that this content is helping people and it wants to suggest that and to other people who have similar search histories and interests as you do. So that’s one thing we do know about YouTube is it’s very good at finding people with like minded and similar content, their suggestion viewing rate. So their little bar that says, “Have you thought about watching this? It’s really, really high that people will click on that and why not give them content that has to do with the gospel? So thank you for being a part of that and for supporting us in this ministry.
Nathan [00:03:07] Today’s conversation we are talking about the best of technology when it comes to social media. Can we use social media well? Should our children be in the space of social media? What if they really, really, really want to? How do we pass this out? And again, my goal is always to empower parents to have these conversations because I call these tech wins. These are not arguments you’re having with your children to just win so that you can feel good about yourself. These are conversations you’re having with your children because you believe Proverbs 22:6. You want to raise your children up in the way they should go. And the way we do that is through an excellent and impenetrable set of rules. We wouldn’t need a New Testament if that was actually the solution. Instead, we’re talking about how do we show our children why these rules exist, how God’s way is the best way? And one of the best ways we do that is by modeling healthy, in this case tech use to our children. So modeling that through conversation, modeling that through use, modeling that through boundaries and loving intervention when it’s not, well, that’s modeling to our children, stopping them when they’re being dangerous to themselves or someone else that is modeling love and care and really modeling Christ at that point.
Nathan [00:04:13] So today we’re talking four points. The first point is going to be talking about first, do we have a hedge before we talk about any nitty gritty with social media? How are we handling technology then? Is it safe? Meaning just this technology on its own? Is this a good decision then? Doesn’t that match family expectations then? Does it meet our child in the season they’re in? So I’m going to try to keep myself. I’ve written it down very carefully for us to make sure that I keep this direction clear. There’s a lot of side distractions we can go into, and I want to just have this conversation in social media, specifically with tech talk, should my child go there? So let’s start at the beginning. Just quickly, touch on do we have a hedge before we bring any new technology into our home? We need to know how we’re handling technology. So hedge means we’re putting a barrier. It’s not, again, an impenetrable wall. It is a distance between ourselves and danger. So you can I like the picture of growing a giant hedge, and it’s just it’s something that blocks visually the bad things out there. It makes an impediment. So things have to kind of push their way through intentionally. It gives us that space that if something becomes a problem, we can always create the distance again away from that. Maybe we need double layered hedges, but it’s not about Whac-A-Mole with all the bad things in life. A hedge is about intentionally living in the way we want to and prioritizing the things that are important in light of the gospel. So, first thing we do with the hedge is we say, “All right, for my family, do I have a hedge around our devices?”.
Nathan [00:05:46] First, actually, let’s go once about our network. So around our family’s network, the Wi-Fi that we have, this is going to be for phones that are defunct. This is going to be for smart TVs, tablets, e-readers, regular phones that still have cell service but sometimes these WI-FI. Gaming devices, anything around that nature connects to the wireless Internet. You have a router somewhere. That router needs to be protected. So that’s going to protect your Wi-Fi network. And really what you’re trying to do is set a baseline set of expectations. So if someone comes and signs on to your Wi-Fi, they have to follow your family’s rules. If there are, there’s ways to set time limits so you can say, all right, the Internet doesn’t work after 8 p.m. or 9 p.m. Whatever your family decides, there is a bedtime on that and the Wi-Fi just shuts off and those devices go down. If your child borrows a device or is given a device from a friend so that they can get on like an old iPhone six or something that they could still get on Wi-Fi. So what we want to make sure is that we are aware when something logs in, it will show up on our family. And case of these two devices, there’s an app that runs on our end so that we can see what’s happening and again, just sets a baseline. You can often set a restriction mode, so you’re going to put restrictions on adult sites and many of these devices have base level websites that you can’t go to for mature sites. They they do general word searches and also allowing just like some safe browsing so you can put YouTube into this restricted mode so that the comments aren’t available. And you know, mature content that’s rated for adults can’t be seen. So those are some examples of why you’d want to build just this base level of protection. It’s not super specific, but it’s going to block 90% of what’s coming across, especially the stuff that’s just accidental. When your kid mistyped something into Google, this is going to make sure that Google is defaulting to safe mode that those websites can’t be accessed on accident. So the two I really encourage is Gryphon router. It’s what I’m using to make this video right now and bark home if you really like your router, bark home is an example of something you can actually plug in to your existing router that gives you a lot of these parental controls and general safety guidelines. So those are two I would suggest. So we have a hedge around our network. Then I said devices and this is your specific phone. So the things that go out from your home with you that have cell service, it can be iPads and such sometimes, but we’re really looking at those things that can exist on the Internet without your Wi-Fi. Those need some level of accountability as well. And again, the conversation is always around the relationship. This is making sure that you’ve trusted your child with this digital device. Let’s make sure it’s being used right. And if something goes wrong, either because your child did something or because something was done to them, you want to be the first person to know. You want to be the first person to aid them and to support them and to help them through these hard times and bad decisions either made by themselves or someone else. You want to be there, you’re a parent, you love them. So what are we doing to make sure that that is actually what happens?
Nathan [00:08:40] So on our personal devices, we need to make sure that we have some level of accountability. For young people. I really like Bark. Bark is a program that looks for searches and conversations and key words and then sends you a notification that says, “Hey, this was just searched or said” and gives you some snippet. It allows that digital trust, that tech trust without invading your child’s privacy and reading their digital diary. So I really like Bark. Another example might be Covenant Eyes if you just want image searches that are really strong. Covenant Eyes is great and as always, Android based devices do a better job on the image searches and seeing what happens within apps because of the privacy settings are used. Apple does a great job on privacy, which means a lot of times accountability can be difficult or at least easier to circumnavigate and circumvent. So doing something like Bark or Covenant Eyes through an Android device. So Google or Samsung phones, for example, would be a stronger choice. It gives you just more accountability and more ability to trust and verify.
Nathan [00:09:40] So then the third level is do you have a hedge around your family? And again, I’m not saying you’re going to keep your children from evil or keep them from making mistakes. The point isn’t never make a mistake child than point is when you make a mistake, how do we recover well? How do we make sure we don’t make that same mistake twice. If we say we’re sorry what steps are we taking to get the help that we need to be well? That’s where a family tech framework comes in. You need rules around your technology that your whole family follows. You need bedtimes for your tech, you need locations for your tech to be. You need to know what you’re going to look at and what you’re not. When your child is asked to watch a movie, they’re going to need to know what’s acceptable for your family and why, and also what to do when stuff goes sideways. So family tech framework is a way to do that. You can check out GospelTechworkshop.com where I’ve made just an online tutorial to help you have that conversation, or you can find any number of them through great resources you can build yourself. You can just make one up by sitting down with a pen and paper with your fam. That’s great. Just make sure you have a hedge. Make sure you have expectations that have been talked out for things like time to use tech, the place we’re going to use it, the content you’re going to engage. What safety measures are expected? What it looks like to be respectful online. Just those basic groundwork piece.
Nathan [00:10:55] So we have a hedge. We know that our family, our network, our devices are at least having some space from the bad stuff that we have this space where we can operate and go, “All right we at least know what’s happening in the technology.” So once we’ve got that, we can go, “All right, but is social media a good idea? Not just for my kid or my family, but is it a good idea in general?” And we’re going to look at Luke 11:11 for this. So Luke 11:11 says, “What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish, give him a serpent? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion?” And I love this question from Jesus, this picture that he’s talking about, our Heavenly Father. But this is what we need to be for our kids. My child asked for social media. Am I giving them the egg? This thing that’s nourishing and helpful and it’s going to help them flourish? Or did I just want to give them a good gift but instead accidentally handed them a scorpion? Like it’s not something I should be doing and I want to make sure I know what this thing is. So the first thing I want to know is, is this technology safe?
Nathan [00:11:53] When we look at something like TikTok, we need to recognize really four things. First is what type of technology is it? Is it tool tech or drool tech that makes no sense to you just know tool tech helps us create, drool tech helps us consume. It is designed to take our time, our focus and our money. Drool tech is and that would define TikTok. Yes, there are wonderful connections that can be had in there are positive outlets and there are people sharing the gospel on TikTok. And yet that’s not what it’s designed for. It is designed for engagement and specifically engagement of your time, your focus and your money. It wants you to stay longer and be worth more. That’s how they make their revenue.
Nathan [00:12:28] So first, what type of tech is it under? Is it safe? It’s a drool tech. That’s important because remember, drool tech is always going to be fighting you for its own goal. Tool tech. It just waits around. It’s like a bicycle. It never sends you a notification. Drool tech sends you notifications, sends you reminders, sends you suggestions, encourages you to spend longer than you wanted or to come back more often than you intended. So it is drool tech. Just know that if you give it to your child, social media will be fighting you on good decisions and will be fighting your child who doesn’t have a fully developed orbitofrontal cortex. That part that can help inhibit decisions and not just do the first thing that pops into the brain. Young people, it’s not a slight against you young people. It’s just a thing that doesn’t finish until you’re 25. Even adults struggle with these decisions when coming against the best of drool tech. TikTok representing some of that. So we want to make sure that we’re being intentional in that.
Nathan [00:13:20] The second question then is does this thing have apps? Well it is an app if we’re talking TikTok. Yeah, social media has apps. They operate out of apps. The reason that matters is apps, especially on iPhones, operate from a very high level of privacy for individual use. So while there are parental controls on excuse me, on a lot of social media, TikTok, for example, has some. They’re not very robust. And when used from an iPhone, they’re even harder to keep accountable. It is easier to, you know, starting a VIP account or any of those things. You can absolutely set up expectations with your child that says, here’s the parental rights I get. You need to be able to log me into this. I need to be able to see what’s happening. Certainly there are ways to do that. I encourage that to happen from a shared device either with the family or the parents personal device if you’re going that route, because maybe independent use on a separate device hasn’t been a level of trust that’s been crossed yet. Okay. So then do that and have that just be on your device so you can see more of what’s happening. But just know that that is another level of safety that makes it difficult.
Nathan [00:14:24] Then third, if we know that it has apps, it is drool tech, then does it have access to the Internet? Yes, Social media all operates on the Internet. Unless we’re talking like WhatsApp and it might be able to operate on cell service, but mostly medical services. TikTok, the reason that’s concerning, is you get short TikToks of certain content that can send you to other ideas or inspire new searches in your mind and curiosity on subjects that then you go and search elsewhere, which is concerning. Also, with internet based or cloud based social media like TikTok, you’re getting stuff that happens often very close to real time. It’s not all vetted perfectly. You’re going to get things that slip through and maybe it’s filtered out in a few days, but it’s going to come across your feed. You’re going to see it before maybe it’s able to be caught by something else. So just keep that in mind when we talk about things that are based off the Internet.
Nathan [00:15:14] The fourth and final one is can you be held accountable? And at the end of the day, TikTok. The answer still no. It’s a space for individuals who love dancing and having a good time and being energetic. And it’s a space where a lot of mistakes are made very quickly. And for our young people, your question is, “Is TikTok safe?” No, it’s not designed to be safe. It’s designed to be fun. It’s designed to be exciting. It’s designed to connect a lot of people as fast as possible. That is the opposite of safety. Safety takes time and it takes intentionality. And that is not the definition of TikTok. So when we say, “Is it safe?” No, TikTok is not safe. Does that make it a necessarily bad decision? No. You can do things to make it safer, which you’ll do within your own family and building that hedge to the level that you believe there’s open communication, there’s trust that is reasonable to extend a safe amount of trust. But in this case, we go “All right, it’s not safe.”.
Nathan [00:16:06] Which brings us to the second or third. We have a hedge. We’ve talked about safety and now we come to it. Is it a good fit for our family? If you say, “All right, I know this isn’t safe, but my kids are 18 and 24.” Okay, great. You’re just having this conversations. They had to move back home. You’re setting up expectations for them. Cool. I think that’s a great decision. And you can go into a conversation with them. “We know this isn’t safe. What are we doing to help it be safe?” But when we’re talking to our 12 year old, our eight year old, our 15 year old, it’s not safe. Where does it line up with our family expectations? And I want to take a quick moment on this, because I’ve talked a lot about family expectations. I use Philippians 4:8 lot for that. But, I feel like sometimes I don’t go into the the reason why. So I want to give you a little background. So Philippians 4:8 is our standard for technology on a biblical gospel level because we’re operating in a hope. So we say, “All right, finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if any thing is excellent, if there’s anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” The reasoning for that being because some people can hear them go, “Well, that sounds kind of just like fear and legalism. We don’t just want to do that. We’re freeing Christ. Why aren’t we just, you know, enjoying this for what it is? It’s just another way to connect with people?’ Which is true, except for the way that it was designed. Remember? We already went through the hedge and through the safety piece.
Nathan [00:17:30] So here’s the reason we sometimes give up our rights as Christians. First, remember that we’ve died to ourselves. We’re getting this out of Matthew. When Jesus says, “If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me for whoever would save his life will lose it. But whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. And that idea that in Christ, sometimes we give up our own rights because it’s not the best either for our self or for somebody else, we know that this might make somebody else stumble. We know that a sibling of ours struggles with social media, struggles with comparison, struggles with viewing unhealthy sexual content online. So we give this up. It’s our right that we should be able to have it. There’s nothing morally wrong with it, and yet, it might be a bad decision. For some of us it might be an unsafe or unhealthy decision. We give it up because we’ve died to Christ and our decisions are no longer our own, because in Christ we’re new creations. We now live with Christ. Romans 6:10-11 says “For the death He, Christ died. He died to send once and for all. But the life He lives, He lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to send an alive to God in Christ Jesus.” Which means if social media at any point is causing you to produce fruit of the flesh, if it’s causing sin… Fruit of the flesh being Galatians 5:19-21, where it talks about producing envy and strife and jealousy and anger and lust. If that’s a dissention, if there’s any of that that’s being produced, then we step away, not because we’re scared of social media, but because we go, “You know, that’s not helping me.” I spend more time gossiping than loving and serving in this. So I’m going to go find another way to love God and connect with my friends and be present. Not because I’m scared of this thing or I think it’s bad for everyone, but because for me to do this, to be alive with Christ, I had to die to myself, right? As we’re told in 2 Corinthians 16-17 that “If anyone is in Christ, He is a new creation. The old is gone and the new has come.” That beautiful picture that we’re not just made better versions of ourselves. This is really important to remember as Christians. As Christians, we don’t die to rise again in like some super saiyan format and to use a Dragon Ball Z reference. We don’t come back as Nathan, you know, 2.0. I die and I come back living for Christ and Christ lives in me. The Holy Spirit of God actually indwells me. And now, Nathan starts to look more like Jesus. And I wish it was overnight and immediate, but God is patiently waiting to make that happen so that everyone who will bend their knee and repent will and every one of those people will be saved.
Nathan [00:20:07] So I’m a new creation. I have a new spirit that’s going to live forever. I’ve got a new will that’s working its way into my flesh, and I now need to be an active part of that. As Romans 8:5 reminds us that we need to set our minds on the things of the Spirit. So then that brings to the last one. We do this because we’ve been bought with a price. This is 1 Corinthians 6:19-20. “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you are bought with a price, so glorify God in your body.” And it says actually again later in Corinthians as well. But that reminder that our actions need to reflect our true identity, that we are sons and daughters of the living God. So we don’t make behavior changes because we’re scared of it or because we want to try to impress God. Instead, we make behavior changes because it no longer lines up with who we are. So when we set up family expectations, when we make a family framework, we talk about content and we’re talking about the shows and the games and the music and things that we’re going to engage online, how we’re going to talk to others on the Internet, what we’re going to post on social media. It needs to no longer be. What will it be funny? Would I look smart? Would people like it? Not even is it true, instead we go, “Is this truth in line with who God is?” There are things that are true that aren’t true forever. For example, as a middle school teacher, there were lots of true things about eighth graders that I never said. Because I know that’s not yet who they’re going to become. There’s a lots of true things that God knows about us that He doesn’t act in light of. For example, He took Judas as a disciple, right? He didn’t pre-judge Judas. Instead, He calls him to repentance. Jesus repeatedly, even to the very night of his betrayal, says “Judas. This is a hard road you’ve picked.” To Pilate. “Pilate, do you believe me?” Right? “That I’m the son of God?” Pilate’s response is eventually, “What is truth?” I can’t even handle this conversation. Moving on. But the response is not what they will do. He doesn’t judge us in light of the mistakes we will make. He takes us where we’re at, and He offers us repentance and He offers us relationship. This is something we need to do with our children as well is to not pre-treat them as criminals or the mistakes that they’re going to make to not speak truth into these situations, because we know that this is true and I need to say it right now so I feel better. Instead we go, “Is it helpful? Is it loving? Is this truth that’s going to build and prune and lift up?” Not saying does it always feel good, but when we speak truth online, it needs to be loving truth, meaning pointing to God, not to us, not just to being right, even though it sells on the Internet.
Nathan [00:22:44] So that being said, when we look at Philippians 4:8, it’s not legalism. It’s not just, “Well, these are the rules for no reason.” These are the rules because they best reflect the reality that God is love. That God has sent His only Son to die, that our death, that we deserve and be raised to the life that we don’t deserve. And then He, out of grace, offers us that victory. He won and indwells us so that we can be new creations. So let’s change what we watch and listen to in play. Let’s change our appetites for what we enjoy. And when it doesn’t work well, let’s repent and go get the help we need and thus show our kids how to do that. Because that’s how we’re going to raise up healthy kids in a tech world. That’s how we’re going to raise up kids who love God and use tech.
Nathan [00:23:26] Which brings us to the conversation about our kids. All right. So we have a hedge and we know if it’s safe or not. And we know if if it fits Philippians 4:8, by the way, most of the content on TikTok isn’t going to line up well with that. There absolutely is amazing biblical content. There’s amazing fun dances, there’s amazing fun jokes. But I mean, TikTok is to the spot now where this, by the way, blew my mind. I found out about this this week. So I apologize. I’m dating myself as an old person, but I didn’t know this was the thing. So the videos on TikTok are starting to pop up with mobile game like streams underneath them because kids get bored before the 30 second video expires, so they need something else to watch. So they’ll have something playing at the bottom of the screen. So they’re watching game footage while listening to whatever this person saying. On TikTok, which the longest video on TikTok is 10 minutes, but not a lot of long form content. Average, I believe is 27 seconds. It’s like 23 to 27 seconds is your average video length on TikTok. When you have a content providing service who can’t keep someone’s attention for 27 seconds because the content is so rapid that they need a video to be able to just listen to a person for that long. That probably isn’t our number one. It doesn’t mean it’s bad. It means that when we look at who we’re supposed to be in Christ, I’m going to go ahead and say you need to longer than 27 seconds to really ingest who Christ is to really abide. I don’t think the word abide in me from John 15:5 to Jesus talking about being the vine or the branches. I don’t think He means 20 seconds at a time. I think it’s supposed to be longer than that before we shift our attention. Absolute starts with 20 seconds. I don’t want to belittle that there is worship happening on TikTok when we talk about, is it Philippians 4:8? Most of it’s not when we’re looking at that, honestly.
Nathan [00:25:10] So when we come to the last point, then here about what about my child in this season? If I have a hedge and I’ve addressed the safety and I figured out my family’s expectations for what Philippians 4:8 looks like, and I’m walking through that, that’s awesome. You can still choose to use TikTok, have your kids on TikTok and be a part of that conversation. You can choose to go to your children. Go, “Hey, you know what? We’re going to pick a different app or a different program or a different way to connect that’s going to be a better fit for our family.”.
Nathan [00:25:35] Then in light of that, I guess threefold, First is, is your child’s faithful in the little things? When you go, all right, with the hedge, I want to make sure I give them the right tech and the right season. Well the right tech is Philippians 4:8 and the safe tech. Then we want to go, “all right. But is it the right season? Is it the right time for this?” We go first of all, looking at Luke 16:10, you go as Jesus says, that “If you’re faithful little things, you’ll be faithful and bigger things.” That conversation’s really important to have with our children, you know? “All right. Are you doing the little things right?” As John Wooden would say, “Are you putting your socks on right?” Because the way you take care of your money is going to show me the way you handle other parts of your life, the way you treat your siblings, the way you treat your friends, your commitment to your sports, following through on your yes’ and your no’s. You committed to do this. You said you wouldn’t do that. Are you keeping that?” It can get all the way down to I mean just the content they are drawn towards. Is that showing a heart that is soft to God? Are they watching things that are crass and rude and sometimes even unsafe and celebrating that? Or are they soft and hard when they watch? They watch it they go, “Yeah, I get it. That’s funny but man, that’s not who I want to become.” Are they processing those conversations? Are they following up on their academics, their friendships, their family dinners, their relationships with siblings? Those things. Are they doing those little ones right? If they are, that’s great. Then they’re showing that Luke 16:10 amount of trust and we want to we want to keep that in mind as we process.
Nathan [00:27:03] We also want to look at what would it look like if they’re not? How do we grow that? And this is kind of that idea of you’ve had the conversation back. “All right, I can Philippians 4:8 it, but how is it going to fit for our family?” Maybe you start with using it only on a share device? You’re going to say, “Hey, you can use the family computer and you can engage the social media because you need to connect with your friends or you just want to be in the know on what’s going on.” Fine. Family computer, public space, you can use it. That’s absolutely reasonable. It’s a lovely way to keep the accountability high. And really with social media, when we say we’re using it to connect with others, we should be able to do that in a reasonable amount of time. If we can’t do social media to connect with others in under a half hour a day, we’re probably using it wrong. And there’s probably actually something else going on that we need to talk about. Is this worth extra time or do we need to pivot on the way we’re using it?
Nathan [00:27:50] So then the second way is using some kind of dumb device. It won’t let you gain social media, but it will build social media acumen. And the other is for having a smartphone, then sharing with a parent. So let your child use TikTok on your phone. If you’ve decided that’s a good fit for your family, let them use it. They can make their dance. They can have you in it or not. But you’re going to be a part of the conversation. You’re going to see what’s happening. You’re going to see some of the reaction and understand a little bit of why your child is so into this. For better or worse.
Nathan [00:28:20] Than the last one would be, allowing them to have a device again. Preferably Android, if we’re looking for accountability, meaning those Google phones like a Google Pixel or a Samsung phone and something like Bark or Covenant Eyes allowing then that trusting child you’ve proven faith on little things. I want you to have this thing. Really at the end of the day, though, your child does not need any of this content. They do not need any of this connectivity before the age of 15. There’s no research showing it’s beneficial. There’s a growing host the CDC recently released as in February. So last month, they released a study from 2021 stats showing that young people, specifically teen girls on social media, are experiencing long periods, prolonged periods of depression and even suicidal ideation when directly correlated with their time on social media. That’s there for boys as well. It’s just not as big. It was three in five girls. One in three had considered suicide. So three in five, they’ll have those prolonged periods of depression or sadness. And when we think about that statistic from 2021 and see it’s directly correlated with social media and that I’m doing to CDC was the research. The correlation comes from Dr. Jean Twenge and Dr. Jonathan Haidt. They have a growing document of 250 pages right now. I just as a Google Doc of just citation after citation showing the growth of these depression and suicidal ideation outcomes for young people specifically teen girls and the causal links they began making to social media. It’s not that that social media’s goal. It’s something about the intensity, something about puberty, something about the age, something about comparison, something about the content, the rapidity, rapacity and the quickness of it. How you can get into so much so fast, and then the shame that comes with it. And we’re doing it again with kids who don’t have the ability to just pause. They don’t have the ability to turn it off. And often just the sheer amount of stimulation puts them into a kind of a fight and flight mode. It gives them adrenaline, it gives them cortisol, it gives them stress hormones that don’t help them sleep and don’t help them process and don’t help them develop emotional intelligence. So just know as you process this, as we talk about the season of life, if your child is 15 years younger, there’s no value add that outweighs the downsides when it comes to social media, specifically in something like TikTok, which is the highest octane jet fuel of social media that we’ve got, they’re very, very good at giving your child content they’re interested in. Unfortunately for the teen brains, a lot of that content is very fringe and dangerous. They have a lot of questions, have got a lot of curiosity, curiosity about mental health, about disorders, about sexuality, and about sex in general. And it can push them to content that isn’t going to benefit them and their purpose in Christ, which is our final point.
Nathan [00:31:18] The final point being, does this benefit them when your child uses this outlet, when they’re engaged social media, when they’re on TikTok, do they produce Fruit of the Spirit? Do they come away with more love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, self-control? Is that what’s coming out of them from this? And if it is, that’s amazing and you absolutely can work with your family to get that hedge built and determine the safety expectations and that your child’s in the right season, that’s super cool. However, if it’s not, it is entirely reasonable. Say son or daughter, I made a mistake giving you this device. I made a mistake letting you on that app. I love you, and we’re going to pivot. I was asked to talk last week by a kid in the back row hand goes up way, way back, like under the balcony and said, “How can I get the same quality of friendship and the same connectiveness with my friends if I don’t use social media?” I love that because of two things. One, he mentioned quality. The first thing is, is this quality? Are these people that I’m living life with or am I just kind of distracted among them? Like, we’re all distracted together. But we’re not actually building relationship. We’re not building and doing life together. That would be my first challenge. These are not friends you see in real life regularly outside of social media, outside of just we sit next to each other in class, then maybe that’s not the kind of friendship we want. What we want is, you know, that biblical idea of a friend who’s closer than a brother. That idea of someone who’s willing to process the hard conversations and you can get those in real life. You don’t need a ton. You need one or two. And it’s really important. So qualities that might push back on that. And the second would be, I’m not saying don’t be on social media. If I’m saying if we’re asking, “is it safe?” If we’re asking, “Does it fit family expectations and is it a good fit for my child in the season?” No, it’s not safe, but it could still be positive. Right? There’s some things that are not safe that we do on purpose. Maybe it fits your family expectations and you can say, “You know what Philippians 4:8 we’re using it for the right reasons.” And if your child’s over the age of 15, then great. But in this case, with this conversation, this young man I just pointed him to reset said, “Hey, ask yourself, is it improving your relationships and responsibilities, your emotions, your sleep, your enjoyment in your time?” And if it is, then please keep using it. If it’s not, please stop. Remember that your time is not your own. This isn’t just because everyone else is doing it or because you feel like you need it. We’re told in Matthew 5 to even cut off our right hand and our right eye, metaphorically. Those things that are really important to us that will impact our daily life if it’s causing us to sin right? To choose something over what God’s called us to. If God’s called you to be more present, if God’s called you to have a pure heart and mind, to not gossip, to produce fruit of the Spirit. And this thing is causing you to produce fruit of the flesh. Then you need to step away faithfully because you love God, not because you’re scared of something. Not because it’s a spiritual Whac-A-Mole, but because this is pointing you back to the light and the hope in Christ.
Nathan [00:34:10] So my hope in this conversation today is twofold. One, you feel empowered to have a conversation about social media and to recognize, is my family ready for the smartphone and the social media that comes with it? Because almost 100% of the time when a kid asks for a smartphone, what they’re asking for is social media and access to the Internet. That’s what smartphones do, that other phones don’t. So if they’re asking for that, we need to know, do we have a hedge? Have we assess if it’s safe? Do we know our family expectations? And is this the right season for my child? And once you walk through that, now you have the talking points for Yes. To say, “Oh, you know what, this is great. We’re totally ready for this.” Or on the flip side to go, “Oh, man, I know we gave you that for your birthday, but we’re not ready.” And we just we haven’t done the legwork or, “Hey, you know what? This was a great decision, but this now gives me the words to say something’s going off the rails. When you use social media, when you’re on your phone, you become more emotionally withdrawn, you become higher highs and lower lows. You become less consistent in your commitments and your yes is no longer yes. I watch these other gifts and passions God’s wired in you since you were a kid. I watch them wilt in the shade of social media, in the shade of your smartphone. I watch it go away and I’m going to lovingly intervene because I care about you and I want to give you the egg, not the scorpion.” Right? My hope is this gives you the win to be able to have that conversation, to be able to look at your child in love, not just in judgment and condemnation and say, “Child that I love, child of mine, let’s make sure that we’re looking to God for our hope and then using the rest of this from it. That’s the idea of loving God. And then from the love we have for God, let’s go use all the tech that helps us love God more. And let’s use none of the tech that distracts us from them.
Nathan [00:35:48] So, hope us encouraging. If it was, would you consider sharing it with somebody? Would you like it? Send me your questions and comments again. We’re @LoveGodUsetech on Instagram and Facebook and YouTube now. And would you share this with friends you think would benefit from it? Then, would you join us next week as we continue this conversation about how we can love God and use tech?