What happens when our child wants to make a mistake?
We’ve talked extensively about how to build a hedge around your network, devices, and family. We’ve talked about how to assess tech health, how to decide what tech to adopt, and how to remove and replace. But now we need to go one step further, into the unthinkable: Our child is making poor choices despite our best efforts.
Today we’re going to talk about how we can lovingly step into our child’s life and understand, engage, and respond to breaches of trust while keeping the focus on loving, teaching, and raising our children up in the way they should go.
Purposely. Your life. God’s purpose. Listen at onpurposely.com.
Nathan Sutherland [00:00:00] Heavenly Father, thank you today for this opportunity to talk about tech and to talk about your gospel and talk about what happens when it goes wrong. Lord gave me the grace to be able to speak words well. And would you give us wisdom to hear truth from Your scripture and to be able to apply that well to our lives and to our kids and to our tech, that we would love You and raise kids who know You, who love You, and who use tech from that. In Your name. Amen.
Nathan Sutherland [00:00:25] Hello, everyone. My name is Nathan Sutherland, and this is Gospel Tech, a ministry helping families love God and use tech. I am excited to talk today a little bit about what do we do when all the beautiful plans go wrong. So last week in our podcast and in YouTube or not in the YouTubes, but in the YouTube video, we talked about what to do in terms of building a tech hedge. So we talked about building a hedge around our devices, around our network and around our families. And that’s wonderful. And it is really important. And I want to recognize that we live in the real world, which means the point of building a hedge isn’t that we’re somehow going to keep our kids perfect or safe, or that we’re going to manage to make sure they never make a mistake. In fact, some of our kids are going to make mistakes on purpose, that they’re going to somehow circumnavigate or find a loophole in our safety hedge. It’s the reason it’s not an impermeable wall. They still have choice. And this is more about them bending their knee to their Lord and savior Jesus Christ, than it is us winning some kind of a fight. But we don’t want to go easily because we love our kids and we want to keep them away from all the bad stuff in the world. But there’s a good way to do that, and we point them towards the best stuff. So today’s conversation is, all right, let’s say our kid has attempted this or something has gone wrong. What do we do now? I hope that it’s encouraging. My hope is not that you hear Nathan giving you all the answers and all the things that you never knew, but instead reminding you of what’s true and what you are already equipped and ready to do. It applies in technology. It will help you. And my hope is that it’ll help your kids as well as we work to raise kids who love God and use tech. So with no further ado, let’s get this conversation started.
Nathan Sutherland [00:02:10] Thank you to everyone who’s helped make this podcast and this YouTube video possible. Thank you for being a part of this conversation. It’s amazing when you share with your friends, when you talk about it with your family, when you post it either on your social media or just send links to friends through text. It’s really cool when I get messages from people who’ve been encouraged by this, who have been looking for a resource where the gospel is being proclaimed and technology is being addressed and they say, “Wow, this is this is what I’ve been praying about, this is what I want for my family.” And it’s not because Nathan, me, I don’t have all the answers. It’s because God is using these words that I’ve been given and I have a passion for seeing kids reach the potential. And I’ve been given that. And that then encourages and allows parents it empowers parents to do what they want to do, which is get those tech wins with their kids. They want to give their kids good gifts. And this is part of that process, empowering parents to do exactly that, to parent well. Even though tech can be scary and it can be overwhelming. So thank you for doing that. If you like this podcast, would you like it on YouTube? And then would you find us wherever podcasts can be, listen to and subscribe and also subscribe on YouTube? Because what that does then is it helps other people find it. So thank you for being a part of this conversation.
Nathan Sutherland [00:03:23] Today we are talking about, all right, what happens when it all doesn’t go perfectly? What happens when my child on purpose makes a mistake despite my hedge that I’ve built? I built a hedge around my devices, right? I’ve got my Bark in place so that I know when something goes wrong on a smartphone or on a computer, I’ve got my Gryphon router over my WiFi at home so that there are basic limits and safety expectations and the WiFi turns off at a certain time and certain websites are restricted either certain times a day for home school that’s super useful or only certain websites are allowed at certain times of day. That’s amazing. That’s a great resource. And then we have an expectation, a hedge built where we have talked through a family tech framework, whether that’s using gospeltechworkshop.com or some other resource. That’s amazing. Please have one. You need to know what are our safety expectations, what our ground rules for a family like my favorite ground rules that it applies to everybody right. These aren’t just expectations for kids. We as parents also need boundaries so we’ve done it and now stuff has gone off the rails. Today, kind of the arc of this conversation is the first thing we can do is we’re going to understand. The second they want to do is we’re going to engage. The third is we’re going to respond. But to kind of set the context, this isn’t just me dreaming up something. I was talking to Anna because sometimes I can overthink podcasts and she’s like, “Well, you’ve been getting a lot of questions at your talks, so why don’t you just answer a few of them?” That’s true. Run Q&A at the end of the parent conversation. So it’s a 70 minute talk. First one, smartphones, video games, pornography, and then we do 20 minutes of Q&A. And the Q&A sessions have been enlightening. They’re wonderful questions. Parents living in the trenches. I have nine, seven, four year old. But there’s parents with a wider age range or just more kids or just kids that are into different stuff. And they want to know, like, “Is this okay? First of all, like, am I hearing this right?” So which is great. I love being just a sounding board because I don’t always know all the nuance with your child, but often when you say it out loud, you hear it. You’re like, “No, that’s fine. I just maybe I’m uncomfortable with that.” Or you’re like, “Oh, no, I had to say those words, and I actually know what I need to do now.” I had one lovely couple come back from the parking lot. They had like left the talk. It was, you know, maybe 8:45 and they came back that same day. They like walked back inside and caught me like, “Hey, we want to say this out loud because we think we know the answer.” And then really just like said the words, like, “We hear it thanks.” That was our conversation. I didn’t have to do anything. So my hope is that this conversation is more like that. But I’ll say some of these parent examples, we’ll talk through what that looks like in this kind of three step model. Then you’ll hear how the head is actually implementing safety measures beyond just what it’s preventing. And what I mean is the hedge is yes, is absolutely to stop bad stuff from getting our kids unexpectedly right? Like we don’t want our kids just get ambushed by an errant typo in a Google search. So we want to make sure that hedges they’re to protect them intentionally. But sometimes kids make mistakes and the hedge is still there, helping our children think through their decisions, be intentional with what they’re doing and process their mistakes. Like that is the point of the hedge. It’s not just safety. And that’s why I try to talk. We’re not tech proofing our kids. We’re not mistake proofing our kids. We’re helping them really raising them up and the way they should go. We’re modeling what humility looks like in a life following Christ. Quick to repent, quick to understand other people’s flaws and yet not settling at that. Yes, God understands our broken flesh. He doesn’t excuse it. Like that’s the entire point of the gospel. We have to have a savior. If God was just cool brushing sin away, I’m like, “Oh, whatever, guys. It doesn’t really matter.” Jesus was…That was frivolous. I mean, point one and two is you really can save yourself then, like if you’re just not that bad of a person like salvation is there for your taking like climb the ladder and go get it. But that’s not the gospel that that might be something else. But the gospel says we are in need of a Savior and this conversation helps us. So that’s our context. Let’s begin.
Nathan Sutherland [00:07:38] First thing we’re going to do is understand. So for example, I had a parent come and say, “All right, Nathan, we found out that my child is circumnavigating safety measures on a smartphone. What do we do?” All right. So before we do anything to try to fix that, the first thing we want to do is understand we’re going to come in with this with the understanding that this child is in pain, this child is hurting. We don’t know why. We just know these kids are when they make mistakes, that hurts them. We know that hurts their hearts. We also know that the mistake caused pain in at least themselves and probably somebody else, depending what the problem was. So if they are looking at pornography, we know that that is hurting their heart, that is hurting their mind. It’s actually changing the way they see the people around them. It changes their expectations when it comes to sex, which is going to hurt their understanding of true love and also the purpose of sex. I mean, sex is a picture. It’s a picture of the promise of two becoming one. So, yes, is this picture of the Holy Spirit and to becoming one that we are now in dwelled by Christ as temples. But eventually the promise of becoming the bride of Christ, the Church of Christ. And not to get weird with it. I know that that has been misused in history, but recognizing sex for what it is, there eventually won’t be sex. We will not be married and procreating in heaven. Jesus says that that won’t be part of it. Marriage, therefore, is a metaphor that will end. Right now, it’s to remind us a little bit of what it’s like for two to become one, a little bit of what it’s like to lovingly out serve somebody else in a relationship. A little bit of what it’s like for headship to be a servant, to thing that Christ is the head of the church and died for her. Right? And that’s the image of what a husband is to be for his wife. Right? Like those are little metaphors that get messed up when porn gets added in because porn is entirely selfish. Porn does not wait for anybody. Porn’s on my terms in my way with my variety, on my timeline for my personal satisfaction. And that’s it. That’s a lie. And that lie digs deep. So if our child is looking at porn, they’re hurting their heart, they’re hurting their mind. And yes, other people might get hurt in that, depending on who else was involved, how far this went, how long it’s been going on. We understand that. But that’s true as well. When they’re just sneaking shows, maybe innocuous shows, when they’re playing video games outside of the boundaries and expectations of your family, there’s heart stuff going on here and there’s physical changes that can be made to reflect that heart stuff.
Nathan Sutherland [00:10:07] So the first thing we’ve got to do is we have to understand your child is in pain. And the second thing of that is they need help. We are lovingly stepping in and yes, help and loving and having empathy and building that relationship. Yes. And help beyond what maybe what they’re even looking for. or going to ask. You are absolutely in the space to remove things that are hurting your child. This is the remove and replace of Matthew 5:29-30 where Jesus says, “if your right hand causes you to sin, if you’re right eye causes you to send cut it off, gouge it out.” Not because it doesn’t hurt that bad, but because even though it hurts, there’s a greater good. It’s much better to be able to love God and be whole in our hearts and minds, to be able to enter the kingdom of heaven, then to let sin take root. And when sin is fully grown, to bring death, and then our entire being be thrown into hell. So I would just like to add to that, that yes, there’s a temporary pain of like that’s inconvenient, but think about the right eyepiece, like living the rest of your life without depth perception is kind of a big deal. It’s beyond the couple of weeks of pain you’re going to experience from that initial removal. It’s that continual reminder of like, Man, I bumped into another wall. We’re going to give up some things in this conversation that are going to be inconvenient and we wish we still had them. So when we’re talking about our kids first, we’re going to understand they’re in pain and they need help. Like just start there.
Nathan Sutherland [00:11:30] Also understand that we don’t know why. So I’ve talked before and I’ll just repeat quickly the idea of a pebble in a blister. This concept that we can see that something’s wrong, but we don’t know why. It’s either the pebble that’s jammed in the shoe. I had that experience with Hadley last summer. She’s run around on the yard, pulled off her little shoe because she complained that her foot hurt. And sure enough, as a little piece of pea gravel jammed in the bottom, that adorable little three year old foot, take away the pebble, put on the shoes she runs off inside, Henry shows up sopping wet from the sprinkler, has been run around the cul de sac that my foot hurts. Pull it off. No sock on, by the way. And he’s got a silver dollar sized blister on the bottom of his foot. I can’t just pull that off and have him be better. There’s a different solution. One of them, yes, the pebble was the cause of the problem. But in Henry’s case, the blister was symptomatic of a friction issue he was having. You need dry shoes, son. You need socks on, and we need to bandage that, take care of it for the next few weeks. It’s going to be a slower recovery process. You’re still going to make it, but different solution than just the first case. And when it comes to tech, we know that there’s been a problem. We know there’s been a breach of trust. We know there needs to be action and help. We just don’t know what that looks like. Sometimes tech is actually the symptom. They’re going to tech because they’re under stress or they’ve experienced trauma or they are overwhelmed with shame or they’re just not getting enough sleep. We don’t know. But we do want to recognize they need help and we’re there. So that’s the first thing we’re going to understand. They’re in pain. They need help. And that it could be a pebble or a blister.
Nathan Sutherland [00:13:02] Now, we’re also then going to engaged means we’re going to address the problem. How did we know something went off? Like, did we find a search history? Did we find something on Bark? So in the example of the family that came up to me, they said, “We actually found the search. ‘How do I get around Bark?” Bring that to your child. Address it. Bring it in the light. You’re not bringing this to shame them. You’re not bringing this to win an argument. You’re not bringing this in pride or anger. If you are angry, pray about it first. I loved this example when we talked about disciplining. Anna and I when we first had little kiddos and we’re talking about what does discipline look like? And someone shared this beautiful example that I completely agree with in talking about corporal punishment. Spanking. They said, “The first spanking is for your child, the second is for you.” And there is this idea that like, yes, I want to correct my child. And sometimes spanking is absolutely the correct way to do that. I grew up needing some spankings because verbal reminders and consequences weren’t cutting it. And I needed a quick reminder physically of like, that was a hot stove. That decision you made is going to bring you harm. This little bit of staying on your rump is a reminder I’m not mad at you. That was wrong and we’re going to use that. But it’s not multiple, right? It’s not something because the first one is for your kid to learn from the pain. The second one is just because you’re mad and we need to make sure we don’t step into these spaces with technology mad at our child. We can be mad at the sin, we can be mad at the problem, we can step in. And that anger helps us step into some awkward and difficult conversations. Great. But not at the expense of our child’s well-being and not for our cause. And if we do that, that’s an awesome opportunity for us to repent because we did something wrong. So with that in mind, we’re stepping into our child space. We’re going to address the problem, bring it to light explicitly. It can be as gentle as a simple question like, “Hey, I saw you were texting late last night. What’s going on?” Or, “Hey, I saw this kind of content or that kind of thing, or I saw this picture.” And if they don’t come out with it, you can say, “Look like this is what I found.” Show them what you have. Again, not a gotcha thing. But then I love you and this is problematic. And I’m trying to figure out as a loving parent what to do next. I’m trying to figure out Pebble and Blister here, trying to figure out, is this the cause or something else going on that I need to find out about. So please ask the questions.
Nathan Sutherland [00:15:16] The second is, remember, this is a relationship, not a trial, not a tribunal. Our job isn’t to treat them like some kind of a detective situation where we are trying to get to the root. Where were you on May the 16th? Right? We are trying to figure out what went wrong. How wrong did it go? I love you a lot and I need to know the damage so I can know how to help make it better. So just keep that relationship first. Building relationships outside of this is absolutely key to it. And I think some examples here, right? This is where I want to run into it. So let’s go back to the young man that I mentioned to you on the smartphone that he was given search how to get around Bark. That right there is a wonderful talking spot. And I would start with, “Hey, saw this search. What’s going on?” My mind immediately wants to know one of two things. First, what is it on your phone that you feel like we’re not letting you do? And the second is, are our rules too constrictive? But by asking that I’m not giving up anything, they say, “Yeah, you guys are way too constricted.” “Great. Where? Why? Like, help me see that there is absolutely the possibility that we just don’t understand the way some of this tech works.” And our kid, you know, they need just 15 minutes, but it has to be at a different time of day and we’re not giving them the opportunity for that. Maybe I’m open to that. Cool. So you’re gonna use the exact same amount of time, but you need a different time of day or you need to split in half because I’m giving you 30 minutes in one chunk and you actually need two 15 minute chunks because of the way the conversation is going back and forth and the stuff you need to have access to. All right. Okay. We can talk about that.” There’s also opportunity, as one young man did when I was in a different state, not in Washington, doing a talk where he was saying, “You guys are way too restricted. You guys don’t care about me. All you care about is control.” And then it comes out that, “Well, actually, remember how we gave you a device and remember how you got in a lot of trouble and hurt some people and yourself. Remember how we’re working through that with the shared device, but you refuse to use it because all the stuff you want to do, you don’t want to do on your mom’s phone, like remember all that. So we’re not actually controlling. We’re giving you options. You just aren’t willing to work within healthy limits.” That’s a really different thing from, “Hey, Mom, Dad, like, I’m trying to use this well, but our our restrictions are making it too hard. So I’m trying to circumnavigate and I’m trying to get around these boundaries that you’ve set up lovingly. And I’m exposing myself to harm that I might not even know it’s out there.” Right? And that’s what we want to get to is explaining from our end, like, “Hey, we love you and we want you to use all the best tech, the things to help with that.” So what’s the problem? The kid might just be rebellious and be like, “You know what? I don’t like your rules. I don’t like your expectations. I want to do what I want to do on the Internet.” And you going to be like, “No, we’re going to make that hard to do. We love you too much to just let you go willy nilly and to whatever sounds right.” So ask those questions.
[00:18:02] With that particular young man, the next piece is your circumnavigating our safety measures. So we’re going to downgrade the trust piece. We talked about Luke 16:10 in a previous podcast and about how trust is there because it’s showing the previous actions. And when the trust is lowered, I’m not mad at you. I’m not even disappointed. I’m just responding accordingly. So, all right, a smartphone that’s independent is too much. We’re going to go to a shared family device or you’re going to go to mom and dad’s phone. We’re going to show this for a month. You show me you can handle this for a month and we’ll try this again or we’ll try some other version. We’re going to get you a dumb phone. You can still communicate with friends. You’re now going to move this app that was problematic or this game to a different setting. Great. And then we have a little bit of a conversation moving forward and where I love to go with this. I did this all the time with middle schoolers when I was teaching is simply asking, “All right, what would you do? Like let me flip the script here. You’re a parent. You have a kid who understood the expectations because, again, we’ve already built our hedge and as intentionally circumnavigated those, what would you do because you love this kid?” You’re going to get one of two answers. They’re either going to go, I would just take off all the rules and run with it. Follow up with that. “Like, all right, like what rules?” Like if you could just remove one of them and you what you’re hoping to get here is where is your child’s heart going? Is there a pinch point with their friends, with their school, with their desires? Have they experienced something their brain just cannot hop off of? You want to know about that and I can’t bring it up directly, but they’re going to get there by all the complaining, all the pushback and all the things they explain you don’t understand. It’s true. You don’t understand because they haven’t told you yet. So your job is to keep pulling that thread. Don’t give up on it. Don’t get offended. Understand that this is part of their communication. Or they’re going to go the opposite direction, not remove all the rules, but they’re just going to lock it down. You’ll see this on forums and chats and anything that addresses like technology and addiction and the harm of the Internet is young people coming out being like, “Man, I wish my parents had never given me internet. I wish I lived under a rock. My kids will never touch it.” And again, kids who are experiencing trauma, they have their processing hurt and they’re taking it too far the other direction. Like that’s actually probably not the best case scenario. So then we respond with, “All right, like, I love your heart for safety and I love your heart for making sure that there are proper boundaries. What if we…” And then sure, take the take the next step back for your family, remove whatever the thing was that was causing the harm, maybe a smartphone, maybe gaming system, maybe the internet access in general and go to the next safest thing in conversation, in relationship. But asking that question of like, what would you do in this scenario? And I think it would fit for every one of these examples. Like what? What would you do once you’ve assessed it? Once you understand their needs and you’ve kind of addressed a little the Pebble and Blister, once you’ve talked a little bit of through what you know, what you don’t know, you have a little better lay of the land. Who’s involved? How far is this gone? How long has it been happening? When is it occurring? What is the drive behind it like? Just you want to know what’s making your kid tick. Sometimes it is just, “You know what? I was lonely and I was bored and I was stressed and I don’t even like that I did it.” That’s many of us with our poor decisions, I get it right. It could be as simple as a chocolate chip cookie for some of us. Like, that’s as simple as like, “Why did I eat that? But I don’t know. It wasn’t really like I thought.” That’s smartphones and the internet for a lot of kids. “Like, why did you stay up until two on that?” “It wasn’t even I thought, like, I just, I couldn’t sleep and I didn’t know what else to do. So I snuck my phone and I jump back online. I’m just looking for meaning and purpose, right?” So once we have that, like with this young man, then we make that next step. Removing the smartphone is absolutely reasonable. In fact, that was my encouragement for this family. It’s like if your son is already not trustworthy with your boundaries, then you just change the available boundaries. A dumb phone is going to be a lot harder to do that. He’ll still be safe. He’ll still communicate with practice. He’ll still be able to get around and communicate with friends. But he’s not going to be able to make mistakes at the same rate, especially if he’s not upfront when you ask. Trust is a huge thing and you expect them to acknowledge what happened because they were the ones that made the decision. So, “All right, you made this decision. What happened? Like you’re big enough to make the decision. You’re big enough to talk about it, like let’s address this in love.”.
Nathan Sutherland [00:22:32] So that would be the kid with the smartphone. I also got. “All right. My kid has been sneaking video games.” Either we have like a Switch or some other mobile device. They snuck in our room that got it and they hid it under the bed. Or they’re going to the public space and they’re playing on a public device. And they just they’re waiting long enough. They’re even setting an alarm and they’re getting up and they’re doing this or they’re resetting the time limits on their phones so that it’s a different time zone or it’s a different time on the clock so that our family limits aren’t setting like these are all kind of under the same umbrella. And again, it’s that same process. So first thing we do is we bring it up to them. Either you caught them red handed or there’s some kind of evidence search history, use time on like a screen time or something like a Bark or Covenant Eyes picked up the content and you simply come to them say, “Hey, like what’s happening here?” And this conversation when kids are being unhealthy, they’re being sneaky, can take a lot of different forms. Young people can absolutely panic at this idea that their technology is going away. This is again, why we’re being relational or being intentional. We’re not coming at them with threats, but in hope. We are removing the tech that is being unhealthy. So sometimes it’s, “Wow, you know what? We talked about this. This is a breach of trust. You’re proving that, man, if this is going wrong, there might be other stuff that’s wrong, too. So the first thing we’re doing is we’re going to remove this tech. We’re still going to have fun, right?” So now we get to talk about what else can we do with this time? Maybe it’s we’re gonna hang out with real life friends. Maybe it’s we’re doing activities together. Maybe it’s we’re going to join a club. We’re going to it. For some reason, a lot of people in my area in the Northwest are getting into jujitsu. I did it in college. I love it as a former wrestler. Great sport. But that’s where a lot of these families are going like, great, we can do it midday midweek, like you’re going to go join jiu jitsu and you’re going to get out there and get some of the some of the energy out that maybe you can’t get out in other ways. You’re going to have an adventure. You’re going to have an experience and maybe even have a good time with it. But, like you’re going to get an activity. So we’re not simply removing the thing you love and giving you nothing. Like we’re going to replace all of these misuses of technology come from things that God’s put in our hearts. Pornography is a distortion of love and specifically of sex. Many video games are a distortion of our sense of adventure or belonging or friendship, amazement and awe, right? Those are things video games do really well that we can misuse because it’s just so easy and available. With our music, it’s often a misuse of our empathy and our sympathy and our excitement. And it’s we’re there more for the scintillation than for the thoughtfulness. And that’s when it becomes something we can’t pull out of. And we get into these emotional loops where it’s all we want and all of these things have their roots in something God wired your kid for. They’re going to be susceptible to certain types of tech because it’s unique to the way God made them. So find it and now press into that. And with video games, I’ve seen families say, “All right, what is taking 30 days.” That tends to be a good starting point. You get one month away from this technology and say, “All right, was that the cause or is there more like the behavior doesn’t change?” I had a family who they removed the gaming devices first and then the personal computer and then the television from the bedroom, only to find out that the smartphone was being used as a gaming device. And that’s, first of all, a lot of technology to have in the bedroom. So if you have that in your bedroom, please consider moving it. Find a healthy way to get that out in love, not in fear. But that’s just that’s a net loss. Any way you cut that, there’s a lot that could go wrong and probably is. So in this case, they like had to remove one at a time. And then as the days have progressed, nothing got better and no conversations happened. And like we eventually had to realize, “Oh, this is that’s a smartphone thing.” And by the way, it was not the pebble, it was a blister, the smartphone, the gaming, all of the tech stuff was from a very traumatic situation that it occurred and that was not being addressed and needed professional intervention to support. So it at the end of the day, it actually wasn’t the television or the video games or the smartphone that was the problem. Like they were symptomatic of a much bigger issue that had been going on for much longer and that was unspoken and unaddressed. And it was affecting school and it was affecting health and was affecting sleep. And people looked at video games like, “See? Video games. We should get rid of them.” I promise. If you’re just taking this child’s video games, it would have gotten worse. There are actually worse options than video games when self-medicating and this kid very much was. So keep that in mind. I had another family, though, who was like, “You know what? We’ve realized it is just the video games for this kid. That is the causal link. We take video games away completely back to his old normal self. We give videogames back and just unhinged.” So they sold the system. They didn’t do it in bitterness. They made a plan, they sold the system. They bought them a bunch of gear for snowboarding and for hitting the slopes. And they made family trips out of it because guess what? You sell a 600 some odd dollar console and a gaming system and all the accouterments like, that’ll get you some stuff, especially buy used. And that’s become just part of the family’s investment like we save every year now for days on the slopes because that’s something this kid is into. That’s something he loves and that’s going to be something we’re putting our time and effort into. So I’m not saying you have to do that. Many people don’t have the resource or the location or the time in their schedules to be able to do that. But that’s the idea I like. I like that premise of the family. It was done as part of a plan with that young person acknowledging, Yeah, you breached trust, you’re unhealthy and we love you. So we’re not just taking away this thing you love. We’re going to replace it with a new love and we’re going to feed that love and let this one kind of get some space. Maybe you’ll grow to a spot where you can handle it. Maybe you’ll be like Nathan and not be able to return to video games in the way you used to. But the video games are at the end of the day, what’s important what’s important is your ability to be present and be all that God has called you to be.
Nathan Sutherland [00:28:48] So that was the second I was going to look for. Oh, burner phones. Kid came home with a burner phone. This is where Gryphon is amazing. Logged on to burner phones, don’t have cell service. They borrowed an old phone off a friend or whatever, and they took it home, got on the family WiFi as a guest and it pops up. So mom and dad, you immediately know the WiFi is being used. Sure, they can use a hotspot from another device, but this is why Gryphon is great is it will show you when new devices are added to your network and you can say, “Oh, that’s interesting. Whose new device is that? I’m going to go ask some kids. And if no one tells me I’m going to check some rooms, like that’s concerning to me.” And the conversation again comes back to the heart. Excuse me. And I think finally, it’s, “All right, you’ve been circumventing safety measures, whether that’s family hedges or tech hedges. You’ve been sending and receiving images that are unsafe and unhelpful. You’ve been searching things that are unsafe or unhelpful. You haven’t been following time limits or general base level expectations. What do we do?” Well, the second thing in engaging is we engage that with a conversation of, “This is relational. I need to know what’s going on and I love you enough to not let this simply go and not make excuses for you. Removing that is absolutely the correct case.
Nathan Sutherland [00:30:06] Which brings us to that. Third is we respond. So in this conversation, I understand that a mistake has been made and the child is going to respond in one of two ways. They will either say, “I’m sorry, I made a mistake, that was wrong.” They might even bring it to you, which is awesome. But when you bring it up and say, “Hey, I notice some stuff going on here, Hey man, how are you doing with your friend?” Like, especially with Bark, it might bring up a little line of, like, people having a fight or someone says something mean or unsafe and say, “Hey, what’s, what’s, what’s going on?” You have that conversation. And at the end, they’ll either say, I’m sorry, like I made a mistake. How do I make it right? And that’s where you’re going to go through the great like we’re going to remove this piece of tech. We’re going to set it back down to a level of trust that we can understand because we have those three standards, right? We need to make sure the tech itself is safe. We need to make sure it fits our child’s time of life and our family expectations and then our child’s purpose. Okay. So you’ve understood your child is in pain and a need and there might be a pebble or blister. Then you’ve engaged and you’ve had the conversation and you have like, understood what they did and how long it’s been going on. And maybe they took the device in the middle of the night and you’re gaming, maybe they’re circumnavigating safety settings, maybe they’re looking up inappropriate content, unsafe content, maybe they’re bullying people. And that’s come to your attention through the school or through family, friends or being bullied. You have engaged that conversation and now you know what’s going on. You’re processing what tech was involved. And is it a gap in your hedge? Like, “Oh, we just didn’t put safety settings around this and that’s on us.” Like, this happened for a family when they were transitioning to a new device and they just didn’t get that like a Bark set up on that device fast enough and they left it overnight. The kid got on that device. It was unfettered and got into trouble. That then came out later what was going on, which was a really hard road to hoe. But recognize that this isn’t a, we have to change everything. Like we just we can’t let that happen. We can’t let that lapse occur in protection around this kid. And if it’s going to occur like going to someone’s house, we’re going like that’s now something we keep in our head. So we’ve done that and now we need to respond. As I mentioned, the child is going to respond in one or two ways. They’re either going to repent or they’re going to make excuses. And that’s going to change how it happens because you still need to give the child space, right? “All right. Like I’m going to remove the smartphone, I’m going to remove the device. I’m going to give you more space and replace it with more awesome stuff.” That’s certainly going to happen in both cases. But in a child who says, “Hey, I’m sorry, this is what I would do or where I feel I need support.” That’s a different conversation. The kid goes, “You know what? I just don’t think you guys have really what I need. I don’t think you’re giving me enough freedom. And I really want to be able to make these mistakes on my own.” Especially for a child under the age of 18. Right? Over 18. Okay, Like you’re living in our house, so we have expectations, but like, you are 18 and, like, it’s between you and God and like, we’re not going to make this easy. We still have expectations and please let us support you and help you in every way we can. Please make good choices because we love you. So the other side, though, when they are repentant, just know that your response is going to be relational, as I mentioned before, and it’s going to be really reflecting the gospel.
[00:33:22] So I want to read these. I got excited. These were supposed to be at the beginning, full disclosure. But I got really excited about the conversation. So I went running. But that the the gospel gives us really three things in this. The first thing it gives us is humility. And that comes from Ephesians 2:4 when we remember that, “but God being rich in mercy because of the great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us to live together in Christ by grace, you have been saved.” That beautiful picture that you and I understand that we are saved by grace, that it’s not because we got our tech right in the first try. That in fact, our tech isn’t right because we have enough rules in place. Our tech is right because our hearts what God. The reason I have accountability on my phone as an adult isn’t because, you know, I have to live on eggshells and cost me like, oh, I don’t know when it’s coming for me. No like, I know where all the bad stuff is. It’s on the internet. I found it before and I don’t like it. And so I put accountability on my phone because 99% of the time I want to do the right thing and then 1% of the time Romans 7 Nathan shows up, and he kind of thinks that life and he’s not a good husband and he’s not a good leader and he’s not a good dad. And that 1% then has to deal with the accountability I put on my phone. And he goes, “Well shoot. That seems like a lot of work, and I don’t know if it’s worth it.” Awesome. You just had to think about it. That’s the point. Can you still make a mistake? Sure you can. Are going to get away with it forever and bury that sin deep? Nope. Someone’s going to find out really quick. They’re going to know, like, tonight. And then someone’s going to step into your life in love and they go, “Hey, maybe that’s not a good idea anymore.” Right? That’s what we want to do. We want to have to do the math. We want to count the cost. Yes. Of following Christ. But we also want to count the costs of sin and the pain and the debt that it brings into our lives and opportunities. So that is a loving choice to have that in place. It’s not a controlling choice. It comes from the humility we get from Ephesians 2:4, “But God being rich in mercy, I’ve been saved by grace.” Like I’m still a sinner. Excuse me. I’m indentified as saint, covered in Christ. Let’s be biblical about this. I’m a saint. I’m a new creation. Meaning I have the flesh of a sinner in the soul of a saint. I will, when I cross over, this body will be replaced with one that doesn’t desire my own will and only desires God. Much like my spirit wants to. That’s amazing. I’m going to love my kids in light of that too. Son or daughter of mine, you might right now be living for your own passions and fleeting pleasures. But that’s not going to bring you joy. And I know that road. So I’m going to love you here and in the name of Jesus, because I know I’ve got it. I’ve been changed. I have the love of Christ, and I’m extending that to you the same way Christ extended it to me. It doesn’t mean I’m making excuses for it. There’s still a cost to pay. There’s still things that have to be done. There’s now behavioral changes that reflect the changes happening inside our hearts. But it’s not coming because I want you to be more like me. I want you to be more like Jesus.
[00:36:19] So that’s our first thing. The reason the Gospel’s powering this conversation. The second simply comes from 1 Corinthians 6:12, “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be dominated by anything.” This idea that, yes, we’ve been saved by grace, but grace is not license. Grace is not pride. Grace is this unmerited favor that we’ve been given from God, where we now are sons and daughters of His full inheritors, of his Kingdom, and of the Holy Spirit that He gives freely, and that that comes when we repent, believe. So as someone who has free to do anything that isn’t direct sin, I also give up my right to do certain things right? Reminding our children that yes, you could be on social media, but that’s not our standard anymore. Yeah, you could play a video game, but that’s not our standard when we look at like a reset. And go, Does it improve your relationships and responsibilities, your emotions, sleep, enjoyment, and time? All right. If it improves it, awesome. But if it impedes it, then even though that’s not a bad thing, it’s not okay for you. And then Matthew 18 is this beautiful picture when we talk about how the gospel gives us. Oh, I didn’t even say this out loud did I? That humility gives us a standard. That was the 1 Corinthians 6:12. And then the last one is it gives us hope. That yes, we love because Christ first loved us. But another picture other than 1 John, of that is when Jesus is talking the parable of the unforgiving servant in Matthew 18 and he lays out Peter comes in, says “Lord, how often will my brother sinned against me and I forgive him as many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I did not say to you seven times, but 70 x 7, and then goes into the story of a guy who is forgiven, begs for mercy from a king. He’s forgiven a great debt, then goes and throttles a fellow servant throws him in jail because he can’t pay him a really small debt. And the king comes and goes, “Hey, I forgave you this massive debt.” It’s like billions of dollars. “Like I give you this massive debt and I just wrote it off. And then you went to this guy for hundreds of dollars and you threw him and his family in prison. Like, that’s not okay.”.
Nathan Sutherland [00:38:30] And that’s what we need to remember, is that the hope we have in Christ that empowers us to hope for our children. That we’re going to be ridiculously forgiving, not ridiculously lenient, because not everything is acceptable. We are ridiculously forgiving when they come for repentance. But that brings us to this conversation of if they come and repent, we forgive you. That doesn’t mean your trust is all restored. You’re Luke 16:10 is a loving standard. It’s not an “l’ll love you if you’re trustworthy, it’s I love you AND you’re not trustworthy.” So I’m not going to give you lots of stuff, many of you little things like going to bed on time and doing your work well and hanging out with your siblings and coming to family dinner. Maybe you’ll get school sports too, if you can prove that that’s healthy for you, right? Or if it’s not, maybe we’re going to find something else. You’re going to go pick up archery or jujitsu. But in that case, all right, like trust isn’t there. But I love you. And it’s from that love that I’m acting and some kids are going to repent quick. Okay. Hey, your heart is soft. Yes, we’re still removing this, but it’s going to be a shorter timeline on how long this tech is going to be gone. Because parents, at the end of the day, the goal isn’t get our children all the tech. The goal is to raise them up into the way they should go, which means when their tech gets unhealthy, give them the hedge, make sure that there’s those things to catch that unhealthy behavior and talk it out. If it’s just a, Man, it was this one situation and this is why it happened? Okay, let’s take a few weeks off and come back at it. And if nothing happens again, we’re good.” But if every time we try to re-extend the problems, run in, like, it may not be that we’re not giving them enough trust and enough leverage to really flex their their muscles and spread their wings to mix metaphors. But instead it’s to maybe draw down our tech and hey, we need less stimulation, we need less outside input. You need more of an opportunity to grow into who you need to be. So you’re a whole person going under the Internet, using it on purpose, not for purpose.
Nathan Sutherland [00:40:26] A lot of those unhealthy searches are coming from kids looking for their purpose online. They’re looking for the purpose and relationship for their purpose and work for their purpose and identity, for their purpose and joy. And they are hoping the Internet will give it. And there’s lots of apps and lots of people, lots of influencers and lots of search results that promise like, “Yeah, absolutely. I’ve got that for you. Just give me your attention, just give me your time. Just ignore what your parents said. They don’t really know as much as I know. Trust me. All right?” And this is, well, really just reliving the garden all over again. God has a standard. He said it before us in love, and He said, “Do you love me? Will you keep this?” And that’s where the behavioral part comes from. “Yeah, I want to keep it. Lord, it is my heart. I want to keep this and I stink at it. And I need your help. And I need your support. And I want my heart to want you more. Would you help me in my unbelief?” So, parents, that’s where we can meet our kids. When your kid intentionally gets around and circumnavigate the hedges you have for them, you need to first understand that they’re hurting, they’re in pain, and you need to know why. So address the pain. Even if they haven’t told you they’re in pain. That is pain. Sin is the definition of pain. It’s separation from God. And it’s looking for hope somewhere where there is no hope that is low as we can get. When looking for hope, it’s a dark space there. Then we’re going to engage them in the conversation. We want to know what happened. We want to know what you would do. We want to know, like, how long has it been going on? What is occurring here? Help me get the picture. Bringing either the evidence we have in love, not in a gotcha moment and or excuse me, or bringing the just the concern we have the reset of saying, “Hey, I’ve noticed your relationships and responsibilities are pivoted. I’ve noticed that you’ve been, you know, getting more isolated, you’ve been getting more emotionally low, you’ve been going into a darker place emotionally, like, we’re going to bring that up. I don’t know what’s causing it. I don’t have a BARK report to say it or Covenant Eyes, I just see it, what’s going on?” And then we’re going to respond. We’re going to say, are you repentant? It’s going to be this sort of a response because I can trust you. And now it’s just a lower level of trust or, hey, you’re not repentant. And that’s red alarms everywhere. I’m not actually even sure this is the end of the line. There might be more going on and all I did was I just scratched the top. Yeah, okay. I can I can see that you’re unhealthy in that music app. So the music app absolutely goes away, but you’re not repentant and you’re not sorry. And I think you’re actually mad at me that we’re talking about this. So, like, I’m going to take another step back and provide you more opportunities. And we’re going to reach out and figure out how to restore your health and well-being. But it’s not going to be in these spaces. So know that that is within your purview as parents. You can do that. You can still be loving. It doesn’t have to be done in fear. It can be done in hope because you love them.
Nathan Sutherland [00:43:19] So I hope this is encouraging and helpful. I hope it makes sense how we can understand, engage, and respond healthfully and lovingly, because at the end of the day, the hedges are not there to keep our children perfect or safe. They’re there to keep them in conversation and relationships so that we can be the first people to respond in love because we recognize the love that God’s given us and what the gospel has done for our hearts, and that that’s really what’s going to power real life change. As they see more of God’s goodness, they’re going to see more of their need for God, and that is going to drive them closer to the Lord because they see, “Wow, like I am in need and this stuff can’t fill these holes. So I want to use tech on purpose, not for purpose.” So I hope it’s encouraging to you. Would you share it with people? If it is, get this conversation out to more people when you join us next week as we continue this conversation about how we can love God and use tech.