If you have a child and they are over the age of three they might be requesting a cell phone on their Christmas list this year. I am being a bit facetious, but it seems like these days, children younger and younger are getting their hands on pandora’s boxes, (sorry, I meant cell phones). If you are considering getting your child a cell phone under the age of 16, I would like to caution you to be thoughtful about the pro’s and con’s. Is it an essential item for them at this time of life, or do they just want one? I can understand why a 16 years-old would need it with driving, but before that age, I’m not sure that I see much reason.
After being in student ministry now for almost 20 years, I can tell many stories of bad mistakes that young people have made on cell phones. The temptation many times is too much for them, and the results of poor choices can be devastating. I would urge you to be thoughtful about this decision before you rush into buying them one.
If you do buy one: MAKE SURE!
If you determine to get your child a cell phone, I beg of you as a brother in Christ to make sure that it has the most up to date protective technologies on it. You don’t want your child becoming a slave to something that was meant to be a blessing for them. By protections I don’t only mean pornography protection but also to being able to read their text and email messages. You want to make sure that there is no correspondence that they think you are “hands off.” I also recommend having a time when the phone cannot be used after a certain hour of the night. If a child is up all night with their phone dinging, they definitely have an addiction issue. Encourage moderation with a phone and enforce it or you might be soon dealing with addiction. Speaking of which……………
“Brain plasticity refers to the ways in which the functional pathways in our brain can be strengthened by use over time.”1 The earlier and more frequently the brain uses certain functional neural pathways, the more embedded over time these pathways become. In fact the brain has been compared to “the process of neuron and synapse formation in early childhood to a sculptor making a statue.”2 The younger a child is, the easier it is for them to become addicted to behavior as these neural pathways are being formed. Many have compared the effects of pornography having effect on the neural pathways in the brain as being like a trail in the forest used over and over again until the trail is so deep and wide that you can drive a truck through it. “Each successive viewing of pornography creates neural paths setting the course for the next time an erotic image is viewed.”3 It is a proven scientific fact that exposure of pornography to a 12 year can take only 1 to 2 times before addiction sets in versus 3 to 4 viewings for a twenty year old.4 The young are physiologically more at risk because of the formation of their brains. Please protect your children if you allow them to have a cell phone. There are a lot of bad people out there who want to rob them of their innocence. Be cautious.
If you do buy one: MONITOR APPS
Be careful about the apps that your children want to download. Many are violent, curse, and are the antithesis of what Paul says in Philippians 4:8. In this verse Paul says, “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” Just because many of your children’s friends have an app on their phone doesn’t mean that your child needs it as well. Check the ratings, read the reviews and be careful before you decide to download it. Also, be thoughtful about what can be done on the apps. Snapchat is a perfect example of an app that can lead to all sorts of trouble. Why would your child want their conversations and pictures to instantly disappear after they sent them to someone? Your child isn’t Ethan Hunt in “Mission Impossible.” There is no reason for them to need messages and pictures to “self-destruct” in a few seconds. I highly recommend that destructive apps like snapchat be deleted. Snapchat has no real redeeming qualities for a believer.
My 12 year-old came to my room the other night and asked my wife and I if she could have a cell phone for Christmas. I told her a two-word answer that she could memorize. “No hope.” She has no hope of getting one before she is 16 and when she finally does get one at 16, it will be carefully monitored. When I told her that, she laughed out-loud. Once again, it gave my wife and I the opportunity to explain to her that she is our treasure. We want to the best of our ability to help her remain pure in both body and soul before the Lord. It is not our intention at all to be a killjoy, but if she wants to facetime a friend or make a call, she is able to use our phones any time. Call me the Phone-Grinch if you want this Christmas but taking this chance is just not worth it to me. Whatever you decide Christian, remember that one day you will answer to the Lord for how you raised your children. Use wisdom.
- J. Alan Branch. Born This Way, 2016. page 43
- Ibid. 43
- Ibid. 45
- All Scriptures taken from the NASB Bible