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START HERE: Smartphones

Today we’re getting to the bottom of smartphones, and we’re doing it quickly.

My hope for this episode, and for this podcast in general, is to give more than just “good” answers when it comes to tech. My goal is to point you as a parent toward hope.

So, does your child need a smartphone? No.

But if you stop there, you might get the right answer and miss the real point: an opportunity to parent and love your child where they are!

So listen to today’s conversation, we’ll talk through five reasons smartphones are a net-loss for children under 16, and we’ll also talk through what it looks like to prepare your child for a tech world.

Want more on this conversation? Check out Episode 160 on the Gospel Tech Podcast!

 Resources Mentioned:

The Haidt & Twenge document on social media

Parental Control App: BARK

Dumb Phone: Gab Wireless – Use the promo code GospelTech10 for 10% off.

Book on addiction: Hooked by Nir Eyal


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

Hello everyone and welcome to the Gospel Tech podcast. My name is Nathan Sutherland and this podcast is dedicated to helping families love God and use tech. Today we are finishing our start here series. This is the sixth and final episode of the Start Here series. We have talked about how to know if our tech use is healthy, how to adopt new tech how to talk about pornography and video games, and today we are going to be talking about smart phones. I saved the best for last. Today’s conversation is going to be kind of a big picture look at when we talk about smartphones, we’re not going to dump in or jump into, excuse me, how we know if smartphones are a good idea for our children. Instead, we’re going to look more at, well, basically it’s going to be talking about why smartphones aren’t a necessity.

Spoiler alert we’re going to be looking at why. However, smartphones may not be the best call for our kids. We can talk a little bit about how to know if our children are trustworthy. That was also a previous episode, but really diving into what are smartphones? What is this conversation and how do we as parents who love our kids, give them good gifts? And if we know that something may not be a good gift for them, how do we handle that conversation well so that it’s not just us sounding like we don’t understand our children or don’t care. Both of those are unsatisfactory and undesirable outcomes. Instead, we really want our children to understand we do love them. It’s actually out of the incredible depths of our love that we are going to sometimes put cautionary protections up, cautionary distance and intentionally redirect their focus sometimes to better options because when they ask us for an egg or they ask us for fish, we don’t want to hand them a scorpion or a snake. So that’s kind of our conversation today with smartphones. So <laugh>, with no further ado, let’s get this conversation started. Welcome to the Gospel Tech Podcast, a resource for parents who feel overwhelmed and outpaced as they raise healthy youth and 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’s helped make this podcast possible. Thank you for listening right now, giving your time and your focus. Thank you. Thank you for sharing and ratings so that other people can find this content and be blessed as they walk through how to love God and use tech. And thank you for supporting us financially. We are a non-profit. Anna and I do this work because we are donors supported, so thank you. Some of you gone to You’ve given there. You’ve gone to, which is the nonprofit organization that this is a ministry of. Thank you for joining us on this journey and being a part of it. That’s amazing. Today’s c conversation is going to be about smartphones, and this is very pertinent because just this week I had the opportunity to do a talk at a house, actually. A co-op of homeschoolers brought me in and had a really cool conversation with 20 people and what I love about the small ones, the big ones are cool too because you get kind of the huge conversation when you turn to a neighbor. You can hear the buzz of the audience is everyone’s really engaged, but in the smaller groups you get the individual questions. Yeah, but right, the clarifications and all right, how does that apply to my kid? And it was super cool. It went way into the wee hours. It was supposed to be done at eight something and I think I left it almost 10 and that’s so cool and so exciting to me. And what I loved was the smartphone part portion of that conversation. It was on the big three. So the first of a two part series of talks I do is the big three where we talk smartphones, video games, pornography, very similar actually to what you’ve heard in this podcast series for start here.

So I’m excited about this because this is top of my mind and there were things that I didn’t have a chance to share last night that I want to be able to share today. So when we start this, I mentioned in the intro we’re talking smartphones and for context, we already know from this start here series how to check and see if technology’s a good choice for our child right now. And we do that by asking if it’s a good fit for our family. Does it fit our family expectations? Is it just healthy in general? Is this technology a good decision? And we look at whether it has it’s Tool or Drool Tech and we look at whether it’s going to give them access to the internet and whether there’s a web browser, whether it can be held accountable. We have those pieces. That’s another podcast.

Go back and listen to the start here. How do we set, oh goodness, now I don’t remember the title, but how do we adopt new tech? That’s the conversation. Then we can also look at, all right, is my child currently healthy? Is tech trust there and that’s Luke 1610. Are they faithful in the little things? Have we stepped them up to something that is as or as equal to in responsibility as a smartphone, right? I mean, this is driving a car levels of potential damage if things go wrong and we want to make sure that we’re checking the boxes to ensure that they are ready for it and when things go wrong that we are ready to intervene well. So that’s another conversation you can check out. Today then we’re saying, all right, smartphones, when we assess smartphones, they generally don’t come out on the net positive side for a good idea.

Now, if you’ve already given your child a smartphone, I’ll give this to you upfront. You say, Hey, my kid already has a smartphone and we’re talking kids 16 and younger. If you have a 17 or an 18 year old and they want a smartphone and they’re showing themselves as trustworthy with this technology because of how they treat their siblings and how they do their work and how they right handle themselves in real life, that’s awesome. There’s absolutely a time and a space to start training them for the real world. What we’re also seeing, however, is that kids are going to college and they’re dropping their smartphones because most kids when they say, I want a smartphone, they want social media that that’s actually what they mean and they want social media so they can belong and be on the end crowd and they can feel like they’re connected with their friends.

Well, when they go to college, they sometimes do use social media, but that whole being on the in crowd thing often dissipates. They now are going to college because they have a passion and they realize, wait a minute, I’m not using this phone to reach my goals. This phone is using me and I actually need that attention elsewhere. So we’re finding that kids are dropping it, they’re using the social media, they do use through their devices like laptops and they’re getting dumb phones, and so they still have GPS. They still can text, but they don’t need the constant tap of a smartphone. So what I would argue is if you have a younger kid, absolutely go through the process of using a public device and then a dumb phone, then a shared device, and then certainly if they’re still interested, get ’em a smartphone that has appropriate accountability.

But we’re seeing a lot of kids reach 17, 18 and then go to college and go, wait a minute, that isn’t as important to me as it used to be. I have other goals, and that thing doesn’t support it. So just know you’re not depriving your child of a childhood by not allowing them a smartphone. So by giving them a dumb phone or no phone your child will still grow up and be well adjusted As an adult giving your child a smartphone, you’re not going to ruin them. You do need to make sure they’re trustworthy, that you have accountability set up and that you have that level of conversation so that, and when something goes sideways you are able to be that first line of defense once, as we call it, the hedge is breached, right? Once the distance between them in harm has been crossed, now you need to intervene in love and be able to assess and I guess suss out what has gone wrong.

So just know that that is going to be your responsibility. You’re going to have to model healthy tech, be a part of assessing when things are healthy or unhealthy, using something like a reset and then removing and replacing when it’s not healthy and that’s out of love, not out of fear. You’re not punishing them because you’re mad at them. You’re simply intervening and extricating things that are causing damage. You saw your kid got bit by a snake that you gave them, remove the snake, now. I t’s time that’s gone too far. So I’m just putting that up at the front because the rest of this conversation is let’s wrap our heads around smartphones as a decision and now try to walk through when is it the best time to actually do this? So that first part, their parents, if you already gave a smartphone, now your opportunity is to live into that.

And yes, parents, if you gave your kid a smartphone already, there’s always the opportunity for you as a loving parent to say, Hey, I messed up <laugh>. Like you might’ve just listened to that first part and go, but my kid, I don’t know that they’re healthy and ready for this. I don’t know that this is a good decision. In fact, I think that they’re not trustworthy with this and I think it’s a bad decision. It is perfectly reasonable as the giver of that gift to go, Hey, I made a mistake. I’m going to need that back. I’m going to get you another one, a dumb phone, right? I’m going to give you these other options. I’m going to give you some way to show and develop trust and relationship, and in the future this could be a cool option, but right now this isn’t. That’s perfectly reasonable as well.

Please hear me saying that the goal is your child’s health and future and allowing them to have a childhood not forcing them to handle adult decisions before their brain is ready or before their hearts and minds are ready. So when we look at smartphones, then this conversation about smartphones really falls down to the five reasons smartphones don’t add up to a positive decision for our young people. And the first is simply that they’re app delivery systems. They are not smartphones. That’s much more hyperbole or metaphor at this point. The idea of a smartphone is that when you purchase a smartphone, the company that sold you that is not making money from your thousand dollars purchase, they’re making money from the apps that you have on that device. That is what gives them power, is the fact that those apps are now built in for entertainment and distraction.

Certainly there are some amazing ones. I use some great ones for fitness and some ones for work, and absolutely there are really cool things that smartphones allow you to do. But we’re talking about youth here, and when we look at app delivery systems aimed at youth, there is yet to be a point where par parenting your child in a digital space is as easy as it is in the regular world. And we all know that parenting isn’t easy. So the fact that the digital space makes it that much harder makes it that much easier to run into unsafe people and unsafe content. It’s not helpful or helpful that it is an app delivery system. By and large, the idea behind most apps that you’re going to download is that they’re drool tech. So they want to take your time, your focus in your money, which means right off the bat that phone is fighting you and fighting your child on good decisions.

Your child needs sleep, that thing’s going to fight sleep. Your child needs peace and quiet and the ability to have their own thoughts and real world relationships. That phone is going to fight those that child needs to be able to develop in their understanding of the world around them and their own passion, skills and abilities. That phone is going to encourage them to instead, invest that time and effort into goals that are set for them, be that through games or be that through leaderboards or be that through social pressures, through social media, they’re going to be fed other goals and be convinced they now need these things that they never even wanted and we’ll know they need them or that they’re convinced they need them because they’re going to give up things like their sleep, their real world friend group their passions, interests, and giftings.

They’re going to give up their studies and get distracted to because they’re going to prioritize this thing instead. And now you’re giving up your needs to get to what you want, and that’s the definition of an addiction. So we want to make sure that we are being intentional, that phones we understand are really cool and there’s a lot of perks to them. But one reason the downsides outweigh the upsides is they, they’re app delivery systems, which means they’re fighting for your attention. They’re not neutral. They’re designed to get you to come back more often than you want, spend more than you intended and stay longer than you had planned. So that’s the first reason smartphone’s not a great decision for kids under the age of 16. Two is that social media and mental health go hand in hand and almost every kid who says mom or dad, I want a smartphone.

What they mean is I want social media. One of the main things that these devices deliver is entertainment, and one of the primary ways they bring entertainment is through social media. I guess we’ll go on twofold. So we’ll start with the distraction side of the entertainment delivered by these devices and on that focus on social media. So social media is designed to take your time, your focus, and your money, and there’s a number of ways they do this. A short list goes through notifications, so it’ll ping you when someone sends you a message, but sometimes it just pings you when you haven’t done anything in a while, and you’ll notice that tool tech does not do this. So Microsoft Word never sends you a note at 11:00 PM of like, Hey, haven’t seen you typing here for a while. It just doesn’t work that way because it’s designed to only help you write and then it’s waits until you come back to write it.

It’s much more like a bicycle. Social media is not. It is the very no nosy and annoying an acquaintance, I was going to say accomplice, but acquaintance. So notifications is one the infinite scroll where you can go down a feed and there is no bottom. It just constantly is bringing new content, the swipe to refresh design where you have to pull down on the screen and it gives you that little swirly symbol and then it pops up new information. So our social media does that. Sometimes our news apps do this. That is a design feature. They certainly could just give you the information and let you find it, but that is every time you kind of get a little bored, but you don’t want to quit yet. You can just swipe and see if it gets you new stuff. That is a design feature for retention of attention.

The candy colors on them, if you don’t believe me, make your screen black and white for a week. You will notice a difference. Most people don’t make it a couple days because it’s just so unsatisfying and they’ll find some excuse for it, but it is different when you have black and white. Those colors are there. The vibrant colors now in 4K and Oled and all the ways that we can get the deepest blacks and the brightest blues and yellows and greens it is intentional because our brains like that. Another one would be likes and follows if it ties in behavioral and social belonging as part of the rewards system. So if you can like things, if you can follow people, if you can comment on it, that is social and that can have an engaging effect. This is why YouTubers are so popular or Twitch streamers or these personalities where they’re not necessarily special and good at any one thing other than being engaging and they create content and we get these, we’re attracted to them as individuals and as people and by their content and personalities, and we just enjoy being kind of in that space that is part of the likes and follow.

So when we then get as Nir Eyal would explain in his book Hooked when we have a trigger like I’m bored or I need to go look this thing up, and I go now to YouTube and I invest in YouTube and now I get a variable reward and likes and follows. It could be a, could be a follow, it could be a comment. It doesn’t even have to be a nice comment, just someone commenting on my thing. One bumps my likelihood of being seen by others and two shows me that mattered. Now I got some feedback and I stirred the waters and I’m part of this conversation now so that now I’m invested and now the next time I feel bored or need to go find something, I’m more likely to follow that same route. That is intentional behavioral design. And we do want to be knowledgeable that for young people that can feel like a loop that’s hard to pull out of.

There’s always fear of missing out going on. Always wondered when you’re away if you’ve missed something. Adults, we see this as well both on social media and in news that we have that itch just to find if something else might be there. It impacts our sleep and comparison becomes a real thing, and then it rolls right into social media impacting mental health, which is the second part. So yes, distraction is a part for our second reason why smartphones can be negative on the scales of o options for our children. But the second reason social media other than distraction and being designed for distraction is the fact that social media is proving to not be great for developing brains. I want to be very clear on this. Not everyone who’s on social media is unhealthy. Not every child is, please go see the reset conversation about this.

There is a way to assess if your kid is dealing with this. There are conversations to have to be a p art of your child’s experience without just following them on the internet and waiting for them to make mistakes. There’s actually a way to be proactive and relational and loving going to your child in the space that they’re in. But I will point you specifically to Jean Twenge of San Diego State. Jonathan Haidt. Haidt, I believe is actually how I say that of New York University, and they have done a number of pieces separately, but they’ve over the last year and a half really they’ve released a Google Doc. I’ll put it in the show notes, but it’s amazing. You can also find it off Jonathan Haidt’s. Oh my goodness, I’m going to forget the name of his book. I didn’t write it down.

It’s not Nurture Shock. It’s the other one Coddling of the American Mind. Yes. So if you go to his website, you can find this document on his Coddling of the American Mind website, but basically they’ve put together 250 plus pages of research and links and kind of notes that they’ve jotted down to kind of help discern is social media actually a problem or is this just another digital scare where people are like, it’s new and we don’t like it, so get off my lawn. You’re bad for kids. And they’ll walk through lots of comparisons and they’re like, Hey, playing video games by and large isn’t all that bad for you. <laugh> like having just internet space isn’t all that bad for you. Something is unique about social media though, and they try to tease that out so you can check that out for yourself. I’ll give you three takeaways from this gigantic document though.

The first is that there is an association between social media and bad mental health, meaning there is a direct connection proven repeatedly through research over the last five to eight years where social enters the picture and so does then depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation Twenge is 2017. So if you go Twenge at all 2017, she has an awesome paper that looks at that direct to the point where at five hours a day on social media the likelihood of suicidal ideation goes up 61%, I believe 61 or 66. I don’t recall which of the two it was off the top of my head but that’s the first thing. There is an association between the entrance of social media and bad mental health, and they explain why you have to be looking at data that comes 2012 and later because that was a pivot point for social media and how al algorithms worked and what kind of content and engagement they encouraged between people.

So really, we’ve only had 10 years to do this research, which is why I said five to eight years is kind of that window of where the really heavy hitting stuff starts showing up because yeah, it takes a couple years for good research to start coming out and people start following up on those threads. Second is that social media can be a predictor for mental health by this. So one, there’s an association between social media and mental health. The second is it can actually predict mental health in the future. That being said, if you find a study that’s like, well, we didn’t find anything between this. Often those studies, as is pointed out in this document, look at weeks within a month or days within a week. So hey, we had these students use this for two weeks and we didn’t see any fluctuation, but what we’re finding is that over the course of a year or even longer, it is a predictor that this amount of use equals this amount of mental D duress and that is something that is consistent across.

So there were 15 studies that didn’t find any connection between social media and mental health, but all of those were over the course of days for a short period of time. And then the other 17 studies that did find it were all over the course of a year or longer, and they consistently showed, yes, we can predict where you’ll be a year from now based on your social media use right now. Again, not to freak you out, but to inform you and if it happens to freak you out. Okay, now in love, let’s respond to that. Not in terror, not in fear, not in like we’re going to go run away to an island somewhere. You can’t run far enough away from what is happening because of the problem is really our hearts and we’re seeking the answers in social media, but we do need to know that mental health is impacted by social media.

The third then being it isn’t just impacted. There’s actually a causal effect in social media and mental health outcomes. So specifically like a doubling rate in depression as one moves from light use, which would be an hour or less every day to heavy use, which is that five or more hours a day and that’s from Kelly@all in 2019 and even a large decline in depressive symptoms when college students reduced social media use Hunt@all in 2018. So what we hear from this is twofold. Smartphones, they’re a net negative when it comes to our children under the age of 16 because they’re app delivery systems and because of social media slash mental health, those two are connected. The first part of social media being the distraction piece that they’re designed to take your attention to keep you longer than you wanted to. They’re not just to connect to your friends.

They’re not the Microsoft word of social connections. That might be email, email’s closest. It certainly can be misused, but I would say email is probably the closest thing you have to, it only does what you tell it to do but then you also have that social media and the current way it’s designed for Snapchat and Instagram and TikTok it has really negative impacts on mental health of young people. Yes, there are some blurry numbers and data pieces because we don’t always separate pre-teen from teen. We don’t always separate boys from girls. We don’t. The data isn’t as clean as we’d like but looking through that document in the show notes, we’ll help you with that if you want to look further. So two reasons down. Third reason smartphones don’t make sense for young people is because of strangers. If you look at Bark, go, they’re an amazing program designed to help keep kids safe online and empower parents to parent.

They made profiles for 11 year old, 15 year old, 17 year old. All three of those profiles received unwanted, unsolicited direct messages requesting video chat and including sexual images. The ones sent to the 11 year old bark notes were the most profane, they were the most disturbing, and it started within 90 seconds of that account popping up on Instagram. That’s really important for us to know because when we talk about strangers online, we often think I do, at least I’m 40 years old and I think of my experience on the internet in the mid-1990s. I have dial up and you might run into strangers on AOL and they can be creepy or news articles. You hear about people on Roblox and like, well, that’s creepy that people go to these spaces. But we are also talking that it gets a lot more personal, a lot faster because with a smartphone, the message has come straight to your child.

It’s not on a Reddit forum. It’s not out there on a search that we hope they don’t make, and we hope to intercept and intervene. This is coming directly to our child’s account that we created. They now have a personal portal to the internet and to all the strangers that go there and that is not something that is a net gain for our children. Yes, there are things we can do to make it safer. Parental controls searches limiting certain opportunities, but at the end of the day, this is the internet and the internet is what it is. It’s a digital cul-de-sac where people go to hang out and it’s located next to a freeway and a federal penitentiary in the Red Light District at midnight. That’s where that cul-de-sac is, and when we allow our children individual access to that, it can go sideways in a hurry and strangers are one of those ways.

A study by common sense media showed that kids are spending eight and a half hours a day on Drool Tech on entertainment media, of which social media is one of those really high ones. And Twenge’s study in 2017 found that five plus hours a day on social media specifically has a direct negative correlation increase of 61 to 66%. Again, I’m sorry I didn’t have that number written down, but it’s over 60% likelihood or increased likelihood of experiencing depression and suicidal ideation. That’s really important. The second part of that is the bully side. So sure, they might beat meet strangers, but the more time you spend online, it’s just mathematical, the more likely you are to bump into a bully or a situation where bullying was involved. Cyber bullying increased in 2020. A study by Light found that 70% excuse me, there was a 70% increase in bullying and abusive language among kids and teens on social media and chat forums and that was actually put out by the National Geographics.

So just recognizing that more time online means more opportunities to meet mean people. The fourth thing that smartphones are going to bring into your life is the odds of running into pornography. According to Screen Strong, the average age of initial exposure to pornography is 11 currently which is terrifying. But that that’s important for us to keep in mind and that boys 12 to 17 are the largest consumers of online pornography. That’s 2014, which in the last eight and a half years, that stat has probably gone up. That age has probably dropped along with average exposure. So just keep in mind that the phone is the easiest way to access pornography. Often it’s accidental, but once you’ve seen it, you’re going to have questions. You’re going to be intrigued. You might feel terrible about it, but you might also get really excited because that’s a new novel concept that we are wired for.

Sexual intimacy is something people are made for. And if our children are finding out about sexual intimacy from pornography, well we’re finding out that’s messing up their brains. Go read the research on It’s incredible. It’s very hard to read. It’ll be very traumatizing. Sometimes that’s necessary to parent well. Maybe go with a buddy, but the research is pretty comprehensive that any positives that can be found from viewing pornography are grossly outweighed by the negatives. Negatives to the people involved, negatives to the cultures that allow it negatives to the individuals who are consuming it. It is still a unilateral action that is consuming and setting expectations that are not fit in reality and not fit for loving compatible relationships. So we need to understand that since pornography is out there, since pornography is rampant on the internet and since smartphones allow a very high level of independence, there’s a likelihood that our children will stumble into it.

There’s also a likelihood that they will be exposed to it through the internet, potentially just minding their own business and someone sending them something as simple as an airdrop on another phone. If you have iPhones, we can just unilaterally send people messages and it shows you the image even if you want to decline it at that level of exposure. And we just need to be intentional with that. If you want more on pornography, last episode, 159, we talk about it and also episode 128, crash course number five. When we talk about smartphones, we can go more into that piece there. The fifth and final reason why our children will not benefit from smartphones under the age of 16 is that smartphones are now full on gaming platforms. So we talked about distraction, all right, that’s true with social media, but video games are out there too, and video games are not the video games that we grew up with on the original Nintendo.

These are not just little cutesy games on phones, but you need a real platform like a Xbox or a Steam deck or a PC in order to really get into games. Instead, these are full-blown games, they are cross-platform often meaning your child on a smartphone can play this game against someone who’s on a computer or an Xbox. So just a couple numbers. In 2020, $179 billion was generated from video games, 41 billion being in the US alone. That was 28% more than the NFL, MLB and NHL combined. So in 2020 video games in the US brought in 28% more revenue than three of the biggest sports combined. The level when we talk about the amount of investment now that’s directed towards video games because companies aren’t stupid. You got all of your trillion dollar companies, Amazon and Google and Microsoft. They’re all look and Meta. They’re all looking to the digital space and to gaming for their future revenue, and they recognize the value of retention and the value of entertainment and absolutely this is entertaining.

I’ve watched eSports leagues, I think they’re really neat. I think there’s a lot of cool stuff out there. I have yet to see someone do that in a way where I would say, yes, I want my child to be a part of that. It’s interesting. It’s super exciting and for me it’s kind of like a digital WWE. I enjoy watching it. I don’t think it’s healthy not thinking that the WWE folk are headed down a great path, but entertainment wise, yeah, amazing. I would choose that over many things. So I understand where video games are going and the excitement it is. I do want us to understand as well though that our smartphones are built to participate in that world. They’re not some kind of step down and well, it’s a smartphone video game, so it’s not as extreme or intense or well-designed or engaging.

It’s all those things cause it’s the exact same game. Average gamer right now is 33, used to be 38 before Covid but fun fact more people over the age of 45 play video games in the US than people under the age of 18. So we do want to be aware that this isn’t just a kid issue. We’re modeling this for our children. We are the ones leading the gaming market. The 45 plus age group is the, we’re the ones mainly investing in our funds and investing in our time and energy, and our children are learning from that and then playing the games that we enjoy because let’s be serious, most of those games are made for people with 20 plus years of gaming experience under their belt and we’re hardened grizzled gaming veterans and we need something exciting and raw to really get us going in our gaming world.

And now an 11 year old picks that up and gets that as their base level of dose for gaming. And you can imagine why VR is becoming a thing. We need that next thing and if it’s not seared directly into my retinas, it’s not cutting it. So three things about games now. One, they can be hyper stimulating, they’re just, they move faster than real life. A lot of flashing, a lot of noise is very quick reactions, which is fun and exhilarating. And if you have a gamer who plays first person shooters or some of those really intense games, they might come away like shaking and sweating and clamming hands. That’s just fight and flight happening. Your child is experiencing as though they’re in a real world combat situation even though their body or their brain knows that’s not the case, their body doesn’t. So second is there can be unhealthy and unhelpful content, and that can be anything from encouraging game design that is encouraging microtransactions for your kid to spend money to feel like they’re not missing out.

To content that is really heavy, especially when you deal with one of the ones is kind of resurfacing is last of us a zombie survival game, which the content on that, the concept of survival and friendship and belonging and purpose and life in general. It’s heavy and it’s often played by young kids because, well, it’s a video game, like video games are no longer just Mario Brothers. They are full cinematic experiences and they carry all the themes of that as well. In fact, I would say they do a better job with some of those themes than many movies because players take their time with it, players process it, and that can be really cool, but you’d better know what’s in that game. Go back and listen to the start here video game episode if you want more on that. Finally, games are meant to be fun. And I guess just know that some games are no longer designed as games.

They’re designed as attention traps and we just want to be aware of that when we think about smartphones, then <laugh>, right? We just need to remember one, they’re app delivery systems. Two, their social media and mental health. I guess I want to use the word trap, but I don’t think that’s accurate. They’re social media platforms and that means they’re a mental health concern. I’ll say it that way. Three is that strangers and bullies are on the Internets and smartphones are all about getting on the Internets. So the more time you spend on there, the more likely you’re going to bump into one of these folk yes groups like Bark. If you have chosen the smartphone path, please use bark. It’s amazing. The fourth is pornography and we just need to be aware that exposure pornography is real. That is actually damaging to our children’s minds and the views of others.

We could go to the pornography episode to talk more about that. And the fifth is that video games are alive and well, they’re growing. That doesn’t make them bad it just makes us know smartphones delivering all five of these things mean that that is a lot of distraction and a lot of mental fortitude that has to go into staying focused. And our children don’t even have the fully developed frontal cortex to handle that meaning the part of their brain that helps them mitigate decisions where they go, oh man, I want to – oh, wait, I already said I was going to do something else. They don’t have that. It’s not just that your child doesn’t want to, it’s that sometimes they are physically isn’t enough in brain development to help them, and it doesn’t go until like 25. So our goal then is to delay the amount of time as Chris McKenna from Protect Young Eyes says that they can have a childhood.

And I love that idea this idea of we just let them have friends, let them have experiences, let them have fun. Certainly play a game or two, enjoy that, and then be able to walk away. And it’s very hard to do when that smartphone is in your pocket and it’s always right there. So when we look at smartphones, they’re a net loss. And I would encourage you, if you child really wants a smartphone listen to the previous two about how do we know if it’s a good choice for our family and how do we adopt new tech, that tech trust side of it. But starting with a shared family device, it’s in a public space like a computer. Great, you can go on social media, you can view it from this public computer. We can all see it at the same time to going up to a dumb phone.

Gab Wireless is the one I encourage. If you go Gospel Tech 10 at checkout, you’ll get 10% off. We’ve partnered with them because we really believe in Gab’s product. It’s designed as a dumb phone, meaning it’s not a smartphone that’s been locked and you can upgrade later. It is a dumb phone. It looks like a smartphone. It’s beautiful. I have a Samsung A 11 over here next to me, and it looks just like a Samsung, but when turn it on, it’s not an Android operating system. It’s actually Gabs operating system. So no web browser, no app store, no ability to send or receive pictures, but you can still take pictures, you can store them on there, you can text you can make phone calls has GPS. It has the basic functions that we need phones for and it actually functions as a phone. And Bark is doing a, or excuse me, Gab is doing a great job with that.

So get a Gab dumb phone and then go shared device. So yeah, you can use mom and dad’s device. This is real smartphone, real internet but there’s still accountability on there and eventually graduating to, once they’ve proven their trustworthiness in along the journey they can graduate to a smartphone if they want one. I have found that a lot of kids want that access and connectivity, and a lot of kids realize by the time they’re 16, 17, 18, man, I’m watching my friends and I don’t really love what’s happening. I want to belong, but I don’t love the things that come with belonging in this way. And they start to wrestle with that conversation of is this worth it? And that’s all we want. If they say, yes, it is awesome. They’ve at least recognized it. They now have tools to recognize that they’ve seen it from an outsider’s perspective and they know that you’re on their team fighting for them, not with them when it comes to technology.

And that’s what we want. So go Gab Wireless, if they have a smartphone, use Bark. Gospel Tech is the checkout code for Bark. That’ll get you a discount as well for our listeners. So go ahead and support those awesome companies. And whatever you do though, when it comes to smartphones, make sure you’re having these conversations with your young person. Point them to resources where they can be connected and they can know that you are fighting for them knowing that they can bring all their concerns and their fears and even their mistakes to you because that’s amazing. Because our goal here isn’t just avoid all the bad stuff in the world. Our goal is give our children the best stuff, they’re good or we’re good parents, <laugh> as good parents, we want to give them good things. And as young people, we want to make sure that we are giving them what they’ve asked for.

When they ask for something good, we want to give ’em something good. And smartphones, oftentimes for young people, it’s just a leap too far. There’s too much that can go wrong. There’s too much danger involved. That’s not speaking from a fear perspective, that’s speaking from a love perspective of as someone who wants to give my kids great things, this doesn’t add up, it’s, it’s too much risk for the reward I’m going to get. So I hope this was encouraging to you. I hope the start here series is something you feel like you can return to and listen to and something you can share with your friends when they have questions, comments, and concerns you can give to ’em. I know this one went a little long but man, I wanted to give you enough. So when you hear smartphones, you know more than just, ah, smartphones bad.

You can hear like, well, no, like smartphones. They deliver things to my child. And that makes it hard to parent. And you know what? They really are fighting some of our intentional choices as parents. And you know what? That’s not somewhere I would send my kid in real life. Why would I send them there in a digital space? I hope that that helped you process through those five. And then as you make the decision to give them a smartphone or to process the phone, you’ve already given, you now have talking points for that because you know where to look, where to seek if something is going wrong. And if it is that removing a smartphone in love is always a healthy loving option. That doesn’t make you a bad parent. It doesn’t make anyone a failure. It’s not a reflection on your child’s value or on yours. Instead, it is simply a way to help your child have space to make better decisions, to make mistakes harder to make, and to give them a little bit of distance from some of the mean people and bad situations that can happen on the innerwebs when things do go sideways. So I hope this was encouraging to you. I hope you’ll share it with others who could use it as well, and that you’ll join me next week as we continue this conversation about how we can love God and use tech.

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