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START HERE: Adopting New Tech

If you haven’t heard it yet, it’s coming for you: “Mom / Dad, I want that new _______ (insert newfangled tech)”.

What do you say? You want to give your child amazing things they want, but how do you know if this is a good idea?

Today we’re going to build the base for this conversation and equip you with everything you need to answer this question well. Whether its an app, game, device, show, or album, you will be empowered to do more than win: you’ll be empowered to parent.

The basis of the conversation is three simple questions:

  1. Is it safe? (Matt. 7:7-10)
  2. Does it meet family expectations? (1 Cor. 10:23)
  3. Does it support your child’s goals & purpose? (Luke 6:45, Gal. 5:19-23)
With this foundation you can address new tech in hope, not fear, and gain some parenting wins along the way.


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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 used tech. This is the second episode of our Start Here series and today we are talking about adopting new tech, meaning your child returns from school, from a friend’s house. They, I don’t know, see an ad and they go, oh, mom or dad, I want to watch this show, play this game, have this new device, join this app, whatever the thing is, there’s a new technology. They want a smartphone, they want a smartwatch, they want that new dog that you can program and have it move around, right? Whatever the thing is, they come to you with a new desire for a new technology. You have to make the call on whether that’s a good fit for your family and today we’re going to learn, in the next 20 minutes, how to do that well specifically not device by device or item by item, but how to have the big picture conversation, so that yes, you are equipped to have these conversations and not feel like you’re up against the ropes. But also so you can empower your children to think through technology well, to do so out of the hope of the gospel, and intentionally, with their purpose in mind. that it isn’t just about using the next cool tech or making excuses for why it’s okay, but we can intentionally know like, yes, this lines up. No, this does not. We have a conversation point to at least have now with our family member and a process for assessing new technology to make sure it’s healthful, that it fits our family expectations and that it fits our child’s purpose and their goals. So, that’s where we’re headed today. Thank you for joining us and 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 in a tech world. As an educator, parent and tech user, I want to equip parents with the tools, resources, and confidence they need to raise kids who love God and use tech.

Thank you to everyone who has helped make this podcast possible. Thank you for listening, for subscribing so you don’t miss new content and for rating and reviewing. Basically, what that means is thank you for helping this podcast grow. It’s been an amazing blessing to be able to talk to you each week about loving God and using tech. And my goal and doing this is threefold. I want every parent to be able to talk about healthy tech with their kids. You love your kids, you’re around them way more than I am, and you get that hands-on conversational loving relationship, where talking about tech is just going to be a normal part of life, and I want you to be able to do that. Then I want you to be able to communicate the gospel clearly, because it’s not the rules of the Bible that we’re talking about here, but the gospel. The hope that we have, that God saves sinners, which is what the rules of the Bible are showing us that we need a savior. They are loving and good. They show us how our hearts work, as Tim Keller would say, but they’re not where we end. Instead, there’s another greater good, that we are saved from our sins by grace and we’re saved for good works. And that’s that last part. I want every parent to be able to connect the hope of the gospel to their daily tech lives so that you indeed are raising up young people who can love God and use tech. You’re raising up healthy youth in a tech world who are going to go and make just amazing differences on this planet, not for their nation necessarily, but for the kingdom of God, because God is working in them and then through them. So, that’s my hope in doing this today, our conversation is focused around adopting new tech and there’s really three questions we’re going to talk about.

So first we’re going to ask, is it safe? When your child comes to you and wants that new device or that new show or that new music album or to watch that new influencer or whatever the question might be… The first thing you need to address is, well, is this thing you’re asking me for safe?

The second is, does it match our family expectations?

And the third is, does it support your child’s purpose and potential? And before I go on anymore, I forgot to address the conversation here, the start here sections, are so that if you have a friend who has big questions or if you yourself are just kind of getting into this, you don’t have to start at episode one. Start right here. Start at the previous episode actually where we talk big picture. How do we even talk about healthy tech? And then start here where we’re talking to adopt new tech, and then next week it’s how do we build tech trust and know if my child is a good fit for this. Not I know the tech might be okay, but what about my kid? How do we handle that kind of conversation? And we’ll progress right on through till basically the end of February so that there’ll be six or so episodes where you can dive right in or send it to a friend and know that it’ll be concise and helpful. So, that’s the whole idea of this.

So, then these three questions returning to today’s episode. First question is, is it safe? And our biblical foundation for this question is Matthew seven, seven through 10 where Jesus says, ask and it will be given to you. Seek and you will find knock and it will be open to you. For everyone who asks, receives and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks, it will be opened or which one of you if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone and which if he asks for a fish will give him a serpent. If you then who are evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him?

The reason this is really important is because we want to make sure we’re giving our children good gifts. They ask us for good things. We as loving parents, we’re actually showing the character and nature of God by wanting to give our kids awesome things. You want to give them great gifts for Christmas, which we just passed, but just in life we want our children to have joy and just to enjoy life to its fullest, and that is a good God-given drive within us as parents. However, it can get me manipulated and it can be misunderstood, meaning we can either get kind of tricked by good marketing or by our children or by our desire to be liked. To give our children things that are not good, we end up giving them the stone or the serpent on accident or we simply don’t investigate it well enough and we just go, yeah, sure, grab it. And we don’t actually make sure that it’s not one of those things. So, when we say, is it safe, we’re talking as a device. Is this a good idea to give to anybody <laugh>, right? And there’s really four questions we’re going to go. first, Is it tool tech or drool tech? You’ll have to listen to last week’s if you want to go too much more into that. But the basic idea is, is it designed, is this piece of technology designed to create or to consume? Does it help you do what you want to do or does it have an extra goal to take your time, your focus and your money? Again, go to last week’s episode if you want to dive into how to better discern that.

The second question we go is, all right, does it have a web browser? Because web browsers bring with them the concerns of strangers, pornography, and distraction. If this thing has access to the internet, doesn’t make it bad, it just means that there’s layers of caution and responsibility and maturity they’re going to be needed. Third is does it relate socially? Meaning are there live people engaged in this interface, that my child is now going to be engaging with? And if so, there’s extra questions. What boundaries are there? Can we limit what that looks like? Again, increased risk to strangers, pornography, and distraction. And finally the fourth question we ask for, is it safe? Can it be held accountable? Can I put something like Bark which is an amazing, is an amazing program that helps us extend the trust we have in our children. So they’ve proven themselves trustworthy. Again, next we next week’s conversation, but they’ve proven themselves trustworthy in little things, so I’m going to extend this and there’s still a layer of accountability without invading that trust that they’ve earned. I’m giving them this piece of technology, I trust them with it and I want to verify. I just want to make sure it’s going to be safe. And when things go wrong, I want to be the first to respond in love. So, that’s Bark or something like Covenant Eyes, which is what I use on my personal phone and computer, family computer, and that’s more image-based. So, if inappropriate images pop up purposely or accidentally, it’s allows that conversation. So, that’s what I’m saying when I say held accountable, that’s the best way to do that.

So, to look at let’s start with some negative examples. So, if there was a music app, let’s say. so, if my child came and said, dad can I listen to music on Spotify for example, this is a good hot one for us to actually talk about. Spotify’s drool tech, meaning it’s designed to help you consume. it’s algorithm focused. So, yes, it lets you look up the music you want, but it’s always suggesting new music and it’s always trying to augment based on where you live and what you listen to. And when you… it builds a profile for you, and then tries to sell you more attention space based on what you listen to. It’s going to suggest videos, is going to suggest other podcasts based on what you listen to. It’s not bad. You need to know it is drool tech.

The second is that it has a browser feature, and this is fairly new. I actually just became aware of this last week. I thought it was like the Apple podcast listening or any of these other musical experiences. It is not. there isn’t browser aspect to Spotify. If you go to Spotify and search any amount of semi innocuous information, there are actually images that pop up. Some of them are video related, some of them are located on the internet, but hosted as an album in Spotify. and it is not even adult content, it’s pornography. And that is concerning. Actually just this last week I deleted Spotify, because I have other ways of listening to the stuff I want to listen to and it’s not worth me having that app on my phone. Well, for me, I don’t need that kind of heat in my life. and for my children I don’t need them. I have Audible, it’s got some pretty good parental controls and it’s much more tame. And I have then realized, wow, that browser isn’t worth it.

The third aspect would be it’s really hard to hold Spotify accountable. This is with full parental settings and privacy settings locked on. It doesn’t stop any of this content from coming across. So, if we look at something like a music app, we look at Spotify and we say, all right, what’s its purpose? Is there a browser? Is it social and relating to others? And can it be held accountable? it’s built to consume. It is a browser. it’s not social. It doesn’t specifically tie to other individuals relationally, or swap videos with people, but it can’t be held accountable. So, in that case, is it safe? I’d say Spotify, no. it’s not safe for young people. Adults, we can make wise decisions. You’re not going to explode from having it, but there certainly is a snake involved with this. It’s not purely what it says it is, and they have not yet fixed that. By the way. There are absolutely algorithmic filtering programs where you could say, Hey, scan for this type of image, remove everything and put it behind whatever. You can still have it there, but you can, I mean YouTube does this all the time and does it moderately successfully. Instagram less, but they’re working on it and Spotify has just chosen not to get on the train yet. So, that would be an example for a music app of, Hey, we’ve weighed this, it’s not worth it.

A game might be something like Roblox where you say, all right, well this game is built. Yes, there’s some tool aspect where you’re building and creating, but the goal is always do more. Play more, try more. It is drool tech. it is there to extend your focus, take your money in within game purchases, and take your time. get you to come back more often or stay longer than you intended. It is internet based therefore demands a browser. There are absolutely strangers involved with that and it is very tough again, to keep accountable, both from conversationally and then content wise. And Roblox is leaning towards creating servers and specific spaces for adult-only content, and that fact that they’re leaning into that, they’re saying it’s to make it safer for kids, but you’re actually drawing in. Like when you feed a monster, it just gets bigger. So I have yet to see areas where you say, Hey, we’re just going to create more of this content. We’re going to put our effort to make more money off this kind of content, but it’s cool. We will be able to keep these two parts separate. And that’s not true. It hasn’t been true for Roblox so far. They do struggle with stranger danger and with people coming into kids’ spaces, and being unsafe and unkind. and if you are building spaces for them to exercise and practice that and it’s the same game, it’s just a different server, it’s there’s going to be crossover, it’s going to happen. So, I would say a game like Roblox doesn’t make it.

And then for social media, something like TikTok. yes, it’s drool tech. Yes, it has a browser. Yes, it is social. You interact with others, you watch their feeds, they watch yours, and it is very tough to keep accountable. The content, the conversations and the images that are shared there can be very unhealthy. There’s some great biblical content on there, but it’s not a majority of the content. Most of your feed is going to have to do with either just simply dances, which is great sometimes, and then maybe not so great. So, as social media, that again would be this TikTok is not safe for young developing brains. The way the algorithm is driven. it’s one of the strongest, most potent algorithms, algorithm being the math problem that builds you a profile and then feeds you content based on what you’re interested in. It can tell what you pause on, what you like, what you review, and what you comment on, and it then starts driving you to more content like that.

It’s very good. It takes about 10 minutes to get your profile. not based on anything you enter just based on your viewing habits. It’s very, very, very good at that. So, not even on a privacy side, just mental health side, it is not great for developing brains, and it’s not safe for young people when it comes to what they’re being exposed to.

Positives then. if you were looking for something like music or for stories, an app like circle round access through something like Apple Podcasts. It’s what I use. Or you can even get to circle around through even just the Amazon listening app. So those, that’s an option. It is drool tech in that it’s going to have algorithmic feed, but when you just subscribe, kind of like if you just listen to the gospel tech podcast. they come in order. There’s no additional stuff. You’re not paying for anything. And while it might suggest other things for you, I have my three podcasts I listen to and that’s it. So, it is possible to do well. There’s no browser function, it’s not social and it’s accountable because my device is locked down that I listen to it on. Or generally what’s happened is I’m playing it through a separate device, so I kick it out to a Bluetooth speaker to the car. We do it that way.

for games if for video games, a great example of drool tech done well would be Mario Kart. You have no browser option on the switch due to parental controls. There is a store for games, but if you use your parental controls, it’s pretty solid. It is drool tech, it’s a game, but it’s designed with in the best way. There’s a goal, there’s a challenges, some rules you’re going to follow and there’s a victory condition.

It ends. Even if you’re playing the campaign mode and you’re doing a season of racing, it has a very definite end and you can play it just local. You don’t have to play internet and pay monthly fees or shoot with games like go grab a board game me. Go back to the board game episode if you want to hear more about that. And then for social media, something like WhatsApp with bark installed. bark being that accountability software is a wonderful option. And what that allows you to do is it’s basically glorified messaging. It is certainly encrypted for personal privacy, but it doesn’t stop bark as long as you’re using an Android device, meaning not an iPhone. iPhones are difficult to keep accountable in any way. So, Android devices are where you want to go, like a Samsung or a Google Pixel, those would be great options.

And WhatsApp, yes, it’s tool tech. It doesn’t have an algorithm that’s constantly trying to feed you stuff. There’s not a browser. It doesn’t just feed you loads of strangers. It can work off your contacts. You can limit who adds you to their group. So, if you get an invite, you can decline those but it also does not have great parental controls. That’s why Bark is there as that extra layer. This is an example. I’m not saying use it. I’m saying if your child wants social media, that’s a lovely low hanging fruit for social media that would be offer to something like a TikTok because TikTok is again trying to get you to stay longer than you intend. And WhatsApp is helping you actually connect with friends, connect with coaches, be a part of the conversation and that kind of stuff.

So, when we talk about our technology, then we simply want to know is it safe? If it’s music, if it’s a game… I didn’t even go into shows and those kinds of things, but the conversation still asks if kid says, Hey, mom or dad, I want to watch Game of Thrones, you might look at Game of Thrones and go, no, like this isn’t intended. It’s not rated for young children and if they want to watch Wild CRAs, then great, this is who this is designed for. We can simply say on the face, yes, this is content that’s going to fit my child. This is a device that’s designed for my child. So, that’s the first thing we got to do.

The second thing is we got to know if it matches our family expectation, if it meets our family expectation. So, I guess there’s really three parts to this. The first one we talk family expectation, is we need a family expectation. And from this we’re just talking first Corinthians 10:23 where Paul says that all things are lawful, but not all things are helpful, all things are lawful, but not all things build up. And when we’re talking about that, what we’re saying is, yes, we’re free in Christ and that allows us a wide range of options that aren’t morally wrong. This isn’t sinful. I’m not lusting, I’m not hating, I’m not envying, I’m being okay here, but is it best? And when we look at is it best, we’re going to look at first Corinthians 13:4, because really we’re giving a given standard for what we should engage. And first Corinthians 13, four says that love is patient and love is kind and it doesn’t envy or boast. It’s not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way. It’s not irritable or resentful. It does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. Love bears all things and believes all things and hopes all things and endures all things. And this has to be part of that standard that we established for. okay, is it It’s not bad, but is it good? We start looking all right, how does it line up with love? And as you know, I love Philippians4:8, that we’re looking at whatever is true and whatever is honorable and whatever is just and whatever is pure and whatever is lovely and whatever is commendable and if it’s there’s anything excellent or worthy of praise, we think about these things. and that can now be done for our games and for our social media and for our music and for our news apps and for anything else we ingest. We have a family expectation. If you want help making family expectations. I’ll give a quick example, but I made a whole online process for this. I also do a live workshop. I’m actually do doing one this coming weekend. And the idea here being, we need to have a family tech framework. We need a way to talk about technology and then to apply it. so you can go it’s $50. you get a license, it doesn’t expire and there’s two hours’ worth of videos. If you were to do all at once, it’d just be a quick two hour, individual workshop. There’s a PDF of the workbook right on there. or I can do this thing live. I’ve done it West Virginia and Pennsylvania and Washington State. <laugh> like we can do it wherever it needs to happen. So, just know that when making family expectations, you need some kind of expectation. It’s a biblical idea that we’re building on but it needs to be stuff like we need ground rules. such as anything that distracts us from what God’s asking us to do.

It can be a good thing, but if it distracts us, then that’s not good. And Matthew 5:28-30 or Matthew 8:5, or 18:5, excuse me, would tell us that if it makes us sin, meaning it causes us to pursue something other than God’s will for us, then we cut it off and we gouge out. We get rid of it even if it’s important to us. And that goes with how we use our time, where we use this, the content we engage, the priorities we have that our time isn’t our own right? that it we’re bought with the price and that that’s really important to recognize it. It’s not free time. There’s no such thing anymore. We get discretionary time, we get time to use for relaxation and relationships, but we need family expectations for how we know if this is reasonable or if we’re now off base,

And this is becoming unhealthy. So, please do make a family tech framework. Please have a standard for your technology so it’s not just reactionary. Instead it’s intentional. And that’s a wonderful parenting win. You get to have these conversations before it’s the knockdown, drag out fights they can become.

The third part of this then in closing is asking ourselves, it’s this new technology support my child’s goals and purpose? How do we know? Well, we look at the fruit. Luke 6:45 tells us that the good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good. And the evil person out of the evil treasure produces evil. for out of the abundance of the heart. His mouth speaks again. This is Luke 6:45. That’s Jesus telling us that the overflow of the heart matters. So, when we say, Hey, does this technology line up with my child’s purpose, really? Does it make them look more like Jesus? And that I’m not trying to be like and sometimes when you say that, it kind of sounds like, no, nobody looks like Jesus, but we should. That’s the premise of Galatians 5:19-23, that when we know the second part, the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. That’s beautiful. If we see those things when your child goes and watches that show, listens to that album, plays that game, spends time on that platform, or that social media app, watches that influencer… if they come away with more love and joy and peace and patience and kindness of goodness, if those things that God’s wired into your child flourish, then that’s awesome. I have Owen, Henry and Hadley, 9, 7, 3 and a half. If Owen goes and plays a sport, he comes away more Owen, and the best parts of Owen are the parts that God has wired into him. He’s determined and he’s focused and he’s caring and he’s right. He’s engaged the best parts of Henry. When Henry goes and does a school play, he is a hundred percent Henry in those moments. And afterwards you get all of his dynamism and all of his love of people and all of his funny sense of humor comes out and then sticks after He practices it after he does it live. Like you get more of Henry. however, and then Hadley anytime there’s a group of people and Hadley gets to just be on stage in front of them, these her incredibly strong personality comes out. Her love of laughing and being noisy and getting other people to get involved in whatever it is, comes out. That’s cool. If they engage in something and that dwindles; their love of this thing rises and everything else starts to wilt, then I say, Hey, you know what? I can see that this isn’t developing this fruit. In fact, sometimes, it brings impurity, and sensuality, and enmity, that’s a great word jealousy and fits of anger. Anger, excuse me. Sometimes it brings envy and division. And while that’s Galatians 5:19-21. there’s a separate list for the fruit of the flesh. And so when we say, does this new technology support my child’s goals and purpose, we just look at the fruit. it matters. It matters what they say. It matters their attitude. We’re not saying, Hey, fix your attitude. We’re saying, Hey, that thing doesn’t support the hope we have for you in Christ. Therefore, I as a parent can’t give it to you. I love you. I want to give you good things and therefore this smartphone isn’t part of it. This video game isn’t part of it. That social media app might be fine for somebody else. It’s not okay for you, at least not right now.

And again, next week we’ll talk more about how do we build that tech trust up? We’re not asking our children to change their behavior so they can earn something. We’re telling our children, their behavior is showing a heart condition. and we love them enough to not fan the flames. Do not feed the monster, however you want to say it, to not give them the stone and the serpent that’s going to harm them. If it’s producing fruit in line with Galatians 5:19-21, and not Galatians 5 22, then we lovingly intervene. We instead remove that as Matthew 5 tells us and we lovingly replace it with other awesome stuff. So, we look at the kind of fruit that device and that engagement is producing.

So, in conclusion for today we can look at the new tech our child wants and we can say, does this technology support… Well, I guess we first say, is this technology safe for anybody? <laugh> that show this device, this app, this game, this music? Is this a good decision? And we do that by asking first, is it tool or drill tech? Second, does it have a browser? Third, is it social, meaning engages with people on the interwebs? and fourth is it able to be held accountable? Then we go, all right, so if it’s safe, is it a good fit for our family in this season? The reason I bring this up, and I forgot to say this earlier, but this is why this matters, is if you have a 12 year old and a five-year-old, it’s not a five-year-old’s house anymore. it’s a 12 year old’s house. So, should the 12 year old have stuff that’s going to be okay for a five-year-old to be around, right? That that’s now the standard we have to live in because you can’t just give the 12 year old 12 year old stuff, because sometimes it’s really hard on the five year old, and they’re just not ready for that to be around yet. Something to think about as you process.

And then finally, it’s good for the device itself. It’s good for your family in general. Is it good for this child? Does it line up with their goals and expectations and does it support those goals and expectations? Does it make them more of who God has designed them to be? And if not, then you’re still a loving parent. You want to give them good gifts. Just know this isn’t one of them <laugh>, at least not in this season. And it could be this thing was fine and now it’s not fine. Maybe it’s a specific game for that device your C child uses, all right? Don’t get rid of the whole thing. Then maybe you just need to remove that game. It’s too much for him right now. I maybe it has a toxic community, or the messaging is terrible or your child just can’t handle it.

I don’t know. But be intentional in looking child by child because it’s not a one size fits all conversation we’re having here. And as we do that, what we get then is a clear view of how we handle new technology in our homes, how we can engage that conversation. Think about this. You’ve just been equipped to talk about healthy tech, to assess it in light of the gospel and then to apply that gospel in hope. So, even when you say no, that’s a hopeful decision. You’re saying no to damaging stuff because you love your child, because you’re fighting for them, not with them when it comes to technology, because you understand the hope and purpose they have in Christ that doesn’t come down to being safe and happy. It doesn’t come down to just getting what they want. It comes down to being who God’s designed them to be, and then challenging them in that process.

You might have a 15 year old that doesn’t appreciate that challenge, right? And that’s true, but that doesn’t change our response. It doesn’t change the fact that this thing’s a snake and it is not something a loving parent’s going to give to a child. Instead, it changes how we talk about that with our kid, and we try to help them see that we are on their side. we’re giving them good things, and there might be something else we can give them. This just may not be that thing. So, I hope this was encouraging for you and has given you some stuff that you can use today in conversation. I hope you’ll check out the gospel tech workshop. or go to gospel and you can go speaking and send me a quick note. And I would love to speak at your church at your cc.

I have my first CC of the year coming up here in February where we’re going to talk to a group of parents and just going to show up at a house and do like this in a small group setting, which is amazing. So, I’d love to do that. Or I think I said church. So then school would be your third one. Talking about this at private schools has been an amazing opportunity, and we can do a lot of good work in a single 70 minute talk or in multiple, depending on what works best for you. So, that’s You can find me, you can reach out to me through social media at, excuse me, at loveGodusetech on Instagram and Facebook through email, [email protected], and you can join me next week as we continue this conversation about how we can love God and use tech.

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