We all know of families and schools that didn’t allow young people to watch TV or go to the movies because of the potentially sinful influence on their souls. I haven’t gone that far myself in bringing up my teenage daughter, but I certainly do monitor what she’s watching.
Well, opposition to media’s often malicious influence is growing in some unlikely quarters. These critics, however, are questioning not the content, but the conveyance, the technology behind the media. Cris Rowan, a pediatric occupational therapist, has written a fascinating article called “10 Reasons Why Handheld Devices Should Be Banned for Children Under the Age of 12.”
Now, Rowan is no prude. She describes research documenting why even a little use of our culture’s nearly ubiquitous hand-held electronic devices is bad for kids’ social, physical, and psychological development. We’ll provide you with a link to her article when you come to BreakPoint.org, but for now I’ll just summarize.
Citing the American Academy of Pediatrics, Rowan claims these devices hinder a child’s brain development. According to Rowan, “Stimulation to a developing brain caused by overexposure to technologies … has been shown to be associated with executive functioning and attention deficit, cognitive delays, impaired learning, increased impulsivity and decreased ability to self-regulate, e.g. tantrums.”
Which is probably why the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children under 2 not be exposed to digital screens at all.
Further, she writes, exposure to technology restricts movement, which delays development, which hurts a child’s literacy and academic achievement. Other problems associated with these devices include obesity, sleep deprivation, mental illness, aggression, addiction, something called—I kid you not—“digital dementia,” and unhealthy exposure to radiation. Other than all that, exposure to digital technology is perfectly safe for kids!
Of course, Rowan doesn’t even get into traditional moral and ethical questions about the messages and meaning of such technology. Writing in The New Yorker, which is hardly your stereotypical uptight conservative rag, Tim Wu expresses concern about the aim of new technologies, which is to satisfy what he calls our insatiable “will-to-comfort.” He writes, “When it comes to technologies, we mainly want to make things easy. Not to be bored. Oh, and maybe to look a bit younger.” Inspiring, huh?
Pope Francis has similar concerns. At a gathering for German altar boys earlier this month at Saint Peter’s Square, the pontiff warned young people to be cautious with technologies such as the internet. He said online social media must be used with discernment, urging an attitude of calm, reflection, and tenderness so that they will be “a network not of wires but of people.”
Clearly, we cannot throw our laptops, smartphones, and electronic games out the window. But we can restrict when and how our kids use them. In other words, a Luddite response is not needed. But a Christian response surely is.
To help you get started, let me suggest a new book, “iGods: How Technology Shapes our Spiritual and Social Lives.” It’s by Craig Detweiler, a communications professor at Pepperdine University. Detweiler’s book will help you begin to forge a “theology of technology,” so that you can use it for good while avoiding the pitfalls. Come to our online book store at BreakPoint.org to get yours.
And here’s one more thought. Set aside daily time with your kids when all the devices are turned off and try something radical: Grab a book and read to them.
BreakPoint is a Christian worldview ministry that seeks to build and resource a movement of Christians committed to living and defending Christian worldview in all areas of life. Begun by Chuck Colson in 1991 as a daily radio broadcast, BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today’s news and trends via radio, interactive media, and print. Today BreakPoint commentaries, co-hosted by Eric Metaxas and John Stonestreet, air daily on more than 1,200 outlets with an estimated weekly listening audience of eight million people. Feel free to contact us at BreakPoint.org where you can read and search answers to common questions.
Eric Metaxas is a co-host of BreakPoint Radio and a best-selling author whose biographies, children's books, and popular apologetics have been translated into more than a dozen languages.
Publication date: August 21, 2014