Suppose you were chatting over coffee with another friend at a local coffee shop and you’re asked a simple question: “How are you monitoring what your children are watching online?” How would you answer that question? Could you answer that question? With the complexities of our digital world, you may have just handed your child a smartphone (that you pay the bill for) and simply given up on any ability whatsoever to monitor, control, and protect your children from the online world. Not only is that irresponsible, it’s extremely detrimental to the wellbeing of your children. So, the good news is that it’s becoming easier to oversee your home digitally.
Christians are called to the work of disciple-making in the work of parenting (Deut. 6). Therefore, to turn children over to smartphones without proper oversight is to be lazy-minded in the approach and can lead to massive disasters along the way. Take charge as a parent, learn how to navigate this complex digital world, learn how to use new tools, and most of all, disciple your children in the gospel (Eph. 6:4). That being said, I think it’s unwise to demonize the use of technology—including smartphones and video games. To suggest that people are less holy because they like to use a specific technology is not a wise approach or honest evaluation. However, it’s how one uses such technology that matters. It can be used for the glory of God and enjoyment in this life, or it can become a vicious god. It’s essential to control your technology or your technology will control you.
Like it or not, your children spend a lot of time online. According to one study, teens are spending nine hours online per day. They do so for school homework, for gaming with their friends, for relaxation, for music, for TV and movies, and to chat with their friends. So, it’s not going away anytime soon unless you’re planning to move to a remote village in a third world country, but surprise—the Internet is often there too. So, let’s face the facts—children and adults spend a lot of time online these days.
All of the statistics point to the massive rise in the amount of time spent online through a smartphone device. According to one study, the time spent online across platforms varies, depending on the specific apps that are being used.
YouTube = 40 minutes per day.
Twitter = 1 minute per day.
Instagram = 15 minutes per day.
Facebook = 35 minutes per day.
Snapchat = 25 minutes per day.
That’s a lot of time spent on phones, but tragically, it’s the lack of accountability and monitoring regarding how teens are using phones that we should be concerned about. According to the math, if a child receives a smartphone at 13 years of age, if these numbers hold true, they will watch 1,216 hours of YouTube clips and shows by the time they graduate high school. That’s way more time with complete strangers than with one-to-one time with their parents. So, who is discipling and training the children these days? That doesn’t take into consideration the whopping amount of hours chatting on social media with friends and watching movies on Netflix.
The dangers are real. Predators lurk online and seek to gain the influence of your children. But, let’s imagine a world without predators (one that doesn’t exist this side of heaven), but let’s not forget the billions of dollars of marketing money spent to directly influence and attract your children to make decisions about life and how they will spend their time and money which drastically shapes their worldview.
Recently, Snapchat, a rising star in the social media world among teens, has now released a porn channel that will allow people to view online porn through the Snapchat app. Cosmo After Dark is a new channel on Snapchat’s “discover” section that goes live every Friday at 6 p.m. According to Snapchat, this new feature is “an X-rated weekly edition that goes live every Friday at 6 p.m. and is exclusively dedicated to all things hot and horny.” Here’s the danger, it’s in the hands of your children and it contains, at this point, no parental controls. Jenny Rapson over at For Every Mom, writes, “remember there are not and never have been parental controls on Snapchat. There is no way for you to keep this from your kids.”
First of all, tools are not full-proof systems that will prevent any and all dangers from your children. If you put a murderer in prison, if he desires to murder, he will find a way to do it without knives and guns. If you put a smartphone in the hands of a depraved teenager, if he or she is looking for a crack in the system, no tool will prevent them from seeing pornography or from engaging in other sinful behaviors. Each parent has to monitor their own children and in some cases, the parents may need to be willing to take away all online privileges from their children when they cannot be trusted to use them for good.
If you are interested in using good tools to monitor, I recommend the Disney Circle system which can be purchased online or in some big box stores like BestBuy. It’s super easy to setup and it’s also super easy to monitor your children’s time online. The system allows you set on and off times for your children’s devices for Internet usage, pause the Internet, and control the online usage of your entire family on a device-by-device basis or the entire house as a whole. It also allows you to restrict specific apps and websites. Straight out of the box, the Disney Circle system has built-in filters that can be used for your children that prevent many of the mistake views of pornography that often entrap children once they see it for the first time. Once you start using it, you will find ways to customize your family’s use of the Internet while tracking where they spend the majority of their time.
One of the reasons I like the Disney Circle system is that it’s designed for the non-tech user who doesn’t understand how to use some of the more advanced filters on the market. Some of the features it offers are nice, including the off feature, pause feature, and the reward feature (where you reward your child with more time if you desire)—and all of this monitoring is done straight from the Disney Circle app that you have on your phone. What about that friend who visits your child in your home and brings their device with them? Through the control panel app on your phone, you can recognize their device, and add it to your filtering system too.
For a monthly fee, you can have your Disney Circle cloud follow your child outside of your home to school and other friend’s homes where the same restrictions, filters, and Internet on-off schedules will apply. So, take back control of your home and use good tools that enable you to better monitor and protect your children online.
Don’t be a naive parent. Know what your children are watching and how they’re interacting online. After all, it’s your responsibility.
In recent years, there has been an ongoing push for Disney to create LGBT characters. One online petition has over 650 signatures and continues to grow. Interestingly enough, another online petition to boycott an LGBT agenda in “Beauty and the Beast” currently has over 102k signatures. Disney, like many other production companies, is set to change the image of homosexuality in the public’s eye through their new live-action film based on their classic — “Beauty and the Beast.” According to a prominent British gay lifestyle magazine, this is “a watershed moment for Disney.” That statement is based on the leaked information that has now surfaced in preview screenings and interviews about the upcoming film set to be released on March 17th.
At various times, Christians align and call for boycotts on companies who promote policies that violate Christian principles or teach harmful theology. There may be a need to boycott a specific organization or company at times, but for the most part, I don’t engage in the boycott agendas. For instance, I still drink Starbucks. I still wear Nike products. I order my Starbucks from an Apple device and then pay for it with my Starbucks app. I don’t always play the boycott game.
However, there may be times when we should refrain from supporting entertainment outlets and businesses that teach false doctrine. For instance, drinking Starbucks coffee doesn’t engage my mind with an unbiblical worldview, but going to a movie that teaches the same worldview of Starbucks’ executives could be harmful. Wisdom is necessary at this point since Scripture is silent on the subject of boycotts.
The movie, “Beauty and the Beast” is not like drinking Starbucks coffee. It will display information in form of powerful graphics and surround sound on the big screen, and those scenes are loaded with teachable moments. Beware of the damage that a little scene in a movie will have upon your children. No matter how flamboyant or subtle the scene may be, it will be used as a lesson for you and your children.
“Beauty and the Beast” — Normalizing What Is Abnormal
We have been fighting a war in America over language, restroom privileges, and same-sex marriage for years now. That war has, in many ways, been won by a minority of people who have used their “minority” status to leverage support and sympathy. In the landmark decision of the Supreme Court of the United States of America on June 26th, 2015, their five to four ruling did more than liberate a segment of the American population. Their ruling was a redefining and total overhaul of marriage from its original design. Chief Justice Roberts, in his dissent said, “The majority’s decision is an act of will, not a legal judgment.”  In their act of will, they rewrote the dictionary by the power of a single vote. He who controls the dictionary controls the minds of people.
In essence, the Supreme Court of the United States took the abnormal and made it normal by a single vote. For years Hollywood has been working to normalize the homosexual lifestyle. From subtle roles in sitcoms to leading personalities such as Ellen, the lifestyle of homosexuality has been paraded before the eyes of the American public for years with a clear agenda to make it normal. If enough people will continue to see it, they will start to become desensitized to it. Much like the American people have become desensitized to the culture of death in the legalization of abortion. It’s legal, so it must be normal—right? But now, it’s not a sitcom, a daytime talk show, or a late night comedy, it’s Disney, a company that makes its fortunes on children and families.
According to Bill Condon, the director of “Beauty and the Beast” — this film will contain a character who is confused about his sexuality. While same-sex attraction is a temptation that many people fight against, this new Disney film is positioned to make it normal to act upon those feelings. Josh Gad, one of the lead actors in the film, tweeted that he was “beyond proud” to be playing such a groundbreaking role. In an interview with Attitude magazine, Bill Condon says:
LeFou is somebody who on one day wants to be Gaston and on another day wants to kiss Gaston…And Josh makes something really subtle and delicious out of it. And that’s what has its payoff at the end, which I don’t want to give away. But it is a nice, exclusively gay moment in a Disney movie.
“Gone with the Wind” broke the MPAA profanity ban in 1934 by using one single profane word. In 2013, the movie “Wolf of Wall Street” used the “f” bomb 506 times. What was once abnormal has been made normal to the eyes and ears of the entire world. If the Supreme Court of the United States couldn’t make homosexuality normal, now Disney has joined arms to assist. Human sexuality, as God once defined it in creation, has now been redefined and altered. Who controls the dictionary, Disney or God?
The Responsibility of Parents
Notice the rating of the movie. The film is rated “PG” and will be viewed by many families and young children. Many of these families and young children will be faced with a powerful display of a gay relationship in ways that only Hollywood can depict it — in a fictional manner that veils the broken road of homosexuality. Hollywood has made billions by creating fake worlds, fictional characters, and false relationships. This will certainly fall into line with other false realities created by Hollywood, only this time it’s their “watershed moment” according to the director.
As parents, we have a responsibility to care for and instruct our children in truth (see Deuteronomy 6:4-9; 20-25). Taking the family to a theater, placing a box of popcorn and a coke in the hands of your children, and allowing them to be taught a subtle lie of homosexuality on the big screen will have an impact upon their understanding of human sexuality at some level. Even if it’s just a few bricks, your children are steadily building their worldview one block at a time. Sometimes children need to be taught why we don’t go to all movies, and this could be a good step in the right direction in assisting the construction of your children’s worldview.
Engage the Culture with Love and Truth
One blogger said, “I want my kids growing up in a world where they are taught to love EVERYONE and I think Beauty and the Beast did a wonderful job reinforcing values that I want my kids to have.” While we should care for all people, showing acceptance for people’s sinful lifestyle choices should not be equated with love. In fact, it could be argued that subjecting your children to scenes of homosexuality at impressionable ages is actually unloving to your own children as it causes confusion on the subject of human sexuality.
Wisdom is necessary in how we respond to a culture who hates God. However, we are called to respond. A boycott is not enough. The church in America is much smaller than we realize. We can’t expect to change the culture through restrictions, blog posts, and boycotts. We must engage the culture with truth, and this must be done in a winsome and loving manner.
When Paul arrived in Ephesus and witnessed a city filled with pagan idolatry and sexual perversion, he didn’t call for the disciples there to boycott. Instead, he engaged the culture of Ephesus with the gospel. According to the account in Acts, “Paul has persuaded and turned away a great many people, saying that gods made with hands are not gods” (Acts 19:26). It was through his preaching that people were moved to believe the gospel and became followers of Christ. The preaching of the gospel was so successful that it damaged the sales of the silversmiths who made a living constructing false gods. This resulted in a massive riot in Ephesus.
Riots are not the goal in gospel ministry, but if they come, may it be said that they were the result of gospel preaching instead of mere boycotts. Martyrdom is not our goal as followers of Christ, but if they kill us, let it be the result of our gospel message rather than our choice of retail stores. My family will not be seeing “Beauty and the Beast,” but I’m not trusting in my abstinence from this film as a means of solving our cultural problem. It will take much more than a boycott. We need clear gospel preachers in the pulpit and in the home who believe the gospel, teach the gospel, and live gospel focused lives in the face of a pagan culture.
 OBERGEFELL ET AL. v. HODGES, DIRECTOR, OHIO DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH, ET AL. — https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/14pdf/14-556_3204.pdf [accessed 11-25-16]
This past week, during the G3 Conference, I was asked a question that we should not overlook too quickly. I was asked, “What catalysts do you believe have led to the resurgence of sound biblical theology?” That question could be answered in several different ways from a variety of different angles, but I believe one of the key factors that has led to this resurgence, especially among young people, is the boom of information technology.
The Technology of the Past
During the era of Martin Luther, there was no such thing as social media (as we know it today). There was no Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or Pinterest. Most written communication had to be done by hand. However, just as the Reformation sparked in Germany, the wave of Gutenberg’s printing press had taken off and was poised to print and distribute the works of the Reformers far and wide. As we look back at history, it’s almost like it was charted out and planned to happen that way. As we consider the sovereignty of God and His providence that governs the world—it’s clear that God was designing the pages of history.
Not only did students of Luther have his Ninety-Five Theses printed and distributed, but following Luther’s conversion a short time later, his books would be printed and spread all across Europe. What was not possible just a short time earlier was now driving the Reformation. Gutenberg’s press was serving as the vehicle of the Reformation. The flame was spreading and Gutenberg’s press was the catalyst.
The Technology of the Present
As we look at the modern resurgence of biblical theology, a high view of God, and a robust understanding of sovereign grace, in many ways the new advancements of information technology are being harnessed to spread the truth across the world. Many hours would go into the printing of a sermon, a tract, or a book in Luther’s day. It would be written down on paper by hand and then a printer would set the moveable type of a printing press in place, and with detailed precision, the ink would be stamped onto each page in order to compile a book. After further advancements, the press would become more efficient, but the process still took precious time. Then, after the printing phase ended, the distribution phase started. There was no UPS or FedEx in those days.
Today, an author can write an article and within a few minutes, he can publish it to the entire world by pressing one single button on a blog site. With the advancements of the printing industry, the publishing and distribution phases move at rapid pace in comparison to Luther’s day. We have moved quickly past the radio era into a new phase of technology that allows the end user the option of not only listening live, but also prerecorded media. What was not possible in the radio era is now possible in our video era as sermons can now be streamed through smart devices in video format. Modern technology, in many ways, has been used as a catalyst to spread truth and teach good biblical theology.
As we consider how primitive technology was in Luther’s day and how limited we were just 50 years ago, we should praise God for the tools and advancements that are available to us now. In many ways, our sanctification can benefit from the use of these technological advancements. In Luther’s day they were fighting to get the Bible printed for the people in their own language. Today, we can press a button on a screen and parse verbs in the original language with Logos Bible Software, read commentaries, and listen to sermons related to the verses we’re studying.
As we consider these modern tools and advancements, let us with glad hearts be good stewards of God’s blessings.
Today, multitudes of teenagers are walking through life in the shadows. They wear dark clothing, paint their fingernails different shades of darkness, dye their hair dark colors, and seem to always have their faces toward the ground. I refer to this pattern as the “Wilted Flower Syndrome.” There are even Barbie-like dolls with an appearance of darkness currently on the shelves of major retail big box stores being marketed to your daughter. Statistics inform us that a large number of teenagers are seeking medical help for depression and anxiety issues with suicide as one of the top five causes of death for teenagers.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, “About 11 percent of adolescents have a depressive disorder by age 18 according to the National Comorbidity Survey-Adolescent Supplement (NCS-A). Girls are more likely than boys to experience depression. The risk for depression increases as a child gets older. According to the World Health Organization, major depressive disorder is the leading cause of disability among Americans age 15 to 44.”
In many cases, these teenagers come from stable homes with caring parents who seek to show them attention and provide a good home for them. What is the cause for the great numbers of teenagers who seem to be wilted rather than blooming? While I am not scientist or medical professional, I do think the link may be related to the information teenagers are consuming each day through a variety of media outlets.
The Garden of Eden and Modern Society
The book of Genesis begins with the beauty of God’s expansive creation. The commentary of God’s creation was that God saw that it was good. It was paradise on earth. Yet, in the midst of the Garden, the devil approached Eve in the form of a serpent and tempted her. If you take a close look at his attack, it was truly brilliant. Satan attacked Eve through the “eye gate” and the “ear gate.” He attacked Eve through the eyes by causing her to look at the forbidden tree. He didn’t want her to look at it in the same way. He was twisting her perspective. Satan also attacked Eve through her ears. Not only did he direct her eyes, but he lied to her through her ears. He spoke a lie and twisted God’s word about the forbidden fruit. Eve at the fruit and gave it to her husband and he likewise disobeyed God.
As we read Romans 5:12, we see the New Testament commentary on that horrible event of sin. As we go back and revisit Genesis, we see that what started off as good in the eyes of God ended badly! The book of Genesis started with creation and ended with a curse. It began with divine blessing and ended with decadence, depravity, defiance, and death. All of this was the result of a massive attack of Satan that came to Eve through her eyes and ears. As we consider the “wilted flowers” of our society, could it be that Satan is attacking the teenagers through the eyes and ears as he once did Eve in the Garden?
Modernity is both a blessing and a curse. We can be thankful for comfortable automobiles, medical advancement, heating and air, and a multitude of other blessings that we can attribute to modern technology. However, like anything good, Satan will attack it. We see that through the information technology that we have come to use on a normative basis. Consider the following statistics of media intake in America.
Child Television Statistics
Number of minutes per week that the average child watches television
4-6 year olds were asked to choose TV or fathers – this % chose TV
Hours per year the average American youth spends in school
Hours per year the average American youth watches television
Number of violent acts seen on TV by age 18
Number of 30 second TV commercials seen in a year by an average child
Source: BLS American Time Use Survey, A.C. Nielsen Co.
These statistics and others among similar studies point to the potential source of depression, anxiety, and discouragement among the children of our culture. After all, why would teenagers who don’t buy their own food, clothes, transportation, furniture, television (and other media devices), or pay rent – fall into a massive depression? Could it be that they have been listening to Satan? And how would they be communicating with the devil? No, it isn’t through Ouija boards or a cultic séance. The medium of this contact could very well be the technology that has become commonplace in our lives – television, iPad, iPhone, iPod, and other screen devices. Before you think this is an article written by some angry alarmist, keep reading and consider the connection between the attack of Eve in the Garden and the way our culture uses technology.
Through devices such as an iPad or an iPhone, teenagers can receive many images through the eyes. Some of these images can be good, but as we are honest with ourselves, many of the images the teenagers are receiving in rapid fire succession are not for their good. They show them images of success that they are to live up to. They provide them role models to follow. These images provide standards of waist sizes and skin tone. The image is a powerful tool, and Satan knows it. Remember, he pointed out the image of the forbidden fruit to Eve many years ago.
These devices also have long surpassed the Walkman and Gameboy devices from the 90’s. The point is, these HD devices provide stunning imagery alongside great sound at the touch of a button. While Satan provides images to view, he also speaks lies into their ears. Satan hates the truth and is known as the “father of lies” (John 8:44). Our generation is a connected generation with wires coming out of ears and fingers on screens the majority of an average day. Satan carefully weaves his lies into popular music and it he delivers his message with power, privacy, and proficiency. Before long, like Eve in the Garden of Eden, teenagers have the forbidden fruit in their hands and soon thereafter they feel entrapped by their sin. This pattern causes their beautiful minds which are gifts from God to become a dark wilted flower.
The Responsibility of Parents
Deuteronomy 6 provides us as parents with the responsibility of caring for our children. It is our duty to protect our children from culture. It’s time for us to realize that we must protect the eyes and ears of our children from this present evil age. We must address this issue and place boundaries on who can and cannot speak into the lives of our children. Rather than just providing tablet devices with open Internet capabilities to children, we must create filters and actively manage their intake of movies, music, and written forms of media.
Furthermore, it is our duty as fathers and mothers to teach our children to know God through His Word. In times of distress, doubt, discouragement, and defeat – we should teach our children to find their hope in God through Jesus Christ. As the Psalmist rightly declares, “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you” (Psalm 119:11). As statistics tell us that 70-88% of all college students by the end of their freshman year walk away from the faith of their parents, we must take our role seriously. It must be known to our children before they leave our homes that Jesus is more than a suit and a tie on Sunday to us. We must live out our theology in the home and provide substantial evidence to corroborate our faith in Jesus. If our children see a disconnect between our doctrine and duty – they will likely grow disconnected from the church.
I can’t promise that media management will cause all wilted flowers to bloom. What I can promise is that consistent media management will honor God and seek to accomplish Proverbs 22:6 – “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” Satan will use media intake to accomplish 2 Corinthians 4:4 – to blind the minds of children to the gospel. It is our duty as parents to shine the light of the glorious gospel of Christ into the darkness that our teenagers often dwell in. As we think about media and the influence it has on children, we must ask ourselves a really important question. Who has the right to influence my child? Remember, if we neglect to influence our children, Satan is waiting at the curbside. He is interested in connecting your child to other teachers of neopaganism, secular humanism, atheism, and most of these teachers are found through the door of postmodernism.
Don’t just sit back, stand up! Don’t remain silent, speak up! Don’t surrender, move up! Your child is worth it. God has entrusted you with your child and you must honor Him.