I’m usually not one to shy away from confrontation, but I have to admit…this post has me a little nervous.
I read an article last week about the game Roblox. It is an online game that allows you to construct and interact in a virtual world. It has been touted as the next Minecraft, and targets kids 8-12. A father posted on Facebook about his experience with the game. That post has since garnered lots of attention. Here’s what he said:
When I read that, I was flabbergasted. But not for reasons you may think.
It’s hard to imagine a game for kids could be used for this type of behavior and interaction. Roblox has strict policies in place concerning these issues. It has controls built-in to limit chat functionality for users under 13, and even “…employs a filtering system and moderation team to help keep players safe and restrict sharing personally identifiable information.” (Roblox Parent Guide)
If all of this is set up, how is it possible for things like this to happen in a game for kids? How can this happen the same on Snapchat, and Instagram, and Whisper, and Reddit, and Kik, and any other apps that kids have unrestricted access to?
The answer is simple: parents, you’re not doing your job.
I feel for the guy above – I really do. But I have to ask: why did his kid have access to a game without supervision? We’re so quick to blame technology when things go wrong. But really, when it boils down to it, we alone are responsible for raising our kids. It’s not the monitoring app, or the content filters, but us as parents that need to be the front line of defense for our kids’ hearts.
The Front Lines
Last Sunday night I attended an event at Grace Fellowship Church where we discussed pornography, sex trafficking, and how to navigate through those issues as parents. We had two experts on stage. Bob Rodgers, CEO of Street Grace, and Elizabeth Moore, a licensed therapist specializing in sexual addiction.
My church talks often about investing in the next generation, and they put their money where their mouth is. But that night was about investing in the parents of the next generation by helping them navigate through the tough issues surrounding sex, pornography, trafficking, and raising our kids to deal with those topics. It was advice for fighting in the trenches where our kids are struggling most.
Two statistics shared that night were particularly alarming.
- The average age kids see hardcore porn is between 8-10 years old
- 71% of first exposure to porn is on a mobile device
If your kid has a smartphone, those two sentences should scare you.
The smartphone has become a gateway; the drug of choice for today’s society. It has opened up the entire world, good and bad, and made it available at our fingertips. That’s not a good thing for many adults. How in the world is it acceptable for our kids?
The Devil’s Last Stand
This may sound alarmist, but I really do believe what I’m about to say. And before you write me off, hear me out.
Parents are willingly handing their kids the very thing that will steal their souls.
I have to admit…I wrote the above sentence a couple of days ago and upon rereading it, I sound a little crazy. But tracing back the logic behind the emotion that sentence came from, I’m not wavering a bit.
Did you know that the scans of a child’s frontal cortex while playing Minecraft is nearly identical to that of an adult on cocaine? And that the dopamine level of a child using an iPad is raised to levels similar to an adult having sex? New brain research is starting to show this. Seriously…have you tried to take an iPad away from a 6-year-old? Tech addiction is real, and is a serious issue affecting everyone.
Parents suffer in the same way. Who hasn’t gotten lost in hours of perusing Pinterest and wandered down rabbit holes of cat videos on YouTube? Here’s a scary thought: kids mimic what they see from their parents. If your kid spends too much time on their device, maybe you have something to change in your own life.
I would encourage you to take a long, hard look at your tech habits. If you need an app for that, try Moment. It tells you how often you check your phone. It’s pretty eye opening to see how often you pick it up. Seeing the data on yourself might scare you, though. Be warned. 🙂
No Easy Answers
I’m sorry if I sound negative or accusatory, but I can’t help myself. I have a deep passion for my kids – and yours. I want them to grow up healthy and whole. And I really do believe that we could lose a generation of kids unless we change the way we approach technology and how they are allowed to interact with it.
So what do we do? How do we make the hard choices necessary for change? If your kids are young, it’s pretty easy. Take the device away from them and let them make their own entertainment. I promise that within minutes of accepting the new reality they will find something else to do. It may take a few weeks to detox completely, but I promise it will be worth it.
If your kids are older, it may be tougher to have them buy in to what we’ve talked about here. I’ve never taken an iPhone away from a 15-year-old girl, so I can’t speak to that from experience. What I do know, based on conversations I’ve had with middle and high school aged kids, is that they want you to be the parent. They want you to set and enforce boundaries. They may never say it to your face, but over and over I find that to be the case.
Talk with your teens. Let them know why you have the concerns you have. Share your heart with them. But above all, be the parent. If you see destructive behaviors centered around technology, it’s your job to protect them. Take their phone away. Lock up the xBox. But never do it without explaining why. Without that conversation, you run the risk of damaging your relationship.
We’re In This Together
If you need help or guidance with specific technology situations, please reach out to me. If you need professional help with addiction for you or your kids, I encourage you to reach out to Elizabeth Moore. She specializes in helping parents and kids deal with these issues.
Above all, continue the conversation with your children. They need it now more than ever.