iPhone, iPads and Christian parenting
EDITOR’S NOTE: In the following, Russell D. Moore writes about one of the most pressing implications of parenting in the digital age. Moore is president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission.
Here’s what I just don’t understand: the trend among professing Christian families to give unrestricted Internet access to their pre-teen children through iPhones and iPads or their equivalent devices.
It’s not that we don’t have the data to know what happens when sexually forming minds are exposed to pornography. And it’s not that we don’t know the kind of pull to temptation, especially among young males, that comes with the promise of sexual “fulfillment” with the illusion of anonymity. It’s not that we don’t know, moreover, the way that unsavory characters use the Internet to troll for naive children to exploit.
Why would you put your child in a situation with that kind of peril?
Given what we know about sexually developing adolescents and pre-adolescents, and the Internet itself, it is impossible to rank unrestricted access to the World Wide Web in a category with watching television or freely roaming the neighborhood. This is more like sending your adolescent male to spend the night in an adult movie theater because you trust him not to look up from his Bible, or allowing your daughter to grow marijuana in her room because she likes the bud as decoration.
This is astounding not primarily because it militates against the higher standards of Christian parenting but because it militates against the natural ordering of human parenting itself.
Jesus, in describing the Fatherhood of God, told the crowd that no one, even being evil, would give his son a serpent when he asked for a fish (Matt 7:10). Why not? It’s because natural affection impels a father to seek to protect his child from something harmful. In this case, we see a culture, even among Christians sometimes, that’s quite willing to give a child a serpent, as long as he really wants it, and we think he’s trustworthy as a snake-charmer.
Don’t get me wrong. I think the digital revolution is largely a good thing, and I think children need to be raised up to use technology as a gift for dominion. But there’s too much at stake to turn a child loose, with no boundaries, with a technology that could psychically cripple him or her (and his or her future family), for a lifetime and thereafter.