Sexting, Cell Phones, and Parental Oversight

We live in an age of quick pleasures. Pornography is an epidemic. It ruins lives. It ruins productivity. It ruins imagination. With the advent of smart phones pornography is easily accessible. Children as young as nine have already been exposed to an array of images. Many have seen things and have trained their brains to process them storing and accessing those images at whatever time they deem suitable. These images have an incredible capacity to cycle themselves. They remain and re-invent themselves again and again. It’s a cycle of death. Many have become aware of this trend. Some parents continue to live naively through life assuming their children would never willingly submit themselves to such images. Indeed these images are little virtual icons. Their appeal eventually causes you to bow before them.

I posted a link recently warning parents to take heed of a phenomenon in our technological world: the world of sexting. At one time erasing internet history was a way to avoid being caught. In our day, the use of acronymns has taken its place. Most parents are unequipped to decipher the vast world of shortened communication. This world has developed quickly. Quick pleasures lead to quick actions mediated by quick texts. We are talking about a lot of acronyms. Some of them rare I am sure, but some of them more common than we would imagine. Sin always finds a way to be subtle. Screwtape is on the move.

Some responses to the article linked above treat it as a scare tactic. “Some of the acronyms simply cannot be as common as this article makes it out to be,” they say. Perhaps. The phenomenon exists, however. And this seems to be the main point. Take heed, parents. Children are exchanging body parts like baseball cards. They are giving it out to the world freely. The sacred has become profane. This is taking the culture by storm. Godly communities are not immune to its manifestation. One sociologist observed that the question, “have you ever seen porn?” is outdated and should be replaced by “how often do you see porn?” This is frightening.

Covenant Oversight

I live in a culture where words like covenant succession is thrown out quite often. Covenant succession simply means that parents play a fundamental role in the outcome of their children. Mind you, they do not play the only role, but a fundamental one. In covenant succession the Spirit of God is wrestling with our children; guarding, preserving, and leading them to righteouness. Parents point their covenant children to their covenant Lord and pray that the Spirit might always wrestle with them throughout their lives.a

Among the many responsibilities of parents is the responsibility to deliver their chilren from evil. This means that they are to direct their children from intentionally tempting temptation; poking a dormant ferocious animal for the mere high it provides. “Deliver us from evil…”Lead us not into temptation.” Yes, the Lord’s Prayer presents us a parental paradigm in many ways. Children mature at different levels and throwing them to the lions before time can be devastating. Parents need to exercise wisdom. No good parent would throw their children into a dangerous situation, but they may unknowingly. The world of cell phones–and social media by extension–provide such an opportunity. The question is not whether we should wait until a certain age or whether we should trust them with such a tool, but rather, “are they equipped to handle such a responsibility?” Cell phones represent the opening of communication. Are our children equipped to handle this new world? How have they behaved and reacted to the local communication they experience? Have their experiences been positive? Or have they been quickly sucked into a false community where communication serves our selfish ambitions and desires? Communication is stewardship. How they use it locally determines how they will use it broadly.

Experiences also shape this question. One respondent to the link said that if we teach them diligently they will stray from such a problem or avoid it. Through self-discipline our children would avoid the world of sexting and the consequences that come with them. This is a healthy observation. It fits into much of the covenantal model, and I should add the Solomonic principles we see in Proverbs. Some who have experienced the overburdens of legalistic backgrounds may simply react to that background by making all things accessible that once were taboos. If covenant education is exercised and a sense of godly discipline is taught then early exposure to certain tools like cell phones can be seen as a reward to good behavior and faithfulness in the little things. At the same time there is a danger of overexposing and assuming too much self-discipline from the son/daughter. We need to remember that once that world is opened it is almost impossible to close it again. Again, images cannot be quickly erased.

Awareness and Maturation

I wrote a short book last year that focused on the need to raise boys to be warriors. The premise was that fathers need to be kings training their sons to assume their thrones in a new kingdom. My hope is to revise that book with a few additional chapters in the next few years. I don’t have the last word on the issue and find myself learning new lessons each day. Specifically, I find new ways in which parents would greatly benefit in applying the Trinitarian model to their own roles in the home. Luke 2:52 says: “And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.” This offers us a three-fold strategy–one might call it tests–to consider before opening our children to the world of cell phone and social media in general:

First, are they increasing in wisdom? Has there been a general trend towards maturation in their lives? Does his/her communication manifest a sincere desire to see life under the lordship of Jesus? Also, do others affirm this maturation? Parents can be deceived and so the wisdom of the community becomes a great platform to determine such realities. Is his maturity a maturity that extends to the heart issues? That is, are his concerns merely outward, or does he express an interest in reforming his imagination and conforming his thoughts and motivation after our Lord?

Second, are they increasing in stature? This is certainly connected to physical growth, but also ties in with the first set of questions. Is he at age 14 easily mistaken for an eight year old when speaking to an adult? In other words, is his physical growth matching his maturational growth? Are his physical abilities and strength being used for good? or are they being used for selfish-gain?

Finally, are they finding favor with God and man? Are they human benedictions in their community? Again, these all overlap and are meant as amplification of the other points. But this last point is the application of the previous two. Wisdom and growth–physical and spiritual–are not meant only in relation to God– for to live before the face of God is necessarily to live before the face of created man–but also for the benefit of mankind. The question of whether or not a covenant individual is prepared to use certain tools depends on a pattern of using the tools he already has for the good or detriment of his fellow brother/sister. Faithfulness in the little things hopefully will mean faithfulness in the big tings.

Parental oversight needs to keep these questions in mind. Parenting successfully is the ability to give gifts to our children and then to see those gifts used wisely for the good of our neighbor and the exaltation of the name of God. The world of quick pleasures need not appeal to us or our children when we consider that the pleasures of God are everlasting to everlasting and his pleasures lead to life abundant.

  1. Wrestling here is synonymous with the consistent move of the Spirit in our lives engaging and confronting us in our war against sin  (back)
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