Unplugging from the Digital Realm: Rescuing our Children from the Spirit of the Screen

From time to time, parents express a familiar heartache, lamenting, “I’ve lost my child to the screen. He’s not the same.” It echoes the pain of a spouse who mourns, “I’ve lost my husband to the drink.”

So, what ties these two disparate struggles? What lessons can we extract as we address these issues?

Overpowered by Outside Influences

Both scenarios involve an external influence taking hold of a person’s behavior. Hard liquor, often known as a “spirit,” shares a fascinating etymology. The term is eerily fitting as overconsumption indeed invites an altering spirit into a person. If used moderately, its effects fade swiftly, enabling the individual to revert to normal. However, repeatedly opening the door to this spirit lets it lodge within the person, reshaping them until loved ones can barely recognize them.

The pattern reveals itself with chilling clarity: initially, we abuse the spirit, but eventually, it turns on us, inflicting abuse in return.

The same can be said about many addictions. We permit something into our lives, and gradually, it begins to change us.

Digital Intruders

In today’s digital age, we’ve welcomed a host of devices into our homes, opening the door to potential harm. As vigilant guardians, we scan for addictive and dangerous substances, but our radar for technology risks has been somewhat lax. As a result, threats have slinked into our lives unnoticed. Many of us viewed these devices as tools that would assist our children to thrive in a tech-centric world.

However, we can no longer plead ignorance. The evidence is irrefutable: screens and social media are highly addictive and can fundamentally change behavior. We find our children increasingly isolated, unhappy, and desperately lonely. Devices, much like addictive substances, promise joy but frequently deliver sorrow.

Charting a New Course

So, what’s our next move? We must ensure that neither we nor our children fall prey to the spirit of the digital age.

In dealing with substances like alcohol, responsible individuals understand the importance of moderation and limits. Parents and laws restrict access. We need to apply this wisdom to the addictive technologies of today, setting clear boundaries to regulate digital consumption. We must guide our children to wield technology as a tool, lest they become its puppets.

For parents seeking practical strategies, consider this: the U.S. legal drinking age is 21. The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) restricts social media use for those under 13. Although the law’s enforcement is flawed, it offers guidance. We suggest that children under 16 should not be using social media.

As responsible adults might cap their wine consumption at two glasses, we should limit screen time for both children and adults. A couple of hours a day should suffice for youngsters. Employing additional tactics, such as using screens only in communal areas of the home, can also help.

In Dire Straits

For some, the situation is already critical. Perhaps your child’s addiction to digital technology has severely impacted their ability to perform well in school, sports, and family relationships. In such cases, be resolute but take immediate action. Initiate a digital detox for your child: a period where screen time is drastically reduced or entirely removed.

Inviting the Holy Spirit

The Apostle Paul instructs the Ephesians, “Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit” (Eph. 5:18). Likewise, we must guard against becoming inebriated by digital spirits. We are called to shun worldly patterns and embrace Christ.

Technology is not inherently evil. It can serve as a tool for great good. However, it can also cause significant harm. The Bible speaks of wine as a blessing but also cautions against its abuse. With wisdom and faithfulness, let us steer our families through the turbulent waters of the digital age, preventing ourselves and our children from being swept away in its addictive current.