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Is Technology Helping or Hurting Our Kids?, Part 1

From the series House or Home - Parenting Edition

Technology is perhaps the most powerful force in the world today. It’s been used to start revolutions, to bring down political leaders, to launch careers, and much more. But the fact is, what you don’t know about technology could be devastating to your children. Chip is joined in this session by his son Ryan to talk about technology and your kids.

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Message Transcript

Is technology helping or hurting our kids? Now, what I want to do, because the answer is, you already know it, right? They answer is, yes. It is really helping and it’s really hurting.

But what I want to do is I want to start off and I want to do a quick review in terms of five timeless principles.

Principle number one: is successful parents begin with clear-cut objectives. As a parent you gotta say, “I want my kids, my goal is to help them become holy, to become like Christ, not just happy or successful.”

Principle number two: successful parenting demands that we practice what we preach. They will become what we are.

Principle number three: is successful parenting means building relationships that bond. It’s not a transfer of information. There’s gotta be a deep connection of the heart. And whether that happened in the old days around a camp fire,  or whether it happens now with high technology, you gotta have relationships that bond.

Principle number four: successful parenting requires constant repair and ongoing maintenance. I don’t care where you’re at in the parenting journey, just wait six months, you gotta change. You’re going to have to apologize.

Whatever was new? Guess what? Six months from now it’s not new anymore. Whatever you’re doing that’s working well with your kids? Wait a week, it won’t be.

Principle number five: successful parenting provides unconditional love and unpopular limits. When you’re the kind of parent your kids really need you say, “No matter what I want you to know I love you, I’m for you, I will never forsake you and, by the, way no, you can’t have your own selfish way that might be damaging to you.”

So significance, you love them. Boundaries, you give them security.

Now here’s the problem. The problem is the application. How, during the time of Moses, Deuteronomy 6 was applied or in the first century it was applied is one thing. How you apply it now in the technological world that we live in, with internet access everywhere all the time. Here’s what I want you to know. What you’re ignorant of is lethal.

What you don’t know can destroy your child. Your child, at this time in history, has more information, more influence, more people, and more evil that can get into their mind and heart than ever in the history of the world.

And if you, and you can be sincere, you can be conscientious, you can care about your kid. But if you are ignorant about how and where that information, or those people, or those images, or that thinking, gets into the heart and the mind of your child, it can destroy them. I know. I’ve been there. Unfortunately. And even done that.

In my ignorance, one of my children logged on to the internet and started a very painful and difficult journey. Ryan, why don’t you come and take a few minutes. This is my son, Ryan Ingram. Welcome him, if you will.

[Applause] Thank you.

Ryan, I was ignorant. I didn’t know much about computers. The guys in the office set one up at home and I’m not sure they even had filters and things. But why don’t you share your story and, kind of, what happened in our home because I was ignorant and didn’t know any better.

[Ryan]: Yeah, well, the problem was you didn’t know a whole lot but you had guys around you who were super tech savvy that always had, kind of, tried to keep you on the latest curve of things.

And so what I call is just the discovery stage. I knew very little and started typing in all kinds of searches and seeing what I could find.

And then eventually came across pornography. And what started out as just kind of looking, turned into a full-blown addiction where I was just sucked in. In fact, what I wanted just, it’s amazing how addiction works, right? It’s the deep craving of the soul that is almost this compulsive element that you can’t control.

And so I would, late at night or when I’d really want people to be gone away from the home so I could be in the back room with the computer and logging onto porn.

I remember that, you know, the power with, especially pornography in this day and age is in the secret. And for me the secret, thankfully, got brought to the surface quickly. I’m glad I wasn’t stuck there for years, and years, and years.

But I remember my senior year of high school I came home one day after school and my dad was home early, which rarely happens and, for me, that’s generally, especially in high school wasn’t a good thing.

So, I see his car is home and my mom’s there. And we take this long walk down the hallway to the back room where the computer was. And he said, “We need to talk.”

And I knew exactly what it was about.

And it was a little awkward. My mom was there but it was actually one of the hardest and yet greatest conversations of my life. Especially when I’ve had conversations with guys over and over in ministry, who, their marriages have been ruined because of pornography. Their kids’ lives destroyed. And just to see that God’s deliverance in my own life to be able to have that conversation with you.

And that brought me on a journey of hope in such a way where a long journey, not overnight, sadly, I wish it was. And yet, the scars still remain and I still have to have stuff… I mean, for a long time in my early marriage we didn’t even have internet because it was just like, I can’t have that around. And keeping clear guardrails in my life to make sure I just don’t slip back.

Because I love my family too much and I love my Jesus too much. So that’s a little bit about my story.

[Chip]: Well, I didn’t know that that stuff would pop on and didn’t have any idea how it worked. But I still remember one of our tech guys actually confronting me, Ryan, and saying, you know, and I appreciate the culture that we had that he felt free and he assumed I was the problem.

And I said, “I got a lot of problems. But that’s not one of them.” And that led us to the journey and it’s been neat to see how God has worked.

Now, since that time you spent the last ten years in ministry. You’ve been a pastor of junior high, a pastor of high school, a pastor of college. You spent ten years with young people who have lived in a very high tech world.

What have you learned? What have they told you? How, if you could maybe answer the question, “What do they wish their parents knew about being a parent in technology in this world?”

[Ryan]: Yeah. Really, we were on the front end of that first generation in this, kind of, tech world, at least the Internet stage. And I work currently with college age young adults and so I just asked this question: what kids wish their parents knew about parenting and technology.

Because I wanted the perspective of those that were really close to their high school, teenage years. Their tween years. And yet could have the insight to say, “Man, I really wish this, they knew this, because of what I experience. The consequences, the pain, the destruction.”

And so, it’s interesting to me because it’s very counter-intuitive to what we think they would answer. But let me just read a few of these.

The first thing was they said, “I wish they knew how much I actually needed them.” And so often we think that they don’t need us. They put on this front that, in fact, it would be better that you’re not here. And yet the deep craving of their soul is, “You know what? I wish they knew exactly how much I really needed them.”

They say, “I wish they knew that when they set boundaries it makes me feel loved.” That it provides this sense of safety and security. That one, I mean, I was shocked to kind of see that come back because you see that fighting all the time against the boundaries and yet as they’re looking backwards they’re going, “I wish they stuck to their guns.”

“I wish I had an open and honest communication with my dad or my mom.” And I just think it’s funny because I hear all the conversations in the car and, “How was your day?” “Fine.” “Well, how are you doing?” “Good.” You know? You’re like, “Really? You want open and honest communication? Can we get a little deeper? But that is a deep desire that they were able to talk about life and what was going on.

“I wish they knew it’s not the same as it was when they were kids. That the world’s changed. That life’s dramatically different there.”

“I wish they didn’t just ignore my use of the Internet.” That sense of feeling, of being, alone. I can relate to that one just because of history that we had.

“I wish I didn’t have unlimited, unmonitored, access to the Internet.”

[Chip]: Now, when I read that one I thought, “I mean, I’m not going to hear that from my junior higher or high school student, like, please don’t let me have unlimited access.”

But looking back they realize that was where a lot of the pain occurred as parents thought, “Oh, everything’s fine. No big deal.”

[Ryan]: Yeah.

[Chip]: Wow.

[Ryan]: Absolutely. And the last one, “I wish I had real time as a family with no technology.” That we would have unplugged, that we would have hung out and gotten to know one another, not sat around the table looking at our phones.

[Chip]: Well, I’ve actually had, on a few occasions, people, parents and students talk to me where, you know, “Every time I get in the car my dad is on the phone.” Or, “Every time when we’re everywhere…”

You know, I was at, it was either Starbucks or Chipotle, one of those places. And there were, like, seven or eight, nine people in line. And everyone but one person was in line like this. And, guess what? If more is caught than taught, guess what? Your students and your children are going to model your behavior.

Well, Ryan, let’s get to the, you know, maybe the, “How do we help people?” I mean, you’ve done a lot of work here. You’ve been working with these people’s students and kids. Let’s go over here, it’s sort of the work station. And let’s see if we can’t, you know, this is a very smart group. They opened their notes. They’re ahead of us.

[Ryan]: I heard it already.

[Chip]: Well, we got a little laptop. I’ve got my iPad here so we’re all teched up. And let’s move to, kind of, what’s a parent need to know? Okay? I’m sitting here tonight and some, especially in this city, a lot of people very, very tech savvy.

But there’s some that are like me. So pretend, pretend you’re talking to me. Oh, wait, you don’t have to pretend. I’m here. But someone like me that you realize if I can’t find someone to fix my stuff then I’m in trouble. So what do parents need to know in today’s high tech world?

[Ryan]: Now, the first area is really we all get this. But we just need to really embrace this. That the landscape is constantly changing. We understand that. We see it. But it has dramatic implications for us in parenting. Because if the landscape is constantly changing, we can’t be on autopilot as parents.

And so we just see that we live in a landscape that is constantly changing. So what happens as a result is then the rules are ever changing. How we interact with life, what actually is possible changes?

The rules have changed in the way we can impact our world. Anyone at anytime can become famous with a click.

But it builds into this “me” generation, I’m the focus, that life revolves around me. Just think about the words we use. How many friends do you have? How many followers do you have?

In fact, I’ll stop with this one, is “old” is obsolete. New is not just nice. It’s necessary. The rule builds into this consumeristic mindset that we have that we must have the next new thing.

In fact, though, it has shaped our culture in the way we interact with one another I believe because the sage is dying in our culture, isn’t it? The wisdom of the past generation has begun to fade because this generation sees, “you don’t understand this and I do.” And so I don’t need you. Old is obsolete.

The encouraging part is, I work with college age young adults, is going through that they now see we long for mentors. We long for the wisdom of those. We can do all this great stuff tech wise but we don’t know how to do relationships. We don’t know how to do our finances. We don’t know how to do all these other things.

One passage before I move on that came to mind is in Chronicles and it’s talking about David’s men. And it says this interesting thing about the men of Issachar.

And it says that they understood the times and they knew what Israel should do. And I think that’s it. We live in a culture where the times are changing. The rules are changing. And as parents, that we ask God for the wisdom to understand the times and the courage to do what we know we should do.

[Chip]: And the thing that happens there is then it goes to the next point. The dangers are changing and growing.

[Ryan]: Right.

[Chip]: So, I mean, you know, yeah it’s one thing and we could all figure out that and, boy, I see this all the time. You know, texting and driving? That’s just stupid.

[Ryan]: Right.

[Chip]: Okay, and this is not limited to kids.

[Ryan]: No, I think we could ask the question and I don’t want to because…

[Chip]: Well, let’s not do that. Okay. But I mean…

[Ryan]: How many of us have done that?

[Chip]: I mean we are, I don’t want to miss or, I’m trying to say something, and save three seconds, and you kill someone. You know, kid runs out, he runs into the back of someone.

And so this is pretty serious. What are some of the other dangers?

[Ryan]: Well, and when it was first introduced to me, you know, back in the day, it was porn. That was the only thing I, you know, that was the only problem, But today, I mean, beyond addictions and all that is now you have online predators and you just think about not only do our kids have access to the world but now the world has access to our kids.

And we would never, I would never leave my daughter downtown by herself. And yet we do that with our kids online all the time.

[Chip]: Wow.

[Ryan]: And then you have cyber bullying. And it’s this whole idea that you have, what used to be just happened at the playground, it happened, you know, during recess, during lunch breaks and high school in the quad. Now that extends all the way to home 24/7 and you say, or at least teens, often say things way more viciously behind a computer screen than they ever would to their face.

And you see this cyber bullying. And it has dramatic impact. We’ve seen kids actually commit suicide as a result of this.

And then you have sexting and sextortion.

[Chip]: What is that?

[Ryan]: Yes. For those of you who don’t know and sexting is anytime you send an illicit image or message of yourself. So, and it doesn’t necessarily have to do with your phone and texting although that’s the primary means. And this has been a trend we’re seeing with teens and tweens.

[Chip]: And political leaders.

[Ryan]: Yes. And football players.

[Chip]: Yes.

[Ryan]: To take a nude picture of yourself, or provocative or to say something explicit sexually, and then send that to your boyfriend, girlfriend. Problem is then we’ve seen actually, you know, a girl that did that to a boy and then he sent it to everyone in school and thinking that she was just doing something for her boyfriend and yet…and those sort of things.

But then sextortion, I have a hard time with that word. It is then how predators are now actually leveraging that and they pose as someone else and get a teen or a young person to send an image and then they use that as a leverage in their life to say, “You need to send me more pictures, otherwise I’ll share this with everyone. You need to come meet me and do this otherwise I’ll do this." I mean, they even use, “I’ll let your parents know.”