In many ways, the digital age is both the best of times and the worst of times to be a parent. The good news is our kids have really easy access to so much, right at their fingertips. The bad news is our kids have really easy access to so much, right at their fingertips.
The reality is that in all the history of humankind, you (and I) are the first generation of parents to raise kids in both a sex-saturated and digitally connected world.
And truth be told, most parents are way behind. Buy a new device, and it’s a toss-up who will master it first—mom, dad, or their 9-year-old. More times than not, I’d put my money on the 9-year-old. This isn’t a threat in and of itself, except for how far-reaching those devices go.
No good parent would buy their son or daughter a ticket to Cairo, pat them on the back, and then put them on a plane alone. But with the digital devices they carry, it’s a bit like we’ve done just that—given them an all-access ticket to the world, with all the good, bad, beautiful and profane that’s out there.
Welcome to the digital age.
For over five years, we’ve been leading conversations with parents about parenting in the digital age, and I’m convinced we really only have a few options as to how we’re going to parent:
- We can go with the flow of the culture.
- We can try to keep our kids from the digital world around them.
- We can pioneer.
To go with the flow won’t serve our kids (or us) very well. As much as the world boasts about the ease of digital access and sexual “connection,” the research is rolling in and finding conclusively that loneliness is on the rise. And our kids—millennials and Generation Z—are the loneliest age groups.
We all want to be seen, heard, and touched. That shouldn’t be a surprise. But to be human means there are parts of us that, quite simply, can’t be in cyberspace, and so those parts of us will always remain unseen, unheard, and untouched in our online interactions.
And to be human also means there are parts of us that run far deeper than our flesh—parts of us that, frankly, can’t be known quickly or without loving intention. In short, the deep waters of our souls can’t be seen, heard, or touched by sound bite conversations, constant entertainment or casual sex, even when the sex feels really good. We need meaningful, face-to-face relationships. So do our kids.
So going with the flow won’t serve us well. But neither will trying to create Christian bubbles to protect our kids from all the potential harms around them. They will not always be under our roofs, so in age-appropriate ways, they are going to need to learn to navigate the world in which they are living. What’s more, if our kids are going to grow in Christlikeness, then they will have to learn to do so in the world, not outside it. Isn’t this what Jesus did for our sakes? Where we seclude ourselves from a world in need, we will never learn to love with a Christ-like love.
I’m in no way saying we shouldn’t look out for our kids or make considerate, wise choices about things like screen time or internet filters, but as parents, we have to consider carefully where that parental instinct to protect our kids is truly about loving them and where it is actually about protecting ourselves from the vulnerabilities of loving them in the world in which we’re living.
So if not going with the cultural flow or creating another Christian subculture, then what?
We embrace the adventure of becoming pioneer parents.
God has put an incredible opportunity in front of us: to learn to parent with a Christ-like love in a world that is desperately seeking for real-life, infinite love, but seeking for it futilely “in all the wrong places.”
It is God who has chosen our kids to grow up in this age and God who has chosen us to parent them…for such a time as this.
Regeneration is committed to helping. If you haven’t already, join us for an upcoming PG: Cultivating Purity in a Sex-Saturated Culture event, or contact us about bringing the event to your church or Christian school.
Question for you parents: What’s one area parenting in a digitally connected, sex-saturated age has been difficult for you? What’s been helpful?