Smartphones are helpful, convenient, and entertaining. They give teens the ability to get in touch with their parents at any time from almost anywhere, which is especially useful in emergencies. They grant teens instant access to an infinite amount of useful information, which makes their lives easier. They also put their favorite music, TV shows, and movies right in the palm of their hand.
Yet, we live in a world stained by sin and smartphones can be a real danger to teens. Smartphones bring an array of temptations directly into the hands of impressionable, still maturing young people who are often not ready to handle the barrage of temptations.
So, should my teen have a smartphone?
Every matter in life can be debated. As Christians, we need to get in the habit of going to God’s Word for guidance and answers. We must obey what God tells us and trust that his commands are good and right. The Creator knows what is best for our lives, what will bring us true joy, and his commands show us the way.
It is also necessary that we approach matters in honesty and humility. Honesty allows us to examine the thoughts and motives behind our actions. Humility gives us the ability to confess the sinful desires of our hearts, which cause us to make wrong decisions. Approaching issues in honesty and humility allows us to come clean before God, makes us willing to hear what he has to say, and ready to follow his ways.
What does the Bible say about smartphones?
The Bible is still relevant today. No, it doesn’t mention smartphones, but it does show us the way that God wants us to live and our mission as redeemed people. So let's examine smartphones asking these questions: Do smartphones help or hurt our teens live God-pleasing lives? Do they help them in the pursuit of God's mission to spread the Good News?
Smartphones can challenge a teen's faith.
A doorway to sexual immorality
From easy access to porn, to sexting, to everything in between, smartphones are a doorway to a huge world of sexual temptation. Even “safe” sites like Instagram and Facebook are filled with graphic pictures and inappropriate content.
Every week there are news stories warning parents about apps that allow teens to share sexual photos and videos secretly, apps that allow you to talk with strangers, about teens in trouble with the law for sexting, and about the enormous porn epidemic.
God talks often and bluntly about sexual immorality and sexual temptations throughout the Bible.
But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. -Ephesians 5:3
Flee the evil desires of youth and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. -1 Timothy 2:22
It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God; and that in this matter no one should wrong or take advantage of a brother or sister. -1 Thessalonians 4:3
God is very clear that we should not only flee sexual immorality, but instead we should go on the offensive and pursue righteousness. As parents we cannot treat the sexual temptations found on smartphones lightly and we need to be aware of the real threat this can be to our teen’s faith. It is natural to want to think the best of our children. We look at our kids and pray that they are the rare exceptions to these struggles. Yet, we must be honest and realize that they are only so strong against the unrelenting sexual temptations on smartphones.
Hinting at self worth, but leaving us empty
Teens obsess over how many “likes” their photos bring. Girls post inappropriate content in search of affirmation and love. Body image issues rage due to the perceived perfection of others online.
What does God say?
For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made: your works are wonderful, I know that full well. -Psalm 139:13-14
This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. -1 John 4:10
Our worth doesn’t come from our social media feeds or how many people message us. Our worth comes from the fact that our designer is the same God who created the whole world. He created us, loves us, and even gave up his own son for us. Our value comes from him and his love for us.
Smartphones can distract teens from the real mission.
Our sinful nature is self-focused
We have entire websites dedicated to promoting ourselves. Teens focus hours of attention on how they look, what abilities they have and what others think of them. This mindset is completely opposite of what God teaches us in his Word.
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. -Philippians 2:3-4
You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” -Galatians 5:13-14
A life lived for self will only disappoint. We were created to live for something bigger than ourselves. We were made to live for our Creator! Joy, satisfaction, and life come from living for others, not ourselves, because this is the way God made it.
There is no time to waste time
The average teen spends 9 hours on screens and nearly half of that is on their smartphones.
The time is short. Jesus is coming back. There are such better things (with eternity in mind) that our teens (and all of us) could be doing with those 9 hours each day.
The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray. -1 Peter 4:7
“Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.” -Revelation 22:12-13
"All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” -Matthew 28:18-20
Look around the world. There are people dying every minute without the hope of Jesus Christ. Darkness is deepening and the need for light to shine into that darkness is greater than ever. There is truly no time to waste.
What Matters Most?
Our top priority as parents is to care about the spiritual lives of our children. Their earthly well-being does matter, but only for the fleeting moment that is life; their spiritual condition has eternal, everlasting significance.
Taking all these things into consideration, if our teen owning a smartphone has the strong potential to lead them into some very serious sins, we need to weigh carefully the reasons we feel it is necessary that they have them.
Yet, we cannot shelter our children from the reality of sin and temptation. We can’t. In fact, talking openly about sex, sexual temptation, the dangers of media, etc. are key to preparing teens for the fight against this culture. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean we have to expose them to all of the things we talk to them about. The best defense against temptation, especially if you are not strong enough to stand against it, is to steer clear of danger zones.
Ultimately, when deciding whether or not our teens will have smartphones, we must prayerfully make the choice with the first priority being our teen's walk with Christ. The job of parents isn’t to make sure our teens are popular or even happy. Our goal is to teach them the truth of God’s Word and encourage them to pursue God so that they can stand firm and shine their light in the midst of the darkness.
So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. -1 Corinthians 10:31