The Danger of Smart Phones For Your Children

The Danger of Smart Phones For Your Children

Written By Karen Sargent in No Greater Joy Magazine

I read an article yesterday that should be required reading for every parent. It was written by a young mom, Sloane (not her real name). She works with an organization called Bark, whose sole purpose is to protect children from online predators. Her story is chilling.

In the article she recounts a typical day in her work with Bark. They start with a photo of Sloane wearing clothing a pre-teen would wear, glitter nail polish, chest bound with ace bandages. Team members use photo manipulation to turn it into a perky and innocent 11-year-old girl they call Bailey who, at that age, should be playing house and having tea parties.

Sloane uses an iPhone paired to a big-screen TV so the whole team can follow along. A video camera records it all because every speck of evidence is precious to law enforcement. The team creates accounts of fictitious young girls to show parents how pervasive the problem of online predation is.

Tonight Sloane is 11-year-old Bailey. She uploads a “selfie” to Instagram and writes a caption about being excited to see her friends tonight. Then she waits.

Sloane writes: “This part never takes long. It’s always unnervingly fast… on the very first night as Bailey, two new messages came in under a minute after publishing a photo… the numbers pinged up on the screen—2, 3, 7, 15 messages from adult men over the course of two hours. Half of them could be charged with transfer of obscene content to a minor.”

She goes on to describe in hideously graphic detail the conversations these men have with what they think is a little girl.

Are you hearing this, Mama? Are you paying attention, Daddy? In just two hours of an innocuous photo on Instagram, sick, twisted perverts are sending your innocent little girl pornographic photos of themselves and asking her to participate in activities too horrific to imagine.

Where are you while this is happening? Are you driving while she sits in the back seat and has her mind forever polluted by the filth of the world? Are you watching TV in the living room while she lies on her bed enjoying a little social media time with her “friends”?

It is not innocent or harmless entertainment. It is you standing at the door of your child’s mind and heart and actively inviting the devil in. It is not enough to put a filter on the Internet in your home. Your children have access to the Web everywhere they go. Their friends have cell phones with unfiltered Internet. Some girls are “groomed” through their school email accounts.

And it’s pervasive: social media, Fortnite and Minecraft, TikTok, and chat apps. Small children are targeted while watching My Little Pony videos on YouTube and playing games designed for very young children. Literally any time your child is on the Internet, he or she is a potential victim.

Last year, in a sting operation at the Jersey shore in which they posed as children online, authorities arrested 24 predators in the first week. In another county, 17. In another, 19. Those arrested came from all walks of life—”a police officer, a teacher, a minister, a nurse, a bank manager, a mechanic, a waiter, a dental hygienist, a college student…” There is no “typical predator” profile.

A state deputy attorney general said, “Nearly every game has a chat, so it’s hard for parents to keep track, even if they’re doing their homework.” Did you hear that? You can’t keep up.

Do you feel paranoid? You should. You are no match for the devil’s world. So what is a parent to do in this age of high-tech?

Say no. No, you will not have a cell phone or a tablet or computer of your own. You will not have a school email account (all necessary emails can be sent to the parents). You will not sleep over at your friend’s house. Your friend may not bring her cell phone here. You will not ride the bus to school.

Will that be enough? Will she be protected if we just homeschool and home church and don’t let her have a cell phone?

Sadly, no. So much of life in the 21st century is technologically driven, and it is becoming exponentially more so every day. Eventually the children will leave home for work or school. It is not enough to shield them from the dangers that are out there; we must teach them to guard their own hearts. Train them to be vigilant gate-keepers of their own minds so that when the first glimmer of temptation shows up, they are so well trained they instinctively flee. We must insulate them from within, as Mike wrote in this article 18 years ago.

Parenting in 2020 is much scarier than it was when my children were little in the 1980s. The dangers are more pervasive than ever, but Ecclesiastes says, “There is no new thing under the sun.” The devil who wanted my kids in 1980 still wants yours today; he’s just keeping up with technology better than you are.

Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good.
Romans 12:9

13 thoughts on “The Danger of Smart Phones For Your Children

  1. How horrible. I read a book called Having Our Say, The Delaney Sisters, the First Hundred Years. They were born at the end of the Victorian age. While they were young women they never went anywhere without a chaperone (many times their single aunt). During the Victorian age there were a lot of manners expected of good society and that included not talking to men you were introduced to formally by a trusted person in authority.

    I used to think this was all ridiculously stuffy but after having half of my adult female friends say they were raped or molested at some point in their life, I now see the wisdom. We need to bring that Victorian wisdom into the technology era. No children should be unprotected in public spaces including online.

  2. “The devil who wanted my kids in 1980 still wants yours today; he’s just keeping up with technology better than you are.”

    Reminds me of a sports quote:

    “Sports do not build character. They reveal it.” – John Wooden

    The smartphone has not created the evil, it has just exposed it for what it is, and has always been.

    The child grooming/predation is the most lurid and reported on aspect of this, but the anonymity of social media has brought a host of ills. Mobbing. Bullying. Exclusion.

    Another young person buried here days ago – it doesn’t seem that the hundreds of on-line friends is working out for too, too many of these kids.

    And the social media-addicted parents are too happy to bring their children along with them. Still recall my daughters texting with Dear Mother while I sat in the same room – silence, secrets, a perverse sense of “belonging”

    “When truth is replaced by silence,the silence is a lie.”

    ― Yevgeny Yevtushenko

    God Bless you parents who struggle. I am resigned that I lost my war.

    What a shame.

  3. It’s a scary world out there and now with the Internet the devil doesn’t even have to try very hard to get in our front doors. We’re just letting him and his minions right in! Parents today are fighting tougher battles with the moral decline of our world and our tastes for evil more easily nourished. We need to be praying daily for our family’s protection from the evil lurking, ready to devour our young and impressionable children. Raising up Kingdom minded children needs to be our focus and no amount of our time, or resources, should be spared to accomplish this end.

  4. One more thought on this – I can remember when Instagram was a new thing. I thought it was a wonderful forum for sharing picture of sunsets, puppies, maybe even artistic efforts. My daughters sharing with cousins, friends, and Mom.

    Seems to have quickly devolved into a medium for every young girl to explore her inner prostitute.

    With an always ready audience cheering them on.

  5. This is absolutely heartbreaking to hear. To be quite transparent, I went through this as a child, even with a mother who I considered strict at the time. I got my first computer when I was about 12 and my first smart phone around 13, maybe. It was a terrible mistake and started terrible habits that I carried into adolescence. I turned to pornography to answer the questions I didn’t feel comfortable asking my mother. I talked to boys I didn’t know a single thing about. I became so sneaky and a liar, living my life in numbing fear that my mom would snatch my phone away and see what I was doing. Even with that fear, I wanted to be loved so badly that I continued to act like a fool. I was always quick to delete and hide things if she took my phone away as a punishment when I got older. As I commented on IG yesterday, it could have saved me so much pain. So many “boyfriends” I talked to online that lied to me and made me feel pressured into things I regret to this day.

    Through a friend in seventh grade, I started talking to a boy online who I considered my “boyfriend”. It didn’t end up lasting, but I reconnected with him after I graduated high school. This was one of the worst decisions I have ever made. I finally ended up meeting him in person when I went away to college for a semester. I lied to my parents about where I was and ran off to spend time with him for a few days twice. Someone I barely knew. I wish I could take back the foolish and dangerous decisions I made, but I can’t. I went through so much abuse in that relationship and even inflicted a lot of abuse myself in return. It really broke me inside. Something that could have probably been completely prevented if I had never been exposed to using the internet on my own or cell phones when I had been. I wasn’t mature enough, and I put myself in some extremely dangerous situations in my short lifetime. I lived a sheltered life at home, but even within my home, I sought an outlet to experience and know the things my parents wouldn’t necessarily allow me to.

    If any of you are parents, please be careful with your children, especially your daughters if you are a mother.

  6. I will say that I was a teacher before a homemaker and the school emails cannot be accessed by anyone outside of the school (it’s a closed network). Parents and the staff can read the student emails at any time. Emails are monitored for inappropriate language. They do not get spam. They end in “.school” and so cannot be used to sign up on most websites (shopping, games, etc).

    We use the emails for Google classroom, which allows the teacher to grade assignments, leave comments, and input the grades directly into the gradebook. Parents can then instantly receive grades and view their child’s work. Students also use their school accounts for school subscriptions to age-appropriate news websites, research databases, and online textbooks. It also allows students to use online accounts for Word, powerpoint, excel, etc. so that no matter the programs on home computers, students can share presentations and we know they will be compatible. The teachers can also oversee any student’s work at any time, since they can access the accounts.

    I do not think children should have cell phones, nor do I think they should be on social media or allowed unsupervised internet time. I am only sharing the reality of school gmail accounts for middle schoolers.

    If one of students’ parents had requested no student email, I would understand, but I would let them know the control they have over the account, the safeguards, and the benefits. Their child would miss out on doing some age-appropriate research (journals published online, they would have to go to a college library to find print resources), they would have to carry heavy textbooks and workbooks, they would have to wait weeks for teacher feedback and grades, they would be unable to collaborate on group projects with other students who are not neighbors, etc.

    Really I think that if you object to using the internet for school purposes, you should just homeschool (Lori’s view anyway).

  7. My friends and I have often talked about how happy we are that none of this was around when we were kids or young adults. We made plenty of bad judgement calls on our own without them being recorded forever on cyberspace.

    I don’t have a smartphone. I have a very old Tracphone that I use simply for emergencies because pay phones no longer exist and I live in a rural area. I buy 60 minutes every 3 months for about $22 with tax. It’s cheap and I can be reachable and reach out, if needed. It has archaic texting that takes forever, but does work if I need to and have 15 minutes lol. I think that’s more than sufficient for a parent to feel safe about being able to reach their child. Of course, if they’re homeschooling, watching closely, etc., there really isn’t need for any type of phone.

  8. My 3 teenagers all have cell phones (smartphones, as that’s all we can buy here) but none of them are on social media.
    They also all have laptops and tablets as these are required for school (it’s an actual requirement – they MUST have them).
    Three times a year, their schools do courses on internet safety and how to keep themselves safe online. Even my 7 year olds class has been taught how to be safe online.
    But nothing can beat supervision.
    We use a router on our WiFi so it only works in the main living areas of the house and not the bedrooms so I know my kids are not hiding away in their bedrooms chatting to predators.
    It’s pretty scary though, knowing how accessible our kids are to predators via the internet.

  9. You are totally right, the dangers of internet and phones for kids and teens are before everyone’s eyes, but many parents still ignore that. And there are not only dangers about predators, there are many many people, videos and website that have strong bad influence on your children’s thoughts, beliefs and behavior. More, too much time spent on screens brings health problems, bad sight, anxiety, postural problem, over-excitement, bad sleep, …

    I don’t think all the web and phone stuff is bad, there are also very useful and educative resources, and having always the possibility to contact children or see their gps position, or the possibility for them to contact you in dangerous situation, is very good. My two oldest daughters have a phone but it’s strongly monitored and restricted with a parental control app. They can use the phone up to maximum one hour a day, only in the afternoon after schoolwork and chores done, it is automatically blocked when the hour is up and one hour before their bedtime. Experts recommend maximum 1 hour until 12yo, 2 hour until 18yo, but on every screen (TV and PC included) so one hour on phone is still enough for teens too. With the parental control any new app installation need a parent approval and all the inappropriate apps are blocked. There are web-filters for the web and all the videos, all their online history is recorded and I check it frequently. I can see their mail, messages, calls history and their gps position, all remotely by the parental control but I also check straight their phone to check everything is good and there are no bypassing tricks. And yes, social and photo/video sharing apps are not allowed.

    Many parents would consider this too restrictive for a 13 and 16 yo, but in my opinion and from all the bad news about teens internet and phones, at least until 18yo using all these parental control features is an actual necessity and parents duty. Many would even consider it violation of privacy, please explain me as good parenting can be in harmony with no monitoring and have proof everything is as it should be, for me parenting and privacy, until 18yo, are incompatible.
    Phones and internet can be useful for both parents and teens, but they can be very dangerous too, so parents need to monitoring that very closely or just don’t give phones to their children at all.

    Thank you a lot Lori for highlighting something very important that many parents underestimate.

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