Smartphones and Child Rearing Don’t Mix
Are parents doing what is best for their children–or simply what is most convenient for themselves?

“Mom! Mom! Mom! Mommy! Mom!”

Are you ever too absorbed in your smartphone to realize there’s a child clamoring for your attention? More and more parents today are.

Do you ever plop your children in front of the television or stick a smartphone or tablet in their hands as a way of keeping them out of your hair? More and more parents today do—and with extremely young children.

Common Sense Media did a study recently on how much screen time our children get from birth. The chief executive on the study said, “[P]arents increasingly are handing their iPhones to their 1½-year-old kid as a shut-up toy.” About half of children under age 2 watch tv or dvds on a typical day. Those who do spend an average of almost two hours in front of the screen.

The New York Times reported, “The study found that fully half of children under 8 had access to a mobile device like a smartphone, a video iPod, or an iPad or other tablet.”

Are these parents doing what is best for their children—or simply what is most convenient for themselves?

Growing numbers of school-aged children are showing signs of severe addiction to gadgets, as well as other negative effects like easy distractability and reduced conversational skills and literacy. Robert Morley wrote about this trend in the Trumpet last year (”What’s More Important: Your Family—Or Your Phone?”).

“[P]arents who check their e-mail three times on the way to the bus stop are constantly modeling that behavior, so it’s only natural the kids want to use mobile devices too,” the head of the study said. Parents are wrapped up in their devices and devoting their attention to those things rather than to their children. And their children are following that example.

What about us? How much of our attention is swallowed up by these gadgets and things at the expense of our families and children?

Truly, life can get busy. It is filled with distractions and claims on our time and attention. It is all too easy to relegate our children to a low priority.

The Plain Truth About Child Rearing makes an interesting point about this tendency. It brings out the end-time prophecy of 2 Timothy 3:2, which says that children today would be “disobedient to parents” and out of control. Why is this the case? “Nothing seems to characterize our present society more than the thrill-seeking, pleasure-mad binge of a fat, indolent nation bloating on its own prosperity, and seemingly ‘too busy’ in its mad race for pleasure to be concerned about the children it engenders.”

Rearing children properly takes time.It takes focused attention. This is a responsibility God has given to us parents—and those who are “too busy” simply cannot do the job properly!

How much time do you spend with your children?

Dr. Urie Bronfenbrenner conducted a study in 1970 to find out how much time fathers spend with their children. He asked fathers to estimate the time they devoted to their children each day. The average response was 15 to 20 minutes. Then they attached microphones to the kids to record actual interactions with parents. Reality check: The time Dads were actually spending averaged 37 seconds a day: 2.7 encounters of 10 to 15 seconds each.

That study was conducted over 40 years ago. Do you believe fathers today are spending more time with their children? More and more children don’t even have a father around.

Contrast that picture with more recent statistics of children’s media use. The Kaiser Family Foundation found in 2009 that the average screen time among kids 8-to-18-years-old is 7.5 hours per day. If you include “multitasking” with multiple devices, the average is 11 hours per day! Kids spend an extra 2 hours on mobile devices: 1.5 hours texting and a half hour talking.

Is this happening with your children? Thirty-seven seconds with Dad—nearly 8 hours a day absorbing messages from the media?

We must keep our life simple. This is Satan’s society, and he wants us to be so distracted that we don’t have time for what is really important. Our children are important! Family is important!

We simply must prioritize family time.

In the September 1979 Good News, Mr. Armstrong wrote a personal titled “Your Children—Future Gods?” The quip reads, “Do young parents realize the supreme blessing—and responsibility—of having children? New knowledge is revealed in this article—even more important than a matter of life and death!”

In this article, Mr. Armstrong explained how the children of believing parents “are not, like children of unconverted parents, cut off from God. It means that they may be taught about God by the believing parent.” That is what their sanctification is about: They have an open door for godly instruction. God sanctified them by leaving the door open in their lives. Now it’s up to us as parents to lead them through that door. If we are not instructing our children, we are neglecting that sanctification.

“Your children are in a special (consecrated) category,” Mr. Armstrong continued. “You may teach them about Christ—about the things of the Bible. Their chances of being converted when sufficiently mature are multiplied!

“Although Satan is going to influence your children, almost from birth, toward his selfish and rebellious attitude, you may counteract this by your teaching your children the truth about God!” That is quite a responsibility! Satan is coming after our children, and God expects us to be active in counteracting his influence! God does not just protect them automatically: It hinges on what we do!

“Brethren, God’s Church is not showing even half the growth it should have from the oncoming generation of our members. This shows we have neglected the teaching of our children!” (ibid). We are losing young people primarily because we are neglecting to teach them!

“The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame” (Proverbs 29:15). We must not neglect our children. If we neglect them, we are failing God.

God gets upset when He sees parents neglecting their responsibilities to their children—when He sees those children aren’t receiving the spiritual benefit from living in that family that He intends them to and which He considers the children’s right to have!

“My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children” (Hosea 4:6). We don’t want God to forget our children. That means we had better fulfill our responsibilities.

Examine your priorities. Pull a Bronfenbrenner on yourself: Inventory the actual time you’re spending with your children.

You can be sure that God knows how much time it is. He commands in Deuteronomy 6:7 that we teach them diligently—every day: when we’re sitting in the house; going around town; putting them to bed; greeting them in the morning. This is to get them to constantly think about God, His laws and His ways.

Talk about what’s happening in their lives—show them how they can apply God’s law. Ask them questions to get them thinking: How do you think Abraham felt when he had to sacrifice Isaac? How might Isaac have felt? Does God ever ask people to do that today? Have you ever had to give something up in order to obey God? Make them think about how the lessons apply to them.

This is not easy. It requires sacrificing some other claims on our time and attention. We don’t always feel like doing it. Nevertheless, it is our job.

Referring to Hannah in The God Family Vision, Mr. Flurry wrote, “She saw that if she had a son, it would be a total waste to rear him without God’s truth and let the devil have him. Hannah realized God gives you a child as a gift, so you can give the child back to Him spiritually! … Do we see the spiritual connection? If you have a son, can you look into his eyes and begin to educate him about the resurrection and the God Family vision? Can you really help him see why he is alive? Can you see as Hannah saw? What wonderful and precious truth this is!”