by Johnathan Arnold
An opinion letter, humbly submitted for the consideration of parents who have children with smartphones. Snapchat is a messaging app with nearly 190 million daily users.
There is no question in my mind that you love your child. If you are reading this, it is because you care about your child’s flourishing. You do not want your child to be socially isolated and it is painful for you to refuse your child access to something that “everyone” – even many Christian young people – use to communicate.
But have we forgotten what Snapchat actually is? Snapchat is...
One secular parenting blog published an article titled “Why Snapchat Should Terrify You,” and summarized Snapchat in this way: “Snapchat can be compared to the Wild, Wild West of the olden days. There are very few rules, no real way to moderate what is going on, and any evidence of inappropriate behavior is quickly wiped away.”
Snapchat is nearly impossible to monitor for accountability purposes.
While licentiousness is the main concern, Snapchat places your children in other kinds of jeopardy. In an article on “Why Snapchat’s New Update Can Be Extremely Dangerous,” one writer warns that Snapchat now gives one’s location in real time, empowering predators. This can be turned off by switching to “Ghost mode,” but few users take advantage of this setting. Moreover, some Snapchat users receive frequent requests to connect with strangers. Snapchat has also been linked with an increase in mental health concerns among teenagers who struggle with self-consciousness, anxiety, and loneliness. Since Snapchat is commonly used for cyberbullying, the problem is further complicated.
I cannot imagine a world in which the advantages of Snapchat could possibly justify living with the dangers. Every child is at risk of forever losing his or her eternal soul in hell. The threat is imminent. Faith-destroying sin is crouching at the bedroom door.
Children are rarely as spiritually mature as parents think they are. Most children are simply not ready to navigate the dangers that come with Snapchat – or smartphones altogether. John Gardner contends, “The business of growing up is much longer drawn out than we pretend." Many parents of model teenagers have been astounded to discover their child’s sexting habits. It is shockingly common, and we cannot afford to assume our children will be the anomaly.
Some parents wrongly assume their children are saved at all. My parents used to say that I was a "good boy," when in fact I was a mean, unappreciative, self-absorbed, vindictive, obsessive, lustful, unregenerate teenager on track to destroy my life. Total depravity is a reality in the heart of every unbeliever. If Jesus had not made an intervention, I do not know where I would be. (Definitely not writing this article, which I would have once considered a bit nutty.) Until Jesus intervenes in the lives of our children, we should not forget what the Bible says about their nature and destiny. After Jesus makes a change, we should not forget the long and hard path to maturity.
Children cannot be trusted to navigate landmines alone. Granted, parents must extend some trust to their children in order to foster respect and communication. Granted, parents cannot shelter their children from everything ungodly. (I’m not a parent, so I don’t pretend to understand what the balance looks like.) But we should not be so naive as to think that children – even those who are saved and Spirit-filled – are mature enough to navigate a field of landmines or have a pet rattlesnake in their bedroom and bathroom. Snapchat is the spiritual landmine and metaphorical rattlesnake. It has catastrophic and poisonous potential. The inability to thoroughly monitor Snapchat means that children must ultimately handle it alone.
Parents must humbly shoulder total responsibility for allowing Snapchat in the first place.
Parenting requires great moral courage. Jesus characterized parents as giving good gifts to their children. It is much easier to give things than it is to take things away – even bad things. This is especially true when we want to be liked by our children or when children are idols in our lives. It will require great moral courage to admit that, perhaps, you have given your child a bad gift by allowing him or her to have an app with potential for spiritual peril. It will require even greater moral courage to take it away, and humbly shoulder total responsibility for allowing it in the first place.
When your child was a little tyke, you snatched him up when he got too close to the edge and explained the danger of the fall. Now, don’t assume that he can avoid spiritual cliffs on his own. Before it is too late, do the hard thing. Do not wait any longer than it takes to pray.
Woda, Steven. "Why Snapchat Should Terrify You." uKnowKids.com.
Hung, Dennis. "The Dangers of Snapchat on Mental Health." KNect365.
Neely, Samantha. "Why Snapchat's New Update Can Be Extremely Dangerous." Affinity.
Foster, BJ. "Dangers of Snapchat." All Pro Dad.
Gardner, John. "John Gardner's Writings." PBS.
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