“Young adults with high social media use (SMU) seem to feel more socially isolated than their counterparts with lower SMU.” — American Journal of Preventive Medicine
“But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness…” — Bible
Mary (not her real name) has worked in a children’s day care in Aiken for many years. She is very concerned about the change she has noticed in the parents who bring their children in. They bring the children in early in the day, pick them up late in the evening and are always on their cell phones, paying little or no attention to their children.
The electronic media have had a major impact on us, and it’s not all good. Many times I have observed couples sitting across from each other in a restaurant, both of them staring at their cell phones, with essentially no communication or eye contact between them.
Numerous studies indicate that the average person spends 2.5 hours per day on social media, 3.3 hours per day on the internet and 4 hours per day watching TV. That’s almost 10 hours per day staring at some screen rather than engaging in direct communication. Most of the data include both work and home time, but in any case we spend a vast amount of time interacting with electronic media and not people.
Resources are available to help us understand the impact of electronic media on our lives. There are also applications that help us control our access. Here are a couple of books with provocative titles, and some apps that might be useful. I don’t necessarily recommend them but they illustrate resources that are available.
• “The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains” by Nicholas Carr.
• “The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future (Or, Don 't Trust Anyone Under 30)” by Mark Bauerlein.
• Covenant Eyes.
It’s not that electronic media is inherently bad (although sometimes I wonder) or that time spent on it is wrong, it’s a matter of priorities. As noted above, we all have only 24 hours in each day and it can’t be extended. We have some flexibility in how we choose to use that time, which hopefully is controlled by what’s important to us. In my opinion the important things in life have remained constant throughout the centuries, and I summarize them in three simple categories: God and His Word, family and connections.
I could simplify it further with just the words family and connections. We are born spiritually into God’s family and physically into our earthly family. Then we connect with the rest of God’s creation.
So rather than allowing the electronic world to control our priorities, we would benefit greatly by causing the electronic world to enhance our priorities.
For example, our family (my wife, and my children when they were in our house) essentially watched no TV. It is so difficult to find the good amidst the bad that it isn’t worth the time. Social media access is very limited and used primarily as a tool for necessary communication.
Although electronic media can be useful when priorities are maintained, it can become very dangerous. TV shows today often are cesspools of depravity. Social media and other electronic media at a minimum become very addictive. At worst they provide immediate and easy access to pornography and graphic violence and have been used to harass and demean others to the point of suicide.
Consider a few simple ground rules, and establish your own:
• Establish priorities in the home. God’s Word is reasonably clear about what’s edifying and what isn’t. For example, spouse and children come first. Entertainment is way down the line. Establish clear boundaries and enforce them.
• Control TV watching, both time and content. Make the decisions before turning on the TV.
• Limit access to social media of all kinds and be very careful about what’s posted and who you connect to.
Be accountable to one another in all your decisions and actions.