Modern Toy

She was grading her students’ homework while her husband walked up and down the room playing on his smartphone. Suddenly, he noticed a tear roll down her face as she read the final paper.

“What’s wrong?” he asked her.

“Yesterday I gave my students the topic ‘My Wish’ as homework,” was the answer.

“Okay, but why are you crying?”

“When I read the last paper, I couldn’t help it.”

Curious, her husband asked, “What does it say that made you cry?”

“Listen to this: My wish is to become a smartphone. My parents love their smartphone so much. They are constantly taking care of their smartphone, and sometimes they forget to take care of me. When Dad comes home tired from his office, he has time for his smartphone but not for me. When my parents are doing something important and the smartphone rings, they answer on the first ring. They don’t hear me, sometimes even when I’m crying. They play on their smartphone but not with me. When they talk to someone on their smartphone, they don’t listen to me at all, even if I want to tell them something important. That’s why my wish is to become a smartphone.”

After listening, the man was deeply moved and asked, “Who wrote that?” – After a long pause came the soft response, “Our son!”

Pause for a moment while you read. 

What is it like in your family, in your life? How do your children and perhaps your grandchildren perceive you?

In recent decades, our mobile phone has become an indispensable companion. It seems as if this technology has taken root in our lives, perhaps even in our personalities, with secret powers like a sweet drug. These devices have caused us to change our behavior, to redefine our need for security.

If we take a critical look at the smartphone, a long list of undoubted benefits will immediately come to mind. In fact, this genre of device has enriched and simplified our lives more than hundreds of other devices. We have permanent access to a sea of information. Instantly, we can reach almost anyone we want to interact with. It also serves us as an extraordinary memory. It’s child’s play to take good quality pictures – and anyone can easily film their experiences and send and share them around the world in a matter of seconds. Yes, this is only the beginning of an undeniable list of advantages.

But what magic emanates from these devices that changes us in such a way! The permanent media presence influences and changes our view of the world and our values. What has prompted us to grant unknown people access to a microphone and camera that are always ready to record us, while at the same time documenting our every whereabouts? Via the smartphone, they can accompany our thoughts as we travel through the vastness of the Internet and know all our searches and purchases. Unbelievably, billions of people behave the same way as us and make themselves vulnerable. Even if the data tracking us is not officially used, we do not know what secret malware and future authorities will do without our consent.

Yes, our smartphone is a double-edged thing. Why do we allow such unpredictable risks? It’s probably because we are rewarded or bribed with great benefits in return. Our device provides us with knowledge in almost every field. The continuous access gives a sense of importance and power. And we always have the option of immersing ourselves in a virtual world and blocking out the problems of reality.

But why does the smartphone have such a big influence on our relationship with other people? The scene described at the beginning of this article is indeed conceivable in many families. Why does the device so often take precedence over the requests of the little ones? Where is the polite and friendly interaction with others? Doesn’t appreciation often have to give way to ignorance?

Perhaps in the modern family the solution is quite simple: the caring parents also give the child a smartphone so that everyone can play. What a picture: the family sits around the table with grandpa and grandma – all with their heads bowed in silence – but not in prayer.

Paul’s admonition in 1 Corinthians 7:31 is more warranted today than ever: “those who use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them.” Never have the dangers to our personality, our salvation, and our family been greater than in the present – and future. Yes, we take advantage of many offers that are made to us. Paul chose from the possibilities at that time: “‘I am allowed to do anything,’ you say. My answer to this is that not all things are good. Even if it is true that ‘I am allowed to do anything,’ I will not let anything control me like a slave” (1 Corinthians 6:12, ERV). Or further, he tells the listeners, “Everything is permitted, but everything isn’t beneficial. Everything is permitted, but everything doesn’t build others up” (1 Corinthians 10:23, CEB).

Our children are entrusted to us. God has arranged it so that we only have a formative influence on them for a few years, a time that imprints values and behavioral patterns on a child’s life that will continue to have an effect throughout his or her life. Words often play only a minor role. Your behavior and especially your personality shape your child. Our personal relationship with God and our life of faith have a much more powerful effect than constant exhortations.

How do our children and grandchildren experience our use of the smartphone? How do you feel when you’ve left the house and shortly afterwards realize that your smartphone is still at home? What do you do then? What happens in comparison when you are reminded that you forgot or neglected quiet time in prayer?

I have often spoken of “we” in these lines. Yes, it concerns me too. May God give us grace to protect our souls and our children from modern dangers!

Hermann Vogt

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