Today our children and grandchildren are more vulnerable to the dangerous pressures of peers and the evils of the world than ever by a device that most of them carry in their pockets and handle daily- their smartphones. How can parents and grandparents today guide and equip their kids to survive and thrive in an ever-changing and increasingly dangerous digital environment?
Potential Dangers of the Digital Age
Kirk Cameron takes seriously the impact of smartphones on kids when child development experts find links between the use of electronic devices and negative effects on concentration, emotional health, sleep, and empathy and more. He faces the challenge of smartphones with his six kids and helps others to do the same. He goes to experts and then shares what he has learned that will enlighten, challenge, and encourage parents. His goal is to strengthen families. For parents committed to rearing their kids to make a positive impact in our world, CONNECT provides real help for parenting kids in a social media world.
Drs. Diane Howard (Ph.D. Performance, Media Studies) and David Howard (Ph.D. Family Studies), have followed Kirk Cameron’s work with parents and families with interest and support. Dr. Diane Howard has an in-depth interview with Kirk:
Interview with Kirk Cameron
DH: What have you discovered from researchers and parenting leaders that are the serious dangers of smartphones in the hands of teens?
KC: There is easy exposure to what is too heavy for our kids such as pornography and addictive material that leads to isolation, loneliness, and missing out on real face-to-face and deep relationships. We share the same burden as our kids. We can get caught up on addictive, isolating interactions with our smartphones which further leads our kids to loneliness, lack of success, and lack of abilities to navigate today’s online world.
DH: What do parents need to know about kids’ developing brains and how to help to guide and protect their kids from online dangers?
KC: I have learned from experts that developing teen brains are flexible and good at more than one thing at a time. However, with the average of ten hours a day that teens spend with technology the brain can also prune out other areas and abilities that it is not dealing with and can be rewired. Now with everything at one’s fingertips and easily accessed, teens can struggle with real, face-to-face relationships, that brains can atrophy in some ways, and that chemical modifications can take place. When teens receive positive online social interactions, they can experience the need for more and more Dopamine, which is the chemical in your brain that affects our sensations of pleasure. When teens’ phones are removed, teens can experience withdrawal.
DH: How can parents protect their children from online social pressures?
KC: Be in a real relationship with them. Learn how they communicate today, even on an entry level with their technology.
DH: How can parents help their children manage the addictive nature of smartphone use?
KC: Too much of anything can bad. Be a leader and role model of what you want for them. There are valuable parental controls to block, set time limits, monitor…
DH: Why do you say that the heart of the battle is really the battle of the heart?
KC: We want to point them to God then the front door. Our controls are temporary. We want them to develop integrity and convictions of the heart.
DH: How can parents help their kids to develop discernment?
KC: We can be role models of discerning people who surround ourselves with wise discerning people and sources. We can value and share the Word of God with them. We share the Book of Proverbs, a treasure of wisdom, with them. This book shows what the wise and foolish person looks like. It shows where the lives of both lead.
DH: How can parents help their kids to develop a heart for God?
KC: We can’t force-feed our children. We can let them see an open Bible on our laps. We can take them to church. We can let them see us on our knees. We can encourage them, take an interest in them, and show them genuine love.
Parents and Children Connect
Along with his wife, as engaged parents, Kirk Cameron, decided to video-document his research into ‘How to parent’ in a digital world, when he and wife decided to buy their children smartphones. The CONNECT movie is the result of this research.
Kirk’s recent film credits include documentaries about vital national issues. Kirk and Chelsea are the founders of Camp Firefly, where terminally ill children and their families are provided an all-expense paid retreat. As passionate advocates of marriages and families, they have created what may be the most exciting and much-needed project to date, one that aims to enlighten and encourage parents in today’s digitally driven environment.
In an online world that creates an illusion of reality and “friends” through social media, apps and “followers,” Kirk Cameron: CONNECT pulls back the curtain to the benefits, dangers and boundaries that every parent, teacher or adult should consider while monitoring and utilizing technology in our young people’s lives.
CONNECT tackles serious issues concerning how smartphones in the hands of youth open them up to real dangers: predators, pornography, bullying and more. However, as it provides understanding, it gives assurance that parents’ relationship with their children is critical for helping them overcome evil. It encourages parents to help their kids to develop discernment, to have a heart for God, and to be constructively in the world without being victims of its dangers. Audiences will find this movie honest and encouraging.
“God-fearing parents can find confidence and guidance when it comes to the challenges of parenting in our technology-driven world, knowing that God has fully equipped us for the sacred calling as a parent,” said Cameron. “We have resources to prepare our children as they learn their purpose and identity, and responsibly use technology to understand family, friends, God and the world around them.”
Notable guests in this compelling documentary include Dr. Ian Armstrong (Neurosurgeon), Kathy Koch, Ph.D. (founder of Celebrate Kids, Inc.), Tim Woda (founder of uKnowKids), Pastor Ken Graves (Calvary Chapel, Bangor, Maine), and Mark Gregston (founder of Heartlight). Also featured are parents and young adults who share their own personal stories regarding the impact of technology in their lives.
For more ongoing insights about kids and smartphone use, follow Kirk on Facebook.
The Connect movie is available for purchase on DVD or digital.