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Beware! It Could Be Destroying Your Soul!

The Idolatry of Technology

I know that is a strong statement, but I believe it very deeply. We are raising a generation of young people obsessed with mobile devices and enamored by triviality. Many teenagers send more than a hundred texts a day and carefully craft an exaggerated image of themselves on Facebook. From there they often go to dark places online that feed their basest desires, leading them to forsake healthy peer and family relationships.

In one week I interacted with two sets of parents who discovered that their teenager (age 16 in both instances) was taught by a friend how to bypass a computer filtering system and was secretly downloading pornography for two years.

Let me detail three myths we have about technology:

First, many people buy into the lie that technology is neutral, not realizing that it is weighted against a pure mind and lifestyle. Neil Postman has written, “A medium is not a neutral by-stander in our communication … every technology has an inherent bias … it has a predisposition to be used in certain ways and not in others. Every media has an agenda.” Postman’s words are especially true about the Internet. Just click on a news site and you will see provocative images that easily arrest our attention; no, nothing is sent to us without a bias, often a very tempting one.

Second, there is the myth that what we watch does not affect us. However, we have proof, empirically verified by various studies, that violent video games produce violent behavior; that pornographic pictures are often acted out, resulting in illicit sexual encounters. Why would advertisers spend billions for ads if what we see does not affect our behavior? Let me put it even more strongly: we are what we gaze at.

A third myth is that we can control technology by simply telling people to hit the “off” button.The fact is that many people cannot turn off the television, the computer, or an iPad because of the addictive power of these technologies. Parents have told me that they had to install a hidden camera before their teenager admitted that he was indeed playing video games and not doing his homework. When the truth finally comes out, those who are honest admit, “I am addicted!  I can’t stop!”

One man told me that he and his wife come home from work, eat a hastily prepared dinner, then she sits at her computer and enters the chat room with her friends till about 11:00pm. They have no meaningful communication, make no new friends, and each evening repeat the same routine. When he tries to talk with her about it, she becomes defensive and blames him for the boring existence they have together.

If ever there was a time when we needed to heed Proverbs 4:23, it is today. “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” Your heart is the place where life makes up its mind. The battle is unrelenting. We must honestly face the question of how to resist the seductive barrage of technology that leads our souls away from God.


How you can protect yourself … and your family

Once we understand the three common myths about technology, how do we keep ourselves — and especially the children we love — from becoming casualties of today’s obsession with all things technological?  How can we protect them from the pornography and other trash so common on the Internet?  Pastor Lutzer shares some practical tips.

Q: Given the rather harsh assessment of the Internet you made in your article, do you wish it would never have been invented?

A: I would not want to return to the days before email existed.  In retrospect, I don’t know how I survived without it.  As for the Internet itself, I find it valuable to find information quickly from many different sources.  But when the experts tell me that the growth of the Internet can be attributed to pornography, I begin to think that despite all the advantages of this medium, the harm it has done is incalculable.  Perhaps it would have been better if we had just had to make do without it?

Q: As you mention, children often learn how to bypass filtering systems.  Is it worth the trouble to have them on your computer?

A: Yes, it is worth your while.  Although technology geeks can bypass filtering systems, the average child does not know how this can be done.  So unless the child is determined and focused to bypass the system, it will provide a layer of protection.  But — and this is important — don’t over exaggerate the value of filters.  Plenty of unclean sites can be visited even with the filters in place.

Q: What other kinds of safeguards should parents have in place?

A: First, the parents themselves must model restraint and accountability regarding the websites they visit.  Many find Covenant Eyes or other accountability software helpful because a trusted friend can track where the person has been.

As for monitoring what your children are doing, have your home computer situated in a room clearly visible to others; as a general rule, children should not have a television or Internet access in their bedroom.  Mobile devices must be used under strict supervision.  Then talk about these matters with your children.  Let them know that they must always stay in age-appropriate sites, and if they stray, they should let the parents know.  Also, be cautious about allowing your child to visit the home of a friend.  Teenagers have told me that they have been introduced to pornography in the home of someone their parents even “trusted.”

And finally, if a child is found viewing an inappropriate site, do not shame them but explain that although the temptation is powerful, they must resolve not to cross a forbidden line; curiosity itself is the bridge to the forbidden.

Q: Do you think that Satan is at work in technology?

A: Yes, I believe that he views this as his territory, so we must prayerfully redeem it out of the hands of the enemy.  We can’t do this alone: we need the encouragement and accountability of the body of Christ.  As Jesus told us, we must be willing to cut out our eye or our hand to keep us from sexual sin.  He is not speaking literally of course, but He certainly means that we should do whatever it takes to not be lured into moral failure.  We have challenges no other generation has ever had to face.  Blessed are those who can use technology without falling into the traps it puts in our path.

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