Parenting and Technology


For the month of May, Truth78 has graciously allowed our readers to freely download Zealous by David Michael. This book presents seven commitments that provide a vision and framework for the discipleship of the next generation.

In 2019 I went 10 days without my iPhone, partly as a digital detox, partly because I loaned it to our son who needed it for a trip overseas. I quickly realized how central smartphones have become to accomplishing even the most basic tasks. There were many apps I could live without, but the lack of texting, GPS, and portable internet made it frustrating to accomplish everyday tasks and responsibilities. It’s not hard to understand why parents think phones are necessary for their children. And yet, giving our children the ability to get things done efficiently has never been our primary parenting objective. That, plus the rush of headlines about the dangers phones pose to kids and teens, should give us pause.

From the perspective of Christian discipleship, phones are ill-suited to immature and impressionable children and teens. The world’s best advice to parents is to delay giving your kids a phone as long as possible. There’s wisdom in that, but is that the limit of our influence or responsibility? How does God’s Word instruct us as we seek to rear children in the fear of the Lord in this digital age? The principles for guarding and guiding children through life’s hazards in ancient, pagan civilizations are the same principles we need today.

God is not surprised by our challenges. He created the world and everything in it (Acts 17:24), including the raw materials and human ingenuity required to build an iphone (see Tony Reinke’s God, Technology, and the Christian Life for more on this). He has promised to give us wisdom when we ask for it (James 1:5), and the Scriptures are sufficient for faithfulness in all of life, including parenting in every circumstance (2 Tim. 3:16–17).

Teaching kids how to steward technology requires a plan, rooted in God’s Word. It begins with prayer and a commitment to intentionality, but each stage of development is unique in its challenges and opportunities.

Babies and Toddlers

Technology can tempt parents to distract themselves from the challenges and monotony of caring for a newborn. As one of the older moms in our church, I’m often asked to give a word of advice at baby showers. I usually say something like this:

I didn’t have a smartphone when any of our kids were born. I’m glad I didn’t, because I don’t know how I would have resisted the pull of checking social media and seeing my friends look their best, while I was at my postpartum worst. It would have been hard on my emotions. If you want to be at peace, don’t keep your phone near you when you’re nursing. Instead, focus on your new baby. Smell his head. Study his face. Sing over him and pray. Ask God to give you the wisdom you’ll need to raise him in the fear of Him. Praise God for this awesome gift, for the miracle of new life. Let the love that you feel exploding in your heart grow. The quiet middle-of-the night feedings are fleeting. Soak this time in. You will sleep again. Don’t panic and don’t fritter those hours away online. Be fully present.

The other big temptation in this season is to lean on your smartphone as a sort of electronic babysitter. I see this all the time at the grocery store–toddlers, and even younger, in the back of shopping carts with their eyes glued to a screen. It may seem harmless to hand your wee one a video, enabling you to get things done without countless interruptions and whining. But kids who start watching screens from very young ages are habituated to depend on screens for entertainment and distraction. It’s very hard to take them away when they’re older. This is setting the stage for problems later on. Parents who amuse youngsters with screens may also face the heartache of finding them unwilling to open up to them about serious subjects when they’re older. Far better to use these early years to teach them about the world around them, train them to listen and obey, and talk with them.

The joys of motherhood and fatherhood far outweigh the challenges of this hardest, best job of being parents. God has entrusted us with the gift of new life and has given us the job of teaching our children His Word and urging them to trust Him. Where technology helps us, it’s a blessing. Where it hinders them from setting their hope in God, we need to be wise and shrewd. It’s not too soon to begin thinking about how you’ll steward technology as your children grow, praying for wisdom along the way.

Grade School

The pressure to get a phone starts early. Some of your children’s friends may have them already and they will need your help to see that it’s a blessing to be unburdened by not having a phone yet. Tell them about the temptations that internet-enabled devices present, in age appropriate language, and how God made us to look on what is good, beautiful, and true (Phil. 4:8). Help them see what they’d miss if they gave up their free time to phones. And be willing to share your phone with them, using it together when they need it to look something up for school or arrange getting together with a friend. There will be plenty of time for them to catch up on tech use when they’re more mature and more able to steward it with wisdom.

Our job is more than raising kids who are tech wise. Our aim is children who will love God with all their heart, mind, soul, and strength, and love others as themselves. To this end, we must discipline ourselves to use technology to the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31). Our job as parents is to urge our children to follow us as we follow Christ (1 Cor. 11:1). We must ask ourselves, are we following Christ when it comes to our technology? When we use it for His glory and our good, we’re setting an example for them to follow. But it’s possible to model bad habits, too. Are we pushing them away as we choose to scroll instead of engage? Our love and relationship is what our children long for. It’s also the setting God designed to most naturally produce gospel fruit.

Middle School

As children grow in trustworthiness, it’s helpful to remember that you’re not only looking for their readiness, but also aware that there are bad-intentioned people online, and your children have an enemy seeking to devour them (1 Pet. 5:8). Most children won’t go searching for harmful things online, but they don’t have to. Harmful things have a way of finding children. That’s another reason to be vigilant during this stage when children are still developing their understanding of the world, and ability to flee temptation.

This is the season for pouring the truths of God’s Word into our children as we sit, rise, and walk along the way (Deut. 6:6–7). To do that well, we need to be fully engaged with them at meals, when we drive somewhere, when we tuck them in at night, and when we greet them in the morning. In all these settings, we also need them to give their attention to us. Consider, how many along-the-way conversations never happen because of technology?

High School

By now, nearly everyone has a phone, but that doesn’t mean they should. Many are not developmentally ready for it. Most kids would be better served by a smartphone alternative. Whatever devices parents give to their kids, they need to be intentional about what those devices can access, for how long, and in what contexts. It’s a gift to children when they’re required to use smart devices in shared family spaces and to set them to shut down after a set time each night. Your children may not be thankful for your protections in the moment, but you are helping them to avoid serious consequences by limiting what they can do and see, when, and where.

It’s heartbreaking to hear parents say they wish they hadn’t given their children phones so early. To them I say, it’s not too late to backtrack. If your highschoolers (or younger) can’t focus on a sermon without pulling out their phone to check their notifications, talk to them about the wisdom of leaving their phones at home on Sunday. But also, be willing to join them and leave yours at home, too. If they’re looking at degrading, defiling images, or worse, configure tighter parental controls. Don’t rule out the possibility of taking their phone away for a season or swapping a smart device for a flip phone. But also, talk to them about their spiritual condition. They may surprise you with their relief at being found out and gladly receive your help. If they push back, you’ll know that more serious conversations about the state of their soul are what’s needed. This too is a gift–to be made aware of their need for God’s intervening grace. Whatever their response, give thanks to God for revealing areas of temptation and sin, and for reminding you of your dependence on Him. Ask Him for wisdom to know how to respond effectively and in love.

What We’re Preparing Them For

We’re called to build high walls when children are young and instill strong character as they grow, not just so they can get a phone and be safe when they’re on it. The point of all of this discipleship is so that they’ll know and love the Lord Jesus Christ. Conversations about phones and tech use are a means for pointing our children to Him. We long for them to do everything for His glory (1 Cor. 10:31). We yearn for them to seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness (Matt. 6:33). Keeping this in mind has been a great help to us as we’ve wrestled with when is the right time to give our kids a phone. Our answers have varied based on each child’s needs, as well as their maturity and spiritual development.

I know we’ll never look back and say, “I wish we’d given them phones sooner,” or “I wish we’d all been online more often!” I’m thankful for every tech free evening we’ve spent together reading, talking, playing games, making music, and more. Like all of life, childhood is fleeting. The more undistracted time we give our children, the more we will be able to know them, exhort them, and instruct them in “the glorious deeds of the Lord and the wonders that He has done…so that they will set their hope in Him” (Ps. 78:1–7).

We’re called to prepare our children for many things, including using smartphones wisely. But this pales in comparison to the most important task of all: preparing them to meet their Lord and maker, Jesus Christ. Every lesser task should serve this end. May the God who made our children, and made us their parents, help us. By His grace, may He find us faithful.



Candice Watters

Candice Watters

Candice Watters is the editor of and author of Get Married: What Women Can Do to Help it Happen. She is married to Steve Watters, director of marketing and resource development for Truth78. The Watterses are members of Clifton Baptist Church in Louisville, KY, where they teach 5th grade Sunday School. Together they wrote Start Your Family: Inspiration for Having Babies. They have four children in their high school or adult years.