Fathers Urged to Engage in ‘Digital Discipleship’ With Their Children at Johnny Hunt Men’s Conference

Brian Jennings, middle school pastor at First Baptist Church in Woodstock, Ga., leads a breakout session on “Digital Discipleship” during the Johnny Hunt Men’s Conference. Photo courtesy of First Baptist Church Woodstock

Fathers must train their children to use technology wisely, Brian Jennings told men in a breakout session at the Johnny Hunt Men’s Conference.

Jennings, middle school pastor at First Baptist Church in Woodstock, Ga., led a session on “Digital Discipleship,” addressing the explosion of technology use; its consequences in the lives of kids and teenagers; and strategies that fathers can use to keep their families safe.

“When we look at teenagers and children, technology is just the world they inhabit,” Jennings said during the Jan. 25 breakout session. “We all remember a time before smartphones. We all remember a time before flat-screen TVs. Kids growing up today do not. Technology is simply an extension of their body, like another arm that’s attached to them.”

Jennings cited Pew research in 2018 indicating that 95 percent of teenagers have access to a smartphone, 88 percent have access to a computer at home, 45 percent say they are online constantly and 44 percent say they are online several times a day.

The same research showed that 85 percent of teenagers use YouTube and 72 percent use Instagram.

Mental health issues are among the consequences of today widespread technology, Jennings said. In the five years between 2010 and 2015, the number of U.S. teens who felt joyless and useless jumped 33 percent, he recounted. At the same time, the number of suicides among those ages 13-18 jumped 31 percent.

Those figures correlate to statistics showing that in 2010, smartphone use among teenagers passed 50 percent for the first time, Jennings said. By 2015, the number was almost 75 percent.

“Researchers have now begun to notice that smartphone use is having real detrimental effects on the next generation,” he said.

Accompanying the increased technology usage among kids and teenagers is increasing consumption of pornography, Jennings stated, referencing research from Barna indicating that 93 percent of boys and 62 percent of girls are exposed to internet pornography during adolescence, and of the pornography consumed by those under age 18, 22 percent of it is consumed by children under age 10.

“The question has shifted from ‘if’ to ‘when,'” Jennings said. “It has become ubiquitous among the next generation to view pornography.”

In such a changing technological landscape, Jennings said it’s vital for fathers to play a leading role in protecting their families from pornography and other detriments that accompany widespread technology use.

The answer, Jennings said, is not to try to completely shelter kids from technology. Even if parents take devices away from their kids, the kids often will use devices belonging to friends or family members.

Instead, Jennings called for fathers to exercise wisdom in training both themselves and their families for godliness.

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SOURCE: Baptist Press