DAWNINGS: Helping children thrive

By Rev. Dr. Dawn Weaks

Pastor, Connection Christian Church

“Let the children come to me. Don’t hinder them, because God’s kingdom belongs to people like these children,” Jesus says in Luke 18. He says it because his disciples are trying to prevent children from bothering Jesus as he goes about his ministry. But Jesus declares that children are examples of those to whom God’s kingdom belongs.

The well-being of children is essential to the health of our community. In our church at Connection, we strive to love children as they are, teach them to think about God’s truths, introduce them to the Bible as a lifelong friend, give them examples to follow so they can live like Jesus, connect them to an intergenerational family, and honor them in their own relationships with God. I imagine most churches seek to do that as well.

Yet we know children deal with many challenges. Social media is one of them. U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy said in a recent press conference, “Children are exposed to harmful content on social media, ranging from violent and sexual content, to bullying and harassment. And for too many children, social media use is compromising their sleep and valuable in-person time with family and friends. We are in the middle of a national youth mental health crisis, and I am concerned that social media is an important driver of that crisis – one that we must urgently address.”

It seems that social media is a hindrance to the full thriving of our kids. As adults in their lives, it’s our job to remove those hindrances. For our church’s part, we ask kids to put their phones away while they are engaged in worship or learning. You wouldn’t believe how happy the kids are to say goodbye to their phones for a week at youth camp! No more pressure to “snap” or “Insta” or “make a TikTok” trying to seem as if they are living a glamorous and constantly fun life. Looking kids in the eye and having conversations with them is a huge gift to this generation that is used to seeing distracted people all around them.

If you have influence over a kid in your life, I encourage you to protect them from the hindrance of social media as much as you can. You can do this by making sure their phones are set up with safety precautions. Also you can help them get adequate sleep by having a docking station in your home where all devices are required to be put to bed so their owners can also go to bed away from their phones. Most of our teens are sleep deprived enough without being on their phones texting at 2 a.m. And finally, if you pay for the phone, you have control of the phone, so make sure it is working for you and not against you in raising healthy, happy kids who know the love of God in their lives.