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The Real World vs. The Digital World

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine
The Truth Network Radio
November 2, 2021 2:00 am

The Real World vs. The Digital World

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine

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November 2, 2021 2:00 am

Screens can give us the false impression that we rule our digital kingdom with the touch of a button. David Murrow warns us that having the tools is not the problem, but drowning in them is.

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So I'm going to make us do something right now.

Okay. I want to do the screen time check on your phone. I just want to know what your number is compared to my number. Daily average.

What's your daily average? Just say it. I'm so embarrassed. Welcome to Family Life Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I'm Ann Wilson. And I'm Dave Wilson, and you can find us at or on our Family Life app.

This is Family Life Today. So we're talking about screen time today. I just want to know what your number is compared to my number. I'm competitive, so I'm just hoping it's higher than six hours. We've been doing radio all week, so I've been on it because this is where we study on our phone.

It sounds like you're making an excuse. Four hours. Ah, mine's higher. Well, it's 57 minutes. I'm five hours and 14 minutes, but I'm down 31% from last week. Okay, so we're talking about screen time today because this little device in our hands, whether it's a phone or an iPad or a computer screen, can dominate our lives. Look at you.

You can't even get your eyes off it. I am on my phone four hours a day. What am I doing with my life? Well, we're going to find out because we're going to get some help today from David Murrow.

He wrote a book about this. He can help us. So, David, welcome back to Family Life Today. Good to be with you again.

Yeah, we're glad to have you here. You wrote a book called Drowning in Screen Time, which I was going to say my wife is drowning. But if I'm an hour more a day, was that a day? Yes.

Five hours, 14 minutes? I'm very discouraged. I hope I can get my mind back on what we're doing here because that's, David, pull yours up. Let's see.

I shut mine off before the broadcast. Of course he did. He wrote a book about this.

He knows how bad this is. Hey, by the way, I just will notice, you know, my number one app that I spent the most hours on is my camera. Well, you know, sometimes, okay, now you're going to tell me that's not true.

I'm going to let you off the hook a little bit. Well, like sometimes people use their alarm clocks, their phones alarm clock. So I'll do that. And my thing is you were on 11 hours a day and I'll go, what? Well, eight hours a day of that was my clock.

That's what mine is. There you go. Recently, you've written more about the screen time thing. In fact, the subtitle, which is really interesting, a lifeline for adults, parents, teachers, and ministers who want to reclaim their real lives. And we've already talked this week about sort of the epidemic of screens in our lives and how they can really be detrimental. But how do they keep us away from your title there? Real lives. Do they really keep us away from real life?

Oh, they absolutely do. One of the parables that I use at the beginning of the book, it's based on five parables. One of the parables is I call it the parable of the kingdom. David was elevated to the role of king.

And when he became king, he encountered lots of pressures that he had never known as a shepherd boy. For example, presiding over a kingdom, he could suddenly summon any food that he wanted. Well, we can do that with our phones now. He could banish heretics and turncoats and put rivals to the sword, and we can do that on Twitter. The whole thing adds up to you create this digital kingdom over which you reign as lord and master.

You decide what ideas will be tolerated, what ideas will be canceled, who can come in and who come out of your royal presence. There are algorithms that function like digital yes men. They look over your shoulder while you surf the web, and then they provide you with more content that tells, oh, you're right.

And they back up the things you already believe. Or if you're the type who likes to fight online, your social media feed is going to fill up with ideas that you hate so that you can fight with those people. But all of it adds up to this digital kingdom over which we reign as lord and master.

And I think that's very unhealthy. Then you go into the real world where nothing, you don't reign over anything. You have control of nothing. In the digital world, you have complete control over what happens. In the real world, you control almost nothing.

You know, there's no on off button if your car breaks down. There's no way to unfriend toxic co-workers. And what it's doing is we're having this generation of young people who's growing up digital, and they're accustomed to having this high level of control in their lives, in their digital lives. And they're not adapting well to real life because it doesn't yield to their preferences. That's just the natural result of kids who've grown up on social media and have unfriended, unclicked, canceled things. That's just kind of been their thing. They're trying to bring that ethos into the real world.

Ideas that I don't like should not be there. It's a fantasy world. And the fantasy world is much easier, simpler than the real world because the real world is difficult. The real world is very difficult and it always has been. But we've never had this sanctuary that we have today. It's so easy to retreat into video games.

Nobody really dies, but you get to be this heroic guy. It is a fantasy world and it accommodates our needs. It slowly molds to our preferences and really doesn't let any other content or ideas in. It really becomes castle walls around our minds. And there are good things. Oh, absolutely. Let's talk about that just for a second because we don't want to say this is awful, there's nothing good. What are the good things?

Well, I mean, I'll give you an example from my book. I was walking down the street the other day with my wife in Alaska and we walked by this patch of daisies that my daughter had always loved picking as a child. And so we tapped on her phone so we could see that she was at the store far away. So we got on FaceTime and we showed her the daisies and we saw her and our grandson. She lives in Australia.

Oh, goodness. Really? We're in Alaska. She's in Australia. Yet I knew where she was and I was able to talk to her in real time.

You couldn't even do that until 2011. So it's really done a good job of allowing us to keep in touch with our far flung loved ones. And really during the pandemic, it's been a lifeline. I couldn't even imagine going through these shutdowns that we did without these wonderful tools. So the problem isn't that we have the tools.

The problem is when we drown in the tools, when they become our reality. Yeah, it's interesting you say in the book, and you've already talked about David, that you use these three terms of attributes that are God-like or attributes that are divine. And you say digital, the screens sort of give us. Can you talk about those? Those are very interesting to think.

These are only what God can do. And yet we have some similar powers. We can be omniscient. We can know anything right now.

If you want to know any fact, you can just go to your pocket and find it in about 15 seconds. We can be omnipresent, which is really good when you work from Alaska. I can beam into a Zoom meeting in South Africa if that's necessary.

Omniscient, omnipresent and omnipotent would be the other one. And although we haven't quite reached omnipotence, we certainly have powers. For example, if my daughter in Australia needs money, I can just click a couple of buttons. I don't have to send a ship full of jewels and gold down there. I can just click a couple of buttons on my computer and within hours she has the money. So we have these powers and presence that we've never had before.

And these are wonderful things as long as they don't displace real life. So if I'm a guy that's listening to this and we talked about it earlier that maybe I have a problem, and I'm guessing I'm among millions of people that have a problem, what are some steps? I've got to get a grip on this. You have written a book that helped me. I'm drowning.

I didn't think I was drowning, but I'm drowning in screen time. I make a decision, you know what? This is something I don't want to do. Where do I start? Well, step number one is always confession.

The first step of repentance is confession. So go to a trusted confidant. If you're married, go to your wife. Certainly, that would be the first one. And ask the question that you mentioned in the previous episode.

Is this a problem for me? And just be honest and don't explode when you hear the answer because it's probably going to be yes. But just confess to someone and then find the help you need. And the same technologies that addict us can also liberate us, especially if you have an addiction for pornography, for example.

There are some wonderful tools out there like Covenant Eyes that provide mutual accountability. You know, the early philosophy was filters. Let's stop it before it gets to your phone. Filters don't work.

You can get around them. So Covenant Eyes has switched to a new philosophy, which is mutual accountability. My accountability partner gets screenshots, random screenshots on my phone. He sees what I'm seeing. And so once you have that accountability relationship in place, your buddy can help you back off from unhealthy screen content. As far as the number of hours of screen content, you definitely want to be checking your weekly screen time report. There are wonderful tools.

There's one called Forest, which I just love. You put it on your phone and you say, I don't want to get on my phone for two hours. And during two hours, trees grow on your phone.

Really? I've never heard of this. If you do anything with your phone in the next two hours, the trees grow.

They die. So you want to keep them growing. So it's an app? It's an app. Yeah. And so one of the nice things, too, is they take some of the money and they use it for forestation projects in poor countries. Oh, that's cool.

So they actually plant real trees. I love the idea. Yeah. So there are lots and lots of tools out there that are willing to help you if you have a mild screen addiction. Now, if it's severe, you may need something inpatient treatment. You may need to go to a tech-free retreat.

You may need to do a detox weekend. Yeah. It's interesting that, you know, we haven't said a whole lot about the dark side. You mentioned pornography and there's, you know, obviously websites and places you can go and there's tools like Covenant Eyes. I know years ago when my boys were in high school, I had Covenant Eyes with them to me. And again, if they went somewhere on their phone, I would get an email and say, and so I had it with some of my guys that helped me accountable. Good.

And I'll never forget one day, one of my sons, I get an email that says he looked at nude photos of some celebrity, right? I see that. So I call him up. I'm like, dude, what's going on? You know, I was like, and he had, I don't think he's lying. He's like, that isn't what happened. This, you know, I did this thing that wasn't this, but it's going to show up like that. And so, and I clicked on what, you know, it said he went to. And as soon as I did that, I'm like, oh, now mine's going to go to my guy. Right.

Right. And sure enough, Jon Kitner was my guy. He was a quarterback for the Lions back in the day.

I've seen him play. He's a great guy and we're great friends. So he was one of my accountability guys. Well, sure enough, I got the call from Jon and you can imagine what he thought. Jon, that wasn't me. That was my son. He actually didn't do it.

He goes, so now you're lying. You're throwing your son under the bus because you had a and it was it was all totally innocent. It really was. I'm not saying I've always been perfect or anybody has, but that accountability software was a lifesaver. Oh, absolutely. I mean, it is something that if you're struggling, you have to get that on there. Do you think it really does work?

You know, it does. The pornographers are very smart. They use a man's natural desire to seek out companionship against them.

Again, they're using their our brains against us. So it's it's definitely a growing problem. And I think accountability is probably the best way to deal with it. If you especially to nip it in the bud with young men. I think the thing that's discouraging as parents is if you have teenagers and you feel overwhelmed. It may not even be teenagers.

Yeah. But but there's this feeling of my house is out of control. And when I'm talking to my kids about it, they're angry, especially when you're going into video games, even. It's just really hard to get your kids back. And I've talked to so many moms that feel helpless.

Like, I don't know what to do and I don't know how to get my family back. How would you encourage them? Well, all the screen time is displaced real life. So the best thing to do. Well, if they're not willing to talk about it and they're not willing to see the error of the ways, then you have to displace screen life with real life, real life activities. So this is one of the things Andy Crouch talks about in his book and some of the other things is if, you know, if they're on the screens all the time, then get them out into soccer or throw them out of the house. Or one of the best things I say is and implement this early if you can screen free after dinner.

Yeah. When you come to the table, then you surrender your devices. Everything turns off. The TV turns completely off. No TV noise, even mute.

So nothing. So there's no screen activity in the house. Have those family conversations around the dinner table as awkward as they may be.

But get back into that. And then after dinner, it's screen free. No screens in the bedrooms is the other thing. Boy, once you let a kid take a screen in the bedroom, you've lost a lot of territory.

You're on the you're back on your own 10 yard line to use a football metaphor. So, yeah, you definitely want to get it early and set these boundaries, set these expectations as soon as you can. One of the most difficult situations is where you have a joint custody situation where one parent is very lenient about screens and the other one's very tough. Boy, that is a really, really difficult one.

You've got to try to get on the same page as your ex. And then with little kids, I just read a study that said our kids should not have any screen time before the age of two. And it's just an easy babysitter, you know, with infants, especially if you're on the plane.

What do you encourage with that? Yeah, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no screen time before 18 months. And then at that point, you could give them a little bit of screen time as long as you're with them. OK. You don't really want to park them in front of the screens if you can avoid it till about age three.

And then, of course, it should be age appropriate content. There's two kinds of screen time. There's interactive screen time and there's passive screen time.

One riles the brain up more than the other. That's the interactive. The passive screen time is just where you're just sitting there watching TV or your video chatting.

You're not really changing what's on the screen. It does less to stimulate the brain. That's healthier for kids than interactive screen time, which is like handing them a tablet or something like that because they're changing and manipulating what's going on the screen. Even if it's educational? Even if it's educational. They're still, their brain is still operating at a higher level. It's like the difference between going to an art gallery and making a painting.

Oh. Passive screen time is like going to an art gallery. You're just simply looking at the lovely paintings. If you're making a painting, your brain works a lot harder. So especially before bed, it'd probably be hard to wind down. After interact, yeah, very, very difficult with interactive screen time. And then the danger there is if you're handing your kid a tablet to pacify them, you're teaching them to go to a screen when their emotions are high. Soothe themselves with screens.

That is like the exact opposite of what you want to do. When I see kids in the mall with their parents' phones or a tablet or something, it just, it frightens me because, you know, they are teaching them to go to screens instead of regulating the emotions themselves. Oh, think about if you're a withdrawer in a relationship when conflict arises and you've been trained as a child to pacify your emotions by your screen. So then as an adult, if you're in a difficult conversation and a fight, you're automatically going to want to go to your screen to pacify these emotions. Right.

And you'll never deal with the underlying issue. Right. So, yeah. I've heard parents say, you know, my kids with the screens, they're like Gollum, my precious. Yes.

Yeah. But then I expanded on that analogy in the book. You know, your screens are like your golden ring of power. If you have a kid who's crying or whatever, you can give them this ring and you can make them invisible.

They disappear just like, you know, Lord of the Rings, but they become visible to advertisers who want their money, extremists who want their mind and predators who want their body. Oh, wow. So I think the analogy is it's a chilling one. So you definitely don't want to turn your kids into Gollum. Yeah. You know, you hear that. But as a parent with young kids, I know because we've been there, you're just exhausted. And you're like, this is just so much easier. It's, you know, for the next 30 minutes or an hour, I'm going to hand them, you know, a cartoon they can watch. And yet it's not the right call, is it? It can be in limited amounts. It all depends on whether this is your go to. Yeah.

You know, of course, there's going to be times. And the nice thing that's come along in our day is streaming media. So the advertisers are cut out of the equation.

Yeah. And there is good quality content for young kids on both secular and Christian channels. If you're careful, you know, most of the Christian stuff is great. And, you know, even on Netflix, you can even be very selective about what you show your kids. And there are some good that teach good wholesome morals and stuff like that.

It's not all assessable. Yeah. But, yeah, if you're just very careful and discerning about what you show, you can park them on occasion, as long as it's not your go to. And that'll give them plenty of other analog toys to play with, throw them out in the yard and let them play with the kids. I know.

I'm thinking of what are healthy alternatives? Because our kids are going to kick and scream and be mad if we kind of lay down the log. OK, after dinner, we're done with screens.

And that will probably be hard for a little bit. But then they get into a habit. But I think it makes us as parents have to really be involved. I'm thinking about I think after dinner, when our kids were little, it was some of our favorite time, especially in the summer, because we'd be outside and we'd be playing and we would be there, too.

And I'm just thinking of all the slip and slides in the hockey games. And we were putting tents up and forts in the woods. And that is so good for our brains, for our bodies, for our relationships. What about family reading? I mean, reading together as a family.

Oh, those are some of my favorite. My kids still talk about that. That was their favorite time. They were squirrely and they squirmed and they laid backwards on the couch. But they were listening and they were absorbing the values. We taught them, you know, good values in the books that we read them. At what age would you advise giving a son or daughter a phone or tablet? You know, that's a hard one.

It depends on the individual. I've heard none before 13 or 14. There are products, I'm not shilling for anybody, but I know there's a company out there called Gab Wireless that'll do a locked down smartphone. It only texts to the parents. It's a phone. All the things that where kids can get in trouble are off the phone, but it looks like an iPhone.

So the kids still have the social capital, but they don't have the possibility of being contacted by a predator. That's a good alternative. Yeah. Yeah, there are products out there like that. Yeah, all I know is, you know, as we talked today, there's good and there's a lot of really good that comes from screens.

It's amazing technology in our world. And yet, just like anything else, there's the dark side. And it isn't just the porn or the predators. It's the dark side of pulling families apart.

The number of hours. Yeah. We just miss, we displace those moments that are so precious that we can't get back. And, you know, it's easier to look at a phone than it is to put up a tent in the yard like you were saying. But boy, what are you going to remember? What are the kids going to remember? They're going to remember that tent falling down on their heads and laughing. And those moments are irreplaceable. And so as followers of Jesus, we need to focus on those things that are important and are of eternal value and not the things that are fleeting and interesting in the moment. I'm recalling just all the nights that we spent before our kids went to bed just laying in their room, reading the Bible, reading books like novels that were so good. And they do remember those times of reading and even asking them questions at night before they went to bed.

Those days are irreplaceable. And I was thinking, man, wouldn't that be good just to implement that rule of, hey, at dinnertime and beyond, there's no screen time. It really could change our families. I think it gets you to the 50-yard line, really. I mean, to continue our football analogy here. You keep wanting to go into football.

No, it's really, people say, what's one thing I can do? And I'd say the number one thing you do is you collect the screens at dinnertime, no screens in the bedroom, and every screen is shut off. The one exception would be if you wanted to have a family movie night. And then you're doing everything together, you're making popcorn, and you're watching a fun movie. And that's great. That's a good use of screen time.

But other than that, you really want to avoid that being alone together problem where everybody's on their individual screen. And I'm telling you, you're going to build more resilient kids. The more you put them into the real world, the more they suffer the disappointment of losing their soccer match or the tent that falls down or the beasting they get. I mean, they're perfectly physically safe in the house. But the young people today are so non-resilient because they have been protected so much inside of our homes by a screen. Yeah. And if you put the screen down, you're going to create a memory.

That's what I'm thinking, Dave. I'm recalling, like all of our kids said, we've asked them now that they're adults, what are the best memories that you have growing up? And one of them said, and I've shared this before, but he said, when you guys pray for us every night before we go to bed all together in the same room, like that is stuck with me. And none of them have said the times that we were on our screens together. No one said that.

That high score in my video game. That was my best. No. Yeah. No, that's not it, because God made us for relationship. I think all of us know that there's a difference between digital life and real life. There's a difference between a digital relationship and a real relationship.

There's a difference between a Facebook friend and a real friend. And we want to be in pursuit of what is real. That's at the heart of what David and Wilson have been talking with David Murrow about. David has written a book called Drowning in Screen Time that helps all of us understand how we're being impacted as parents, as teenagers, singles.

All of us are being affected by the omnipresence of a screen in our life. We are making David's book available this week to any family life today listener who can help advance the ministry of family life through a donation. When you support this ministry, help us expand the reach of family life so that more people are being impacted by the kind of practical biblical help and hope they hear on family life today. The resources they find on our website, the events that we're able to host, you make all of this possible when you support the ministry of family life today, and we're grateful for your financial support. In fact, we'd love to express our gratitude today when you make a donation by sending you a copy of David Murrow's book called Drowning in Screen Time. Be sure to ask for it when you donate. You can donate online at or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY to make a donation. Again, David's book is called Drowning in Screen Time.

Request your copy when you donate online at or call 1-800-358-6329. That's 1-800-F as in family, L as in life, and then the word today. You know, all of us interact with our screens differently and tomorrow David and Wilson are going to talk with David Murrow about the different ways different people respond and the dangers associated with each of those different kinds of responses. I hope you can be back with us for that tomorrow. On behalf of our hosts David and Wilson, I'm Bob Lapine. We'll see you back next time for another edition of family life today. Family life today is a production of family life a crew ministry helping you pursue the relationships that matter most.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-07-28 19:25:39 / 2023-07-28 19:36:47 / 11

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