Spiritual Safety in the Facebook Age,
Even the unsaved are wising up about the danger of the internet, social media, and mobile phones and are taking control of it.
Chris Anderson, former editor of Wired, has five children and 12 tech rules. They include no phones until the summer before high school, no screens in bedrooms, network-level content blocking, no iPads at all, and screen time schedules enforced by Google Wifi that he controls from his phone. Bad behavior? The child goes offline for 24 hours (“A Dark Consensus about Screens,” New York Times, Oct. 26, 2018). He says, “Rule No. 1 is there are no screens in the bedroom. Period. Ever. My kids accuse me and my wife of being fascists and overly concerned about tech, and they say that none of their friends have the same rules. We have rules because we have seen the dangers of technology firsthand. I’ve seen it in myself; I don’t want to see that happen to my kids.”
Kristin Stecher is a former social computing researcher married to a Facebook engineer, Rushabh Doshi. After researching the matter, they decided they want almost none of it in their home. “Doing no screen time is almost easier than doing a little. If my kids do get it at all, they just want it more” (“A Dark Consensus about Screens,” New York Times, Oct. 26, 2018).
Athena Chavarria, who worked as an executive assistant at Facebook, says, “I am convinced the devil lives in our phones and is wreaking havoc on our children.” She did not let her children have cellphones until high school, and even now bans phone use in the car and severely limits it at home. She said she lives by the mantra that the last child in the class to get a phone wins” (“A Dark Consensus about Screens,” New York Times, Oct. 26, 2018).
Jesse Weinbeger is the author of The Boogeyman Exists: and He’s in Your Child’s Back Pocket. In a survey of 70,000 children, she found that, on average, pornography consumption began when children turned 8, and sexting and pornography addiction began around age 11. Weinbeger says, “The longer you keep Pandora’s box shut, the better off you are. There’s no connection to the dark side without the device.”
Before his death, Steve Jobs, founder of Apple was asked if his kids loved the iPad. He replied, “They haven’t used it. We limit how much technology our kids use at home” (New York Times interview).
Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft, said, “You’re always looking at home technology can be used in a great way--homework and staying in touch with friends--and also where it has gotten to excess. We don’t have smartphones at the table when we are having a meal. ... We often set a time after which there is no screen time” (cited from Smartphone Sanity).
These people are exercising more wisdom in this matter than the average parent in a Bible-believing church. Their rules aren’t strong enough, because they aren’t based on biblical principles, but they are probably stronger than those of the average Christian parent.
Suggestions for Young Adults
Consider Not Having a Smartphone
Have a simple phone, instead.
Even with a simple phone, you must be very careful about to whom you talk and what you talk about and how long you talk. You can have evil communications through a simple phone. Many girls have been seduced by men via a simple phone and have gotten into trouble. Many young men have developed evil friendships by a simple phone and even by conversations without any phone, of course.
If You Do Have a Smartphone, Control It Ruthlessly
We do not believe that a child or youth under about age 20 should have a smartphone. There are great benefits, but there are also great dangers.
If a man of God like David fell because his eyes landed on the wrong sight one day, how dangerous is the internet which is filled to the brim with wrong sights!
If you do have a smartphone for Bible study and other wholesome things, you must be spiritually mature enough to have a mindset that you are going to control it for the glory of God and it is not going to control you.
We suggest the following things:
Remove everything that is contrary to God’s will.
Go through every feature and every app and remove anything that will put you in contact with evil, anything that will rob you of time that could be spent on profitable things.
This is the mindset of taking control. It is the mindset that I am not going to allow this device to hinder my walk with Christ or to pull me out of God’s will.
Nest unnecessary apps into folders.
In this way, they are not readily seen at first glance. The apps are not able, therefore, to draw one’s attention. Since it takes extra effort to access them, you will access them only on purpose when you actually need them. You will be more likely to control the apps rather than the apps controlling you.
Don’t be addicted to a constant stream of information.
Limit the flow of notifications and information you receive: email lists, messages, chats, Twitter accounts, news feeds, etc.
This is an effectual way to have more control over your mobile phone and over your life.
On the iPhone, Notifications are accessed under Settings. By scrolling down through the list of apps under Notifications, it becomes clear that most app designers want to have access to your life and interrupt your day.
In my case, I have turned off notifications (both sound and vibrate) for all apps except the phone, WhatsApp, and texts. The last two are usually set to notify only in vibrate mode. I don’t want to be at the beck and call of every app that wants to signal me. I don’t get notifications for emails. I check it only when I want to or when I am expecting an important email. I want control.
Understand that the modern news media is not really news; it’s commercialism; it’s entertainment; it is confusing and depressing. Secular news, even the most conservative, is delivered entirely outside of the context of God and God’s sovereignty and God’s will and the imminent return of Christ and coming judgment and any other spiritual truth and reality. Psalm 37 teaches a right perspective of “the news.”
Take every precaution in accessing the internet.
Many have found help from a web browser filter like CleanInternet, which is operated by fundamental Baptists.
Some use Covenant Eyes for accountability. It monitors the individual’s internet usage and emails reports to selected people for accountability. The accountability report lists web sites visited, internet searches, and the times of day when the internet is used. It also features a score that ranks the individual’s level of objectionable internet usage. Covenant Eyes also has a filtering service that can be used in combination with the accountability service. Another service of this type is X3 Watch. It provides accountability on computers, cell phones, and tablets. While I have not used this personally, it has been recommended by friends.
Others use a church leader or mature Christian friend as an accountability partner. One single young man wrote:
“I have a friend in Bible college who has the restriction codes to my phone. I cannot access the App Store, I cannot access the browser. I personally deleted every game I had off the phone, deleted Facebook and anything else that I felt ‘drawing’ my mind away in ways that I thought were a hindrance to my walk with God. A great example of this is FoxNews. The App shows a lot of news, to be sure. The space directly below it has a lot of entertainment news, which was basically nothing but soft porn. I got sick and tired of seeing this and deleted that app as well. If SnapChat or other items are a hindrance, the partner can block those as well by restricting it. Remember that browsers can be downloaded through the App Store, so even if Safari or the base browser is blocked, there are ways around it.”
What the accountability partner should be looking for are clear patterns of behavior. Covenant Eyes and X3 Watch are programmed robots, and robots cannot be trusted as moral supervisors. It knows what site a user is accessing, but it does not know why the user accessed that site or what he or she is looking at on that site, if anything.
For more on this see the chapter “Church Smartphone Accountability Program.”
Have regular times when you unplug.
Schedule your days; be in control; don’t just drift along through life. Don’t allow your smartphone to control your time. Don’t allow social media to control your life. Don’t allow your friends to control your time. Have one Master! Tristan Harris says, “Every app and website ... is trying to get you to come back and spend more time. Companies literally have teams of people called Growth Hackers, whose job is to invent new reasons (notifications) and new persuasive tactics to bring you back. I know this because I studied with the lab at Stanford that invented many of these principles.”
One way to control one’s life in the age of electronic devices is to habitually unplug at various times, such as (1) personal Bible study and devotion time, (2) prayer time, (3) family meals, (4) other family times, (5) husband-wife dates; you must spend time with your spouse, (6) reading time, (7) church services. During these times, totally unplug. Turn the phone off or put it in airplane mode. No calls, no texts, no social media, no notifications.
One suggestion is to buy a regular alarm clock and turn your smartphone off at night instead of setting it to wake you up. This way, you will be less likely to start attending to notifications first thing upon waking.
Don’t play around with the world’s music.
Show me a spiritually weak young person in a church, and I will show you a young person who is messing around with the world’s music. It was the first thing that stole my heart as a youth in a Baptist church. It was one of the first things the Lord dealt with me about when I was a young Christian.
The internet is filled with the world’s music. YouTube is filled with it. Video games use rock music as background noise. One young man says: “Before I got saved, I listened to rock music, copying it to my memory cards. After I was saved, for some time I couldn’t [make myself] delete the songs. I used to say that I would be able not to listen to them, but I was easily tempted to listen to the things that were already in my phone. I was making provision for the flesh while promising not to fulfil the lusts thereof (Ro. 13:14). So one day I decided to delete them totally from my memory card and from my computer too. I thank the Lord, I have never regretted that decision.”
Contemporary Christian music is the devil’s chum. Chum is a fishing technique. It is something like oatmeal or blood (in the case of sharks) that is used to attract fish to your boat so that you can catch them. Many Christian parents have let their kids get involved with CCM, thinking it is a safe alternative to secular rock and that letting them have CCM will keep them from the world, but CCM is of the world and it leads to the world. (For more on this see the The Satanic Attack on Sacred Music, a free book and video series available at www.wayoflife.org.)
Avoid video games.
We cannot say enough about the spiritual and moral danger of video games, and they are becoming more dangerous every year.
See the chapter “Beware of Video Games,” which deals with video games and addiction, video games and moral relativism, video games and violence, video games and the occult, video games and wasting time, video games and taking God’s name in vain, and video games and spiritual wounds and scars.
The most up-to-date edition of this report will be at the Way of Life web site.
Be extremely wary of social media.
All of the young people in our church who are growing spiritually in a serious way have given up social media.
If you have Facebook or other social media for godly purposes, guard it like a dangerous animal.
A missionary who uses Facebook told us,
“I totally agree with the many dangers of Facebook you have previously warned about. Much danger, time wasted, walking with fools, etc. A positive point. Not having the expertise or help to build and maintain a website or blog, it has been a tremendous blessing to allow me to update our supporting churches and friends instantly with pictures and reports from the field, using only my phone. As it reduces the size of these, it will eventually upload. I don't have to use any software to do that manually. That is a blessing. This allows those who are most invested and interested in our ministry to keep closer tabs and pray more specifically and regularly for us.”
While forums such as Facebook can be used for good, they are filled with spiritual and moral danger. They are engineered to be addictive and controlling. A wise and experienced Christian adult might be able to control it, but no teenager can.
We have dealt at length with the dangers of social media in the chapter “Spiritual Safety Requires Understanding Social Media Dangers.”
Churches are using Facebook and social media because they are popular and readily accessible and practical and hard to resist, not because they are godly and safe. And typically without having prayerfully and carefully considered the pros and cons from a biblical perspective. For the most part, using Facebook is glibly going down the broad, easy path, rather than choosing the straight and narrow.
Consider using Facebook alternatives.
There are plenty of alternatives to social media. I mainly use email and text messaging.
And I use WhatsApp. It is owned by Facebook, but it is a completely different type of communications tool. It is easy to control. The user is not deluged with “friends” and “likes.” We have family WhatsApp chats and ministry WhatsApp chats.
If you do use Facebook, be extremely careful.
Following are some suggestions:
- Remember that others are following your example, and what you do with biblical wisdom and much caution, they will probably do with far less.
- Be on guard in a hyper way. Be in control. If you have social media, keep it caged. Keep it chained! Watch it! Don’t let down your guard. At the very least, believers need to be exceedingly careful in the use of Facebook and other social media. Facebook is filled with worldly things, with fornication, covetousness, lying, and self-promotion. You aren’t forced to participate and you can control your own Facebook page, but staying in control is no small task. Facebook doesn’t want to make it easy for its users to shut themselves off from notifications and suggested “friends” and “likes,” and such, because keeping you online as much as possible is Facebook’s bread and butter.
- Be always prayerfully re-examining the situation and how Facebook or other social media are affecting your life. Beware of being the “frog in the pot,” meaning the individual who gradually becomes desensitized to sin because of not separating from it.
- Be extremely careful about whom you “friend” and “follow.” One man said, “I personally ‘unfollow’ most of our ‘friends,’ so I’m not wasting time, energy, attention, and effort on the inconsequential junk that many post. I only ‘follow’ those who post things that challenge me spiritually.”
- Speak out for truth and righteousness. “And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, BUT RATHER REPROVE THEM” (Eph. 5:11). “Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels” (Mr. 8:38). “For the time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, when we walked in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revellings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries: Wherein they think it strange that ye run not with them to the same excess of riot, speaking evil of you: Who shall give account to him that is ready to judge the quick and the dead” (1 Pe. 4:3-5). Let your flag fly for Christ and for truth and righteousness! Don’t flow along with the crowd. Don’t try to blend in. Don’t be afraid to shake the boat. The Lord doesn’t save people so they live comfortably in this present world and be a friend of this wicked age. God’s redeemed are pilgrims and ambassadors in a foreign world.
- Always aim to have as little social media as necessary and use as few of the social media tools as possible. Two wise young men wrote about this issue as follows: “I’m better off with less social media in my life,” and, “I think everyone should evaluate themselves in this area and determine if their usage of it is expedient. For me personally, this took the form of only using the Facebook messenger without a FB page.”
- Restrict who views the content of your postings. Another brother said, “Most people do not realize that in Facebook, people can restrict who sees what content is posted. For example, I have a group of ‘friends’ who are somewhat vetted out Christians, with which I share prayer requests and other Christian-related content. I can post conservative content in that group without fear of it going outside the group, since posts posted in that way, I have restricted to not being share-able. I also have another group made up entirely of those who can read and understand Chinese, another language I am literate in; I'm very, VERY careful about what political content I put within that group. I have another group for one side of the family, another for the other side of the family. ... All of those groups are subsets of all ‘friends’ I have within Facebook. Churches can have their own Facebook pages, where there are various levels of restrictions as to who can put in content. People who do not make use of groups tend to put everything into ‘public,’ which is very UNSAFE. Identity theft is the least potential worry of that. Default sharing level for EVERYBODY should be FRIENDS ONLY. I have not set up a new account for years, so I don't know what the defaults are.”
The bottom line for the child of God who wants to be spiritually wise and safe in the Facebook age is that he is going to have the mindset of being in control of all devices and all media at all times. He is going to be aware of what is happening in his mind and life and how he (and his family) is being affected by things. He is going to be educated about the dangers and constantly alert. He is going to be ready to shut down anything that is displeasing to his Lord and harmful to his walk with Christ and his pursuit of God’s will. He is not going to be a gullible lemming, meekly and pathetically following the crowd.
Redeem the time.
“Redeeming the time, because the days are evil” (Eph. 5:16).
Life is too short to waste time. Every hour is God’s gift and should be used fully for God’s glory.
Analyze your days. We think of a young woman who sat down and evaluated her schedule and realized that she was spending 40 hours a week playing video games. Schedule your days with intention and wisdom; don’t just drift along. Fill your time with godly, profitable things. Prepare yourself for God’s will, for ministry, for marriage.
Be a serious Bible student.
Becoming a serious Bible student is the most effectual one thing you can do to have spiritual safety in the Facebook age. It has a myriad of godly, healthy consequences. It is profitable for every aspect of one’s life. It is both edifying and fascinating. The more you learn the Bible, the more edifying and fascinating it becomes.
Anyone with a basic education can become an effectual Bible student, if he or she is willing to obtain the necessary instruction and to devote the time and labor.
Teenagers can become effectual Bible students, if they are saved and surrendered to Christ and willing to pursue this endeavor with the necessary enthusiasm.
Being a serious Bible student requires a lot of time and attention, which is time and attention that won’t be given to social media, video games, etc.
Being a serious Bible student requires learning how to read the Bible, how to study the Bible, how to use Bible study tools, how to interpret the Bible, how to meditate on the Bible. There is no shortcut. To be a serious Bible student requires pursuing at least the equivalent of a Bible Institute education. It requires a good survey of the Bible, Bible geography, Bible customs, Bible doctrine, Bible background, Bible prophecy. It requires studying major books such as Romans. Ideally, it requires studying Hebrew and Greek, at least at a basic level.
We recommend that young people, especially, study the Bible with books instead of with a smartphone or tablet or computer. We believe it is beneficial to use books in Bible study before moving to electronic tools. There are great advantages to electronic Bible study, but there are also advantages to using books and paper and pen. I love ebooks and eBibles, but I am glad that I spent 10 years using books for Bible study before I obtained my first computer (Osborne, about 1981) and 15 years before obtaining my first electronic Bible software (Online Bible, about 1990). (1) With an actual Bible, the student can better learn to envision the whole Book and the individual parts. When the student is studying a certain chapter or book, he can see exactly where it is located in the larger picture. (2) Books (e.g., Strong’s Concordance, Treasury of Scripture Knowledge, Bible Believer’s Commentary) require the student to work harder in study, which is a necessary part of learning the Bible. See Proverbs 2:4, which says wisdom is found by those who seek it as silver and hid treasures, and 2 Timothy 2:15, which says “study” is necessary, which is the Greek spoudazo, translated “endeavor” (1 Th. 2:17), “diligence” (2 Ti. 4:9, 21; Tit; 3:12), and “labor” (Heb. 4:11). (3) Books avoid the distractions inherent in electronic devices. There is the constant temptation to write an email, respond to notifications, get sidetracked by the web or social media, etc. (4) Studies have shown that writing by hand has multiple benefits. Many successful businessmen find benefit in keeping handwritten notes and journals even in this computer age. The founders of Habit Nest was selected as Amazon’s Best Small Business Owners Under 30 for 2019 for their writing journals, and four of Amazon’s Small Business of the Year finalists “said they rely on pen and paper as they run e-commerce brands” (“Entrepreneurs swear by Bullet Journals and other paper notebooks to organize their lives,” Business Insider, Dec. 8, 2019). They use paper and pen to develop their creative and strategic ideas. “Psychology researchers have found in various studies that handwritten notes lead to better conceptual understanding than typed ones, that task-switching causes performance to suffer...”
Way of Life Literature publishes many materials for the serious Bible student. The starting place is the course (new for 2020) UNDERSTANDING THE BIBLE FOR YOURSELF. It deals with choosing the right Bible, how to establish a habit of daily Bible study, rules of Bible interpretation, methods of study (a practical seven-fold plan for studying any Bible passage), using Bible study tools, using Bible commentaries, using Bible study software, and having a plan of lifelong study. There is an extensive list of suggested Bible study projects. The course is extremely practical and hands on. We explain exactly how to get started in Bible study and how to move forward step by step. It is a course for new Bible students as well as for old.
Be faithful to and serving in a sound New Testament church.
The church is the house of God, the pillar and ground of the truth (1 Ti. 3:15), and faithful commitment to and service in a sound New Testament church is an essential part of right Christian living. The first Christians “continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers” (Ac. 2:42). That is the example of true Christianity until Jesus comes. Phebe was “a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea” (Ro. 16:1). On Paul’s missionary journeys, he didn’t just preach the gospel and form Bible studies and prayer meetings, he organized churches. “And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed” (Ac. 14:23). We see this in his instructions to the preacher Titus, to “set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee” (Tit. 1:5).
In Ephesians 4:11-16, we see the church described as a spiritual body which is focused intently on “the work of the ministry.” The leaders have their part, and every member has his part. The goal is to grow every saint into the perfection of Christ and to preach the gospel to every unsaved person on earth, which is a massive endeavor that requires the full attention of every child of God.
To get busy in Christ’s service in and through the church, to be busy pursuing God’s perfect will, keeps God’s people from wasting their time and just drifting along through life, and it protects them from getting involved in unwholesome and wicked endeavors.
Get involved; be active in ministries; make friends in Christ; be a friend to others, not just with the popular people and those easy to like. Be very active in evangelism.
Find a serious, biblical church. Relocate if necessary. The right church is worth relocating to the other side of the country or even to another country! It is that important.
Avoid a church that is focused on entertainment, sports, fun and games, a church that is a Christianized version of the world.
Fill your time with other good things.
Paul instructed the young man, “But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness” (1 Ti. 6:11). Note that he was to flee that which is evil and to follow after that which is good. Either one without the other isn’t a biblical Christian life that pleases God.
There are countless wholesome and profitable and enjoyable things that meet God’s standards of righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, and meekness and which individuals and families can do without plugging into television, social media, video games, etc. There is reading (theology, commentaries, Bible study books, practical Christian living, biographies, history, creation science, archaeology, exploring). There is music (learning music and playing and singing music). There is photography, fishing, hunting, shooting, boating, camping, electronics, mechanics, astronomy, cooking, sewing, canning, making models, learning how things are made, investigating God’s amazing creation all around us, watching birds, collecting insects, flying kites, flying model airplanes, raising animals (if you can’t have a horse or even a dog, you can usually have an ant farm or a guinea pig or a goldfish tank), growing gardens, studying the weather. The list is endless, and there are online courses for such things.
The goal should not be mere entertainment. That’s the way of the world. The goal should be edification and godly education. Time is too valuable to fritter away, even on wholesome things.
The main thing in life, indeed, life itself, is to know God in Jesus Christ and to love Him “with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might” (De. 6:5).
We deal with how to fill one’s life with good things in The Mobile Phone and the Christian Home and Church, chapter “The Youth” in the section on “Pursue Christian Growth.” We deal with Bible study, good music, good sermons, good videos, Christian service, reading and learning, photography, and other things.
Have godly friends and spend your free time with them.
Paul instructed Timothy, “Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, WITH THEM that call on the Lord out of a pure heart” (2 Ti. 2:22).
Fleeing youthful lusts is to be done in the context of pursuing godliness with godly people. This is a true New Testament church. If a church is not filled with people who call on the Lord out of a pure heart, it is not a New Testament church. It is not a spiritual house made of living stones (1 Pe. 2:5).
Desire help and seek help.
“Every purpose is established by counsel: and with good advice make war” (Pr. 20:18).
This is great wisdom, and it is the opposite of the way most young (and old) people live.
Wise counsel should be sought in every major decision, such as education, employment, relocation, choice of church, and especially marriage.
Seek “good” counsel, first from saved parents, next from biblically-thinking church leaders, finally from other mature, wise, biblically-thinking Christians.
Beware of getting counsel from other young people. And if you are a young person, beware of acting like you are wise enough to give counsel.
Don’t live a secret life.
“For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil” (Ec. 12:14).
“... be sure your sin will find you out” (Nu. 32:23).
“If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin” (1 Jo. 1:6-7).
Walk in the light with God and man. Young people who keep secret lives are young people who get into serious trouble.
I think of two teenage girls in our church who ran away with young men and lost their moral purity and their testimonies. That is the fruit of a secret life.
Use your youth wisely.
“Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them” (Ec. 12:1).
This verse should be a major part of every young person’s worldview.
“Remember” -- Be wise in the use of your mind; be wise in your thinking; have a sober mind. This is the opposite of a mind filled with foolishness and pleasure. Think before acting; don’t be impulsive as young people naturally tend to be. This is the opposite of mental laziness.
“Remember now” -- Don’t put this off; don’t think you have plenty of time to do business with God; you are not promised tomorrow. The longer you wait, the more difficult it gets. The heart grows hard; the conscience becomes seared; habits become set.
“thy Creator” -- There is an Almighty Creator; nothing evolved.
“THY Creator” -- He is the Creator of you personally. He made you in your mother’s womb.
“in the days of thy youth” -- Life is divided into days and man is responsible for those days. Man must think wisely about his days and use them for the will of God. There are days of youth. Youth is a special time that God made; it is a time of optimum strength, optimum ability, optimum beauty, optimum expectation.
“while the evil days come not” -- Old age is called evil because of its special difficulties, challenges, sicknesses, weakness, loss of faculties as described in Ecclesiastes 12:2-7.
This report is excerpted from Spiritual Safety in the Facebook Age
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Way of Life Literature
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Way of Life Literature
Publisher of Bible Study Materials