Screen exposure is eroding children’s creativity, and perhaps ours, too.
When Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple, was asked what his kids thought about the iPhone, he said, “The kids don’t use it. We don’t allow it in the home.”
Before you think that that was an atypical tech titan response, a school near San Francisco, California, United States, is almost entirely tech-free. The Waldorf School of the Peninsula doesn’t allow iPhones, iPads, or computers. The school says that 75 percent of the kids there have parents who are tech executives.
So what is it about screens that some of the wealthiest innovators in the world don’t want their kids exposed to?
We are told that the prophet Samuel went to the house of Jesse to anoint the next king of Israel. As he arrived he looked at seven handsome young men, all of whom appeared ready to be king. But the one that God had chosen was not the one that he would have thought. “The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Sam. 16:7, NIV).
So what was it about David that had prepared him to lead better than his brothers? The details we know show us that he spent a great deal of time in nature caring for animals, and using his creativity to write and play music.
In writing about Adam and Eve in Eden, Ellen White wrote that they were given “the occupation most favorable to development—the care of plants and animals.”1 Caring for plants and animals and spending inordinate amounts of time in the outdoors sounds revolutionary in a world of gadgets. So what’s the concern with screens?
“I’ve worked with hundreds of heroin addicts and crystal meth addicts, and what I can say is that it’s easier to treat a heroin addict than a true screen addict,” says addiction expert Nicholas Kardaras. He details how compulsive technology use and reliance on screens can neurologically damage the developing brain of a child in the same way that drug addiction can.2
If you’re a parent, or prospective one, that last line should arrest your attention. Could screen time in those formative years be stunting the life potential of a child? The answer seems to be yes.
Kardaras continues: “Research shows that both drug use and excessive screen usage stunts the frontal cortex and reduces the gray matter in that part of the brain. So hyper-arousing games create a double whammy. Not only are they addicting, but then addiction perpetuates itself by negatively impacting the part of the brain that can help with impulsivity and good decision-making.”3
Often in Scripture we find references to the forehead. God puts His seal or mark there; or Lucifer puts his mark there. The underlying concept is talking about the pre-frontal cortex (i.e., the frontal lobe). It is the seat of judgment, morality, and character in addition to creativity and critical thinking. “The people of God are sealed in their foreheads,” wrote Ellen White. “It is not any seal or mark that can be seen, but a settling into the truth, both intellectually and spiritually, so they cannot be moved.”4
As we all put our hopes in the next generation to pass the baton of hope to, let’s be as innovative as possible, even if that means we need to go back to the future.
Jared Thurmon is strategic partnerships liaison for Adventist Review Ministries. To read an earlier, longer version of this commentary, visit AdventistReview.org.
1 Ellen G. White, Education (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1903, 1952), p. 43.
4 Ellen G. White, Maranatha (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1976), p. 200.