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Gamaliel's Desk
Friday, June 29, 2007
 
The Dangers of Cell Phones

A friend of mine, pastor Alex Coppersmith at First Pharisee Church, sent me a link to a great article by David Cloud titled, “MySpace or Gods?” It was a wonderful piece that was full of good advice and sound Bible teaching. It warned Christian parents against the dangers of MySpace, a social networking site, often frequented by church teens. Even though Bro. Cloud has done a masterful job exposing the dangers of MySpace, he is apparently blind to an even more insidious danger in our midst - cell phones. Not one single teen in our church is on MySpace (I know because I checked just to make sure) but every single one of them has a cell phone. Following David Cloud’s outline, I would like to give voice to the enormous danger our children face by having unfettered access to cell phones.


WHAT IS A CELL PHONE?


In the year 2000, a youth pastor in Ohio told me that the worst problems he was having with young people in the church pertained to the internet. He was referring to chat rooms. And that was long before cell phones exploded onto the scene. Cell phones are nothing more than a MASSIVE, SUPERCHARGED, VISUALLY-ENHANCED CHAT ROOM. Never has strict separation from the world been more urgent for Christian homes and churches, and never has it been less practiced among those who claim to be Bible-believing people. We are in an awful, desperate battle for the souls of young people, and churches and families that do not get serious about this battle will surely regret it.


Cell phones are “social networking” tools. They provide a meeting place, a dating connection, a chat room, an instant message service, a place to talk or text message about your life and opinions, a place to download musical ringtones (it is a form of distribution for godless rock music), a place to share your personal information, photos, videos, and music clips, and a way to link to your friends’ cell phones through sharing of “contacts.” (I remember as a youngster attending Grace Pharisee Bible College that “contact” between fellow students was something to be discouraged, not encouraged.) It allows people to sign up for accounts wherein they create their own personal “desktops” and answering messages on their phones so they can associate with others. Cell phone users can post messages and pictures to one another’s phones. It’s vast online community. It’s a cyber youth hangout. It’s a virtual publishing house for private expression. And they’re super cool.


I need to say here that cell phones are used for more than a youth chat room and dating service. They are used for business purposes, for example, such as calling clients and for job seekers; but the part we are concerned about in this report is the social and moral aspect of cell phones.


WHO OWNS CELL PHONES?


Cell phones are powered by advertising and it is big business. As we know, Big Business and Madison Avenue are evil entities driven entirely by consumerist greed. Large companies like Verizon, Nextel, Cingular, and AT&T are the ones who profit from the exploitation of our nation’s youth.


THE SECRET ASPECT OF CELL PHONES


One reader wrote the following perceptive note:

“What cell phones allows people to do is become whatever they want or whoever they want. They create a personna that may be nothing like them (except in their fantasies). Most young people give up on those fantasies when they come to Christ, but by being given the opportunity to become something they are not, and it being in private, there are some devastating results and they are put into incredibly risky situations.”

Alex Coppershmith warns:

“The sweetest savor to a sinner’s mouth, are secret sins that won’t be found out. It used to be easier to catch your kids in sin. If you thought they had a problem with music, pornography, or language you could (as good parents should) look under the mattress, in the closet, in their car, or listen in on the other line or from the other room. (My parents probably did all these things and I am extremely grateful.) But in the late 90’s and even earlier this century, many parents got a wake up call as many teenagers turned to the internet to fulfill the lust of the flesh through porn, music, and chatting online. So the education began and many parents learned to check the computer’s ‘History’ and ‘Cookies.’ Good parents still found a way to track their teens. As the old adage goes, you can make a better mouse trap, but the world will always make a smarter mouse. Welcome to a parents worst nightmare: cell phones. It is possible to create a profile, add a vile ringtone, take digital photographs of yourself and share them with other cell phone users or even post them to the internet, and walk away from the phone without any evidence that you were ever there. Our kids now know about ‘history’ and ‘cookies.’ If you think they don’t, I now laugh at you and shake my head at your ignorance. Anything teens are able to keep from their parents will grow more and more out of control.”


TRASHY CONTENT AND SPIRITUAL DANGER


Even those who are not Bible believers see the moral danger of cell phones. Many articles have appeared in secular publications including this quote:

“I’ve covered murders, grisly accidents, airplanes falling out of the sky and, occasionally, dirty politics. But in nearly two decades of journalism, nothing has made my insides churn like seeing what my 13-year-old daughter and her friends are up to on their cell phones.”

Such a statement should make Bible-believing parents sit up and pay attention.


The author spoke of the shockingly open talk about immoral acts and the “coarse language and often profane messages that are plastered all over the text messages like graffiti on bathroom walls.”


Bro. Coppersmith further warns about the trashy music ringtones that is prevalent on cell phones: “From Screamo to Punk, from Dead Metal to Verbally Pornographic Rap. You can find it all on cell phones. Not to mention it is extremely easy to download music to your voice mail as a background so that whoever calls you will automatically be connected to the music if you don’t answer. With the background music setting you have about one second after you connect to the person’s voice mail to hit the mute button or be prepared to expose yourself to whatever they deem appropriate.”


One deeply concerned pastor wrote the following sad testimony:

“We had a business meeting to place three young men on church discipline because they refused to change their ringtones. They had built their own networks proclaiming themselves to be Christian but having rock and roll and even rap as background music for their voice mail. There were almost totally naked women pictured either as backgrounds or as ‘friends’ who had sent their photos, shot with their own cell phone cameras. There were four letter words of the foulest nature found in text messages. There were married men carrying on conversations with other women, some of whom were former girlfriends. Some of them even discussed meeting for lunches. Most of them carried on conversations with former backslidden members as well and hurt the name of the church as well as the cause of Christ. I cannot believe that those who claim the name of the Lord could not see or want to see the evil of cell phones. Sad to say, all three men who would not repent grew up in good godly homes and went to our church school. On a better side, three people have given up their cell phones. They have chosen the right path. AMEN!”


WHERE ARE THE PARENTS?


When you read about Christian young people getting wrapped up in their cell phones and other morally dangerous things, you wonder immediately, “Where are the parents?” Why aren’t they overseeing their children’s lives and protecting them from the devil? Being the parent of godly children, I know how easy it is to get wrapped up in other things and not to have a close enough handle on what your children are doing, how easy it is to let the flesh have its way in the home so that you are not the example you should be or have the spiritual power that you should have; but we must pay any price to save our children and grandchildren from Satan’s snare.


Many of those who replied to my request for feedback on cell phones made a point about parental oversight. Following are some examples:

“Personally I believe that too many parents are living in carnality so that they themselves don’t see the damage that cell phones do.”

“How stupid does a parent have to be to just let their kid have free reign on the cell phone?”

“I think this is the important point in all of this. Our nation is full of clueless parents -- even amongst Christian families. The cell phone itself may not be evil, but it is too easy to exploit for evil purposes. And too many parents choose to remain ignorant about how their kids are using them, or they are misusing cell phones themselves and their guilt prevents them from speaking up.”

“I keep asking myself if parents are blind. Are youth pastors and pastors so out of touch with the pop culture and the technological activities of their teenagers? How many parents are sanctioning these things and excusing this rebellion as a “phase” or typical teen behavior?”


AN ALTERNATIVE TO CELL PHONES


After Bro. Coppersmith determined that cell phones would have to go, he gave his daughter the following alternative - a cordless land line phone. In my estimation, this is not a good alternative because conventional phones have the same danger as cell phones and kids with access to conventional phones can still call kids who have cell phones. If they have access to e-mail, they can still send and receive text messages.


The best option, in my estimation, is to stay away from the “social networking” “chat room hang out” internet sites altogether. What is wrong with e-mail and SMS and instant messaging? They are generally a waste of time and allow access to evil in electronic form. In fact, young people don’t need to spend inordinate amounts of time with people their own age. A young person with other young people is simply the immature and inexperienced and unwise encouraging others of like caliber. Young people need to spend more time with adults than with young people.


To that end, I made sure that my children got rid of all their cell phones and I installed good old fashioned telegraph machines. My children are now learning Morse Code and are only able to contact other godly people who have telegraphs. From now on there will be no more ungodly rock music or video messaging in our house.


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