In our previous article we celebrated the countless benefits of modern technology, together with the many opportunities these present to Christians. However, we concluded that article with what was both a caution and an exhortation, because the powerful possibilities aren’t only positive. In this article we will raise some concerns and identity a few dangers, particularly concerning media (such as streaming services and social media platforms).

Initial Concerns about Media

Excessive screen time acts like a drug, stimulating pleasure centres in the brain that make it addictive.

One concern is the amount of “screen time” a person chooses to have. This includes time spent using a computer, a laptop, a tablet, a cell phone, a smartphone, or a television—anything with a screen. Looking at a screen before going to bed can cause poor quality of sleep.

But of more concern is that excessive screen time:

  • restructures your brain, resulting in a poorer ability to communicate with others and increasing your cravings. It damages your ability to interact with other people and can retard cognitive development
  • damages your ability to understand emotions—your own and those of other people
  • increases the tendency toward obesity, high blood pressure, and diabetes—in part because you usually sit while you look at a screen
  • increases the possibility of eye strain
  • shortens your life
  • and begins to act like a drug, stimulating pleasure centres in the brain that make it addictive.

These effects are even more serious on children. In fact, some experts recommend that children under two should avoid screen time completely and that children over the age of two shouldn’t stare at any kind of screen for more than two hours a day.

Screens Can’t Provide Community

Community is not built by watching a screen.

While it is good to watch a church service on television or the Internet, it is better to attend a church service where you are part of a body of believers. While it is good to study the Bible by listening to a seminary professor on YouTube, it is better to study the Bible in a group with a teacher who can answer your questions and lead a discussion. Of course, it is good to listen to Christian music and entertainment on radio, television, or the Internet, it is better to have a meal with a mature Christian who can share what they have learned in their years of walking with the Lord. Community is not built by watching a screen.

The Significant Dangers of Media

As Paul writes: “Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honourable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise” (Philippians 4:8).

On the Internet we find the opposite.

On the Internet we find things that are not true, not honourable, not right, not pure, not lovely, and not admirable. There is false teaching about the Bible, temptations to materialism, and promotion of unchristian thinking.

Possibly the Biggest Problem Online and on Screens

It isn’t just unbelieving men who look at pornography.

The biggest problem, however, is pornography. The Internet has made sexual temptation and perversion easily available. And it is not just unbelieving men who look at pornography. Many studies tell us that two-thirds to three-quarters of men view pornography at least monthly and the statistics for Christian men are not much different. Many pastors admit they have struggled with pornography. Some women are also tempted by pornography or to spend excessive amounts of time browsing social media.

Hear Paul again: “Let there be no sexual immorality, impurity, or greed among you. Such sins have no place among God’s people. Obscene stories, foolish talk, and coarse jokes—these are not for you” (Ephesians 5:3-4).

How do you keep yourself from yielding to temptations when using modern communication devices? Some Christians wrote a Christian Internet Code of Ethics, which includes the following.

  • Guard your online relationships. You can easily develop friendships on the Internet. Be especially careful to guard against Internet relationships that might cause you to be unhappy or unfaithful with your spouse
  • Be careful to visit only websites that do not compromise your Christian faith and walk
  • Recognise that there are Internet sites that Christians must avoid, including those that contain pornography. Do not visit such sites even out of curiosity. If such a site pops up (and it happens to almost everyone), close it immediately. If needed, find an accountability partner of the same sex to talk with honestly and help you be pure
  • Take care that the words and pictures you put on the Internet honour the Lord and reflect your life in Christ. Avoid saying things on the Internet that are displeasing to the Lord
  • When you see an image that dishonours God, concentrate on how it is hurting people made in God’s image. For example, how would you feel if the woman in a picture you are viewing was your daughter?
  • Guard your time. Do not spend an excessive amount of screen time that takes away from time with your family, church, work and the Lord. Cultivate relationships away from the Internet.

Media is a Gift of Fire

As much as we can rejoice at radio, television and Internet ministries, the gospel is communicated not just with words, but with actions and face-to-face caring. When Jesus’s disciples said that John the Baptist wanted to know if Jesus was the Messiah, he responded primarily with an account of what had been done: “Go back to John and tell him what you have seen and heard—the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the good news is being preached to the poor” (Luke 7:22). The mark of Christians is our love for each other.

Points to Remember

  • Christians should be involved in all kinds of media and news so that they can show the values and virtues that will honour Christ and build a good society. This is an honourable vocation if done to bring glory to God
  • Christians need community found in a church, Christian media is no substitute for fellowship. Your local pastor or leader is a man or woman of God, just as much as any Christian media personality. Follow the example of people you can know, observe their life, and love in community, not those you will never meet
  • If you are struggling with a media addiction, find a person or group of the same sex who you can share honestly with, including those who have also struggled. Remember that your brain may be addicted and you may need help to break the habit
  • Be creative in using media to reach those who need to hear the gospel with thoughtful analysis of current events, drama, interviews, music, and other methods. These are often more effective then broadcasting a sermon.

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