The Lurking Wolves of the Internet (A Word to Parents)
“Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” (Matthew 10:16)
Parents, beware of the lurking wolves seeking to devour the souls of your children through the internet. I know that sounds extreme, and I am doing everything in my power to keep from becoming a radical, off the grid, technology phobiaist (making up words here)…but at times I can’t help myself. For all of its blessings, the internet will be the greatest threat to your kid’s soul. Beware.
Parents are responsible for the discipleship of their children. It is primarily up to us to instill truth into their hearts and to be watchful when lies and deceit creep in. Twenty years ago, that was a bit simpler. Parents could know the voices in their childrens’ lives. Those voices were the neighborhood kids like Tommy, or Dale. Maybe they were even media voices like that Karate Kid that everyone seemed to enjoy. But even if movies were having an influence, one could typically decipher what one’s kid was watching and what it was all about. There were only four TV channels and two feature films showing in the theatre on Friday night. Those days are gone with the wind.
To give an analogy, think of your kids’ access to the world as acreage of a farm. They are cute little sheep on that farm. Surrounding that farm are dangerous wolves seeking to devour them. Those wolves come in the form of false teaching, worldly ideas, and enticing images. You don’t have to be a genius to deduce that the farm was a lot smaller before the internet. It was a bit easier for parents to build up a good fence around the small farm to keep the sheep safe. But as soon as your kid is introduced to YouTube alone, that farm grows exponentially in size. They have stepped into a mega-world of digital influencers to the tune of 31 million people. That is a far cry from the control parents once had over who was influencing their children. It is no longer Tommy, Dale, or the occasional favorite movie star. Now it is 31 million unknown voices being downloaded instantaneously to the screen in your child’s hand. The truth is, you can’t build a fence around that farm, so you had better not release your kid into it until they are able to fend for themselves.
I am not saying you need to protect your kid from technology the way you would a pit of vipers. We need to introduce them to technology and teach them to use it wisely. But wisdom is key here. It is unwise to give your child unfiltered access to the internet. This includes protecting from things like pornography, but it is so much more than that. You need to filter ferociously. There are no neutral influences in a fallen world. YouTube likes to call their famous stars, “influencers,” and that they are. But what are they influencing your kids towards? Do you know?
Take Rhett and Link as one example. You may be familiar with them. Your teenagers probably watch them. They are wolves out for the destruction of your teens’ souls.
Rhett and Link rose to YouTube fame years ago with their show “Good Mythical Morning.” The two of them got their start in evangelical Christian circles and were committed, involved, seemingly “all-in” Christians. For that reason, they gained great popularity in youth groups and Christian circles across the country. Their content seemed innocent enough. Rhett and Link are comedians. They taste test junk food, eat the world’s hottest peppers, and deep fry sunglasses. This is the stuff of teenage dreams.
Rhett and Link have also started another show/podcast called “Ear Biscuits.” Their stated purpose for the show is to be more open and authentic to who they truly are. They want to connect with their fans in a more intimate way. On these 1-2 hour shows, Rhett and Link open up about all sorts of stuff, including their deconversion stories. What’s that, you ask? A deconversion story is a popular trend in progressive circles where those who have walked away from the Christian faith open up about the process of how that happened.
Rhett and Link’s deconversion stories are devastating. They are no real threat to well-founded Christian faith, but they are a threat to your child’s likely weak mind.
The power in these stories comes from those who are telling them. Rhett and Link are dynamic personalities who your child may have grown to think they know and love. These YouTube stars have uploaded well over 300 hours of content across their platforms, meaning that if your children are fans, they have likely spent more time “with” these guys than they do with the church. Do you see the problem developing?
One notable feature of Gen Z is their devoted trust in technology. This is the generation who are far more likely to look to the internet for answers to life’s deepest questions than they are to look to real people. If they don’t know something, they just ask Google. Furthermore, they are fully immersed in the celebrity culture of YouTube. I am often shocked at how obsessive teens are over internet stars. They don’t just watch them; they want to be them.
It grieves me to think of how many teenagers watched Rhett and Link deconstruct their faith this past February on the verge of COVID quarantine and went right along with them. How many teens had their faith rocked in the privacy of their bedroom through the screen of their phone and never told a soul about it? How many parents are completely unaware that their kid has basically walked away from Christ because a couple of dudes in California told them too…and so they did? These guys are wolves.
I have watched the deconversion stories of both Rhett and Link. I think it is important to do so, though it is absolutely heartbreaking. Our kids need to be equipped to deal with such postmodern ideologies that lead many astray. We just need to make sure they don’t access and consume these things outside of Christian community. They need stronger minds and mature believers who can lead them through this stuff. They need their parents. They need older saints. They need godly influences far more than they need YouTube influencers. Make no mistake, there are wolves prowling around the internet. They will devour our children if we don’t keep them away.
Parents, be watchful. Even as you introduce your child to technology, be diligent to remain aware of what they are consuming. As your teen gets older and you feel you can trust them with more technological freedom, still be intentional to ask good questions about what they are watching. Watch what they watch. Discuss it with them. Be the kind of shepherd that God calls you to be. Protect your little flock. Beat away the wolves.
Brendon is Associate Pastor of Student Ministry at First Baptist Church in Canyon, TX. He has been married to his wife, Julie, for 8 years and is the father of three daughters and one son all under the age of 6. Brendon is a native of Amarillo, TX where he graduated from Amarillo High School before going on to complete his undergraduate work at Boyce College in Louisville, KY. He then went on to study at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville where he completed his Masters of Divinity. In his free time Brendon enjoys getting outdoors by hiking, backpacking, and camping. He is also passionate about beards and coffee, two of God’s glorious gifts to the world.