This Has Been the Main Culprit Behind Most (All?) Teen Problems (OYPO – Vol. 41)

OYPO – One Youth Pastor’s Opinion

This Has Been the Main Culprit Behind Most (All?) Teen Problems

Times be a changin’—I see a growing rumble of entitlement in teens. I hate to say “back in my day,” but back in my day, it was not quite so. Sure, we had spoiled kids, but even good church kids nowadays can coil into a “Don’t Tread On Me” stance when you threaten their turf: screens. 

And it scares me. 

When even the silicone valley dads refuse to give their kids screen time, I think they’re onto something. Maybe they have researched the brain (hint: they have[1]) and are more careful than we are. 

Screen time is dangerous because of the addiction it creates. 

Last night, Bro. Christian taught through the process of James 1… temptation àlust àsin àdeath. Relating to screen time, the temptation can be simple:

  • I want more time alone
  • I want a better phone
  • I want more freedom 
  • I want ______ app
  • I want more play time

Mostly, it’s discontentment. “I’m not satisfied with what I have.” So when teens brood on “everyone else has _____,” it can soon degrade into lust: the passionate desire for more. 

Lust is not exclusively sexual. Lust is a strong desire for anything

And it’s dangerous. 

Parents, guard your teen’s heart from lusting after screens. Not the things ON the screens, but even the screens themselves. 

Lust brings forth sin (James 1:15). Rebellion is a fruit, not a root. 

“He’s so defiant,” a parent says of their teen, but that defiance did not happen overnight. It started with temptation and spoiled, like a nice meal left in the refrigerator too long. Now it’s lust and sin. 

The heartbreak is when it kills us inside (see v15). It kills relationships and fellowships and friendships. It’s not good. 

I’ve seen unchecked screen-lust problems in our own youth group. Nothing has plagued us more. Seriously. All our problems have connected through a screen. 

  • Interpersonal fights. Yep. Had those. And they always amplify behind a phone—when unfiltered teens say things they would never say in person. 
  • Sexual sins. Yep. Had those. I’ve never dealt with a problem in print. Just screens. 
  • Attitude. Yep. Seen that. “You’re grounded from your phone” is like a death sentence. Teens feel like their heart is ripped out. 
  • Gossip. Oh goodness. Yes. Yes. Yes. And yes. And yes some more. Help us, Lord. 
  • Depression, anxiety, dating problems, drugs, cliques, apathy, cursing, lying, laziness… I’m not sure if I can name a problem that wouldn’t be helped by removing screens. 

You name it… somewhere, there’s probably a teen with a screen—on mom’s phone, a computer, a TV, a laptop at school, a friend’s phone. Face-to-face cowards become keyboard warriors, boldly spouting opinions where none ought to be spouted. What was once interpersonal has now become inter-devical. That’s not a word. But whatever it is, it’s not personal. 

I’ll admit my own struggles here. When I was 16 or 17, I texted a girl for a while until we met up in person. I was SO awkward. I realized then that in-person-me and out-of-person-me were quite different people. But even then, personal screens were new ideas, and I had not been raised on them. 

Today’s young people ARE the screen generation. They have never been anything but screen-fed, yet depriving them of screens might very well be the most satisfying thing you can do for them (and yourself). 

When my son craves more, I tend to give less. Not because I want to deprive him of good things, but because 1) I don’t want to feed a lust, and 2) I want him to crave better (personal and productive) things.


[1]See for a recent NY Timesarticle on this topic.