You shall bind them (the Law) as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.
After much thought and consideration we recently purchased a cell phone for our twelve-year old daughter. She began asking for one a couple of years ago and is one of the last students in her grade to receive one. My husband and I went back and forth as we considered our options. Part of the process required me revisiting my own middle school years. When I was twelve I asked for a phone for my bedroom….a purple one. My parents agreed as long as I upheld the following rules: I could not talk to boys without permission and the door of my bedroom was to remain open. These rules were in place for my protection and well-being. The freedom was in place to foster deeper friendships and growth as a young woman. I remember many evenings talking on the phone to friends or studying together using 3-way calling. (Clearly dating myself).
For my daughter in 2017, having a phone means texting with her girl friends and her grandmothers. It means getting on face time to work on homework together. It means checking her team snap for soccer and basketball practices and checking for email messages from her teachers. It means group texts from friends about what they are wearing to a dance or receiving an encouraging text from her youth minister. For me, it means she will have unlimited access to ideas and perspectives I am not ready for her to know about. It means thousands upon thousands of images that will attempt to define for her what is valuable. It means I am handing her a machine that could literally take away part of her innocence. It means evil is a click away. All this packed into a device that will fit into her pocket.
When I am honest, I fear the phone will cause her harm and will slowly chip away at what is real and true and what we have taught her. Some of the information found within the device will rival the values we speak of in our home.
Many aspects of parenting our girls require living in this kind of tension. We want her to be in relationships with her friends, youth ministers, teachers, and extended family, but we do not want this little device to be the place where she finds her values and her worth. How do we as parents guide our girls to use their phones in a way that promotes healthy relationships while at the same time protect them from the dangers found therein?
Last month I wrote of ways to provide “door posts” in our homes for our daughters as they grow and develop an understanding of identity, image and beauty. By having visual images of the Word of God in our homes, our daughter’s narrative will be shaped by Truth giving her a lens that enables her to rightly view false images around her. This idea comes from the SHEMA in Deuteronomy 6. It speaks of putting the Word of God in the places that our family and any others that enter or exit our homes will see. Interestingly, this passage also speaks to another physical place: our wrists, forearm, and hand. Deuteronomy 6 verse 8 says, “You shall bind them (the Law) as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.”
In those days people would write the law of God on pieces of parchment and roll them up and put them in a leather box on their wrist. It stretched up to their forearms and was wrapped around a finger so that it would remain with them. They did not have access to the word of God like we do so this was a way to keep the Word close, familiar, and accessible. As we consider the familiarity our daughters have with their devices we must ask ourselves…
Is the Word of God as close, familiar, and accessible to our daughters as their phones are?
Are we striving to make the Word of God a normal part of every day life with our girls? Do we have it accessible in our homes and in their bedrooms? Do they carry the Word to church and feel as comfortable using it as they do their cellular device? Do we desire that the Word be frontlets between their eyes? Meaning, the thing that gives them sight and an entrance into what is true, and beautiful, and fulfilling. If we truly believe that knowing Christ is their hope and joy, and the author of their beauty, we will care about the messages they are getting from their phones and beyond.
Stop and think for a minute about the messages that bombard your daughter daily. From where do they come? What filter, (law, wisdom, hope) have you put in place as frontlets for their eyes?
My husband and I decided on a phone with no social media applications. She cannot communicate with boys unless given permission and we daily check her phone and talk about it with her. It is part of her life as a tool but it is not bound to her wrist or the frontlet for her eyes. She can freely use the phone for building relationships with her family and friends. She and I often text silly emojis or messages throughout the day, and I love that when she is away from me, we can still communicate with one another. We can celebrate her school achievements or games even from afar and I can text her to encourage her in her daily activities. However, it is not the frontlet for her eyes. It is not the place that teaches her the truth about what is right, true and lovely. This role is reserved for us as her parents and rooted in the Word of God written to her by her Creator and Redeemer.
- Put a Bible App or a devotion app on her phone that sends her a verse each day. One I recommend is ReadScripture. It has commentaries and even videos about passages in the Bible as well as Bible reading plans.
- Send a text with a passage of scripture or hymn that speaks truth to her life.
- Have other women she admires do the same.
- Train her in part by your example. She does not have to have her phone at all times. Use it as a tool for building up relationships. Put it down when she comes home from school.
- Read for yourself and read with her. Reflective reading is becoming more and more of a challenge with the barrage of information on our phones. Establish the discipline of reading Scripture and books that point to the Truth. Tell her about them, read them with her.
If this is a new idea for you, it may feel forced at first. There may be moments of awkwardness (isn’t that just life with a teenage girl?). Press through and ask the Lord to work in the awkwardness to make the Word a place that is close, familiar, and accessible for you together. There is much grace and joy to be found within the privilege of providing these “frontlets” for our daughters!
Hebrews 4:12: “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”