Kirk Cameron wants us to connect. How? Well, for starters – put down the smartphone.
The actor/producer well known for his “Growing Pains” days has produced a new documentary called "Connect" in which he speaks to a group of parents, neuroscientists and religious leaders about how to minimize the dangers associated with technology. Cameron got the idea for the project after his wife wanted to surprise their six teenagers with smartphones. Before she did, Cameron made some startling discoveries.
One father he spoke with for "Connect" learned that his son had been targeted by a child predator. It wasn't until he asked his son several questions and took matters into his own hands that he was able to scare away the suspect.
It is concerning how quickly technology can become an obsession in the hands of young people, Cameron notes.
Millennials are addicted to social media because "they crave a constant need for feedback," according to Dr. Kathy Koch, the Founder and President of Celebrate Kids, Inc.
"Millennials like to believe they are their own authority," she explained to Cameron.
“Kids used to seek out their parents for answers," she noted. "Now, kids can ask Siri all their questions.”
This online search for answers can also be the result of a lack of authority role models and parents who have trouble saying "no," Koch mused.
Social media is the perfect platform for those who want constant reinforcement, and it can explain why 50 percent of kids are addicted to it.
Neuroscientist Ian Armstrong offered the scientific explanation.
"In the teenage years, the brain is in a stage of rapid development," he explained.
The prefrontal cortex, the air traffic control for the brain, doesn’t develop until the mid-twenties.
In other words, "they don’t understand the consequences yet."
“The teenage brain has that seeking behavior and social media lends itself to that,” he said.
Cameron also sought out spiritual leaders like Christian author Mark Gregston for their reaction to how social media and smartphones have affected parents ability to parent.
Parents have been "blindsided" by the internet, Gregston said.
"We are being consumed by everything we hold in our heads. The tools we’re giving them during their adolescent years will determine how the rest of their years will be. Who they marry, how they parent their kids. It will change their life."
The teenager's vulnerability to technology reminded Cameron of the importance of the role of the parent.
“God made us for this job,” he says in the film. "Beware of handing kids something that will cut off that highway to communication."
Familial relationships, he adds, "are far more important than the hundreds of pseudo-relationships you may have through social media."
Cameron offers some tips on godly parenting. Place time limits on the kids' tech devices, and reserve offline family time, he offered. For him and his family, they like to go hiking, and attend church on Sundays.
"Connect" is in select theaters Tuesday, February 27 and Thursday, March 1. Learn more about the project here.