“Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.” Proverbs 13:20
With the increase of technology in the lives of young people comes a host of concerns. We hear a great deal about the risks of sexting, unwelcomed advances by adults, pornography, social media addiction, and cyber-bullying. Yes, they all are issues that are occurring at record-breaking numbers. There are reasons to be cautious introducing social media and technology too early and without solid oversight. Adults are unwisely accepting it as a rite of passage or as a necessity for kids and teens.
However, the greater concern we are not talking about as much is the progressive eradication of positive, mature, adult influences. Young people are parenting and raising each other. They are in school together, they are in extracurricular activities together, they are coming home and online together, on social media together, gaming together, texting together. They are rarely disconnected from their peer group.
So where does parental influence come in? How much time are we spending with our young people that is not interrupted by peer interaction? If it is an insignificant amount of time, then imagine the influence their peer group has on them. We will have a generation of kids who are their own source of wisdom for one another. When mature, godly influences are removed, or at least diminished, young people will be shaped by their friends and culture. When we—quite literally—leave our young people to their own devices, they will look for guidance from their peers and “disciple” one another in these ways:
- A false sense of maturity/ confidence in their self-knowledge
- An inability to occupy themselves or be alone
- Proneness to alienate from adult influence
- Tolerance for bad behavior and inappropriate peer demands
- Intolerance of wisdom and a mockery of what is good and wholesome
- Turning a blind eye to immoral and risky behavior
- Disparaging authority as irrelevant.
Indeed, the companion of fools will suffer harm.
But when our kids walk with the wise, they will become wise. Loving adult influence does this:
- It builds respect and cooperation.
- It creates an atmosphere of deference and admiration.
- It provides security for children.
- It encourages a child’s healthy dependence on parents and adults for spiritual and emotional nurture.
- It models a reliance on wise counsel, especially from the Lord.
- It displays a proper respect for leadership and governance.
The book of Titus talks at length about the need for Christians to influence a younger generation in what is right and good. We are called to model saying “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in this present age (Titus 2:12). We live in a world that can turn everything that is right and good upside down for kids. What is good is called evil, and what is evil is called good. If we do not talk, nurture, and walk alongside our kids, they will be left to their own devices.
But the Lord does not leave us to our own devices. He pursues us because he is a loving father. He meets us in our need, our weakness, and our frailty. The Lord is unwavering in his love for us. He shows compassion and is merciful and gracious. He guides and shepherds us. May we imitate him and be proactive in pursuing our young people.