Listening In: David Eaton

WARREN SMITH, HOST: David Eaton, welcome to the program. 

DAVID EATON, GUEST: Thanks for having me.

SMITH: Yeah, it’s great to be with you. We’re here in your office in Colorado Springs, but I know you—or I first came to know you as somebody who was hardly ever in Colorado Springs. You were traveling all around the country talking often to teenagers and college students about technology and entertainment and smartphones and on and on and on and how that shapes our worldview.

EATON: Right. I just got back from speaking to 1,600 students in Silicon Valley, so that was fun. But yeah, we at Axis we travel and we speak at Christian high schools and universities and churches. We have teams that go out and we spoke to over 200,000 students face to face, about 20 to 25,000 a year. But where it’s really at for us right now is taking what we learn from being face to face with students and getting that in the hands of parents—parents and grandparents of teens and preteens. There’s no one more leveraged than a parent or grandparent to disciple the next generation. So we’re trying to help parents become bilingual. I mean, there are so many changes going on right now. For example, a broccoli means weed or Ana is shorthand for anorexia or there’s always some kind of new app out there. There’s a dad told us he always feels three apps behind his kids. So, our goal is just to connect the wisdom of parents with the wonder of their children. And we learn a lot from traveling and speaking. But then being able to put that into useful resources for parents is makes us really happy.

SMITH: Well let me break that down just a little bit—or get you to break that down for us just a little bit. And let’s focus for a moment just on what you tell the kids. So, you spoke to the 200,000 kids, or at least you and your colleagues at Axis—your Axis speakers. What do you tell these kids? When you go into a Christian high school or a secular high school because I know you do that some as well. What are you telling them? You’re not telling them cell phones—bad. Pornography—bad. Don’t do it, just say no, you might be saying that, but you’re doing it in a much more sophisticated way than that.

EATON: We want them to say that. So, it’s like Inception. We’re trying to plant these great ideas in their mind. So for example, when we started Axis, I started about 11 years ago, we started at when the smartphone was born. And coincidence, I don’t know, but we’ve been able to watch that change. And when we showed up on the scene, like worldview was huge. Still really important today. But that was the term that was really, and before that probably apologetics. So it was apologetics and worldview. Then story became really big. What’s your narrative? What’s your story for the world? And then you started getting into ideas of formation. Sorry, I’m giving you kind of a history of things that are shaping the next generation, the idea of formation and habits. And now I think we’re in the world of psychology. We’re in the world of identity.

So one of the biggest ideas right now is what’s your identity? And for us, we always want to say—we want to make sure we’re answering the questions of the next generation is asking, not the ones that we think they need to know. We want to know what their curiosity and their interest is. So it’s all the same content, right? But your entry point is from a different angle. So when you think of psychology, hopefully it doesn’t scare people listening to this, but it’s really the question of what does it mean to be human? I even remember I’m hearing John Stonestreet saying that. That was one of the biggest questions years ago. Well, it still is a huge question now. What does it mean to be me? And if you live in a world where, especially to speak about gender on Tumblr, there are a hundred different options for your gender. And many people who are listening to this, they probably grew up saying, well there are only two options. And people told you who you were and what you liked. Well, now the rising generation, they could feel 30% male and 70% female or there’s so many different options for them. So again, like what I’m saying, they live in a different world and when we speak to them, we’re trying to invite them to question their core assumptions. We say the issue is not unanswered questions. You will always have unanswered questions. The smarter you get, the more unanswered questions you have. Instead, the issue is unquestioned answers. What answers have you assumed to be true and haven’t questioned them? So that’s our starting point. And then we’ll start going in. So whenever we talk about smartphones, we want to tie students into this larger gospel story.

We don’t want to just start off by saying, bad, bad, bad, bad, bad shame, shame, shame, terrible, terrible, terrible. Instead we want to say, Hey, let’s start off and say, how is this very good? I mean, Warren, it’s easy for people to say that technology is neutral and actually Axis said that in our early days. There were some great quotes that we read off about how technology is not good or bad. It’s just powerful. And it’s kind of like this idea of a neutral force.

SMITH: It’s just a tool. You can use it for good or you can use it for evil.

EATON: Right. And it’s cool. People say, Oh, you have a brick. You can throw it through a window or you can build a hospital with it. But we want to say there is an innate goodness to the brick. There is an innate goodness to the pencil. There’s an innate goodness to a tree or to a smartphone because we believe that God made the world very good. So good that he actually on the seventh day, he rested in the world that he created. He said it was very good. And then he rests in it, which is a temple text. So God lives on the planet that he created. He lives in the world that he created. And then you have the curse that comes after that. And so instead of saying it’s not good or bad, we say it is very good and then it is very cursed. So this idea of loss. So I think for those of you listening to this, if you have kids or grandkids who are on their glowing pocket rectangles all the time, these incredible phones start off with a sense of wonder.

Don’t be the bad guy who’s always complaining or whining about it. Start off by saying what’s good and affirm it. And then once you’ve established this way of thinking of it in a beautiful, good way, then say, what have we lost? What are we missing out on this? And I think that’s especially important with our phones and, you know, it’s especially important because it’s not just the next generation who loves their phone. I love my phone.

SMITH: Yeah, absolutely. I love my phone, too. And you know, and even Neil Postman who I know you quote—Amusing Ourselves to Death—he will say that, you know, that we adopt new technologies because of all the great stuff, but the negative consequences will often show up later. And so, yeah, it’s this idea of being beautiful but broken, as we are in the world, right?

EATON: It’s like air conditioning, right? Who doesn’t love air conditioning, but when you create air conditioning, then you don’t have to be outside as much. You can be inside and be comfortable and therefore you’re going to know your neighbors less. And so if you spend less time with your neighbors, I mean,  there’s just unintended consequences that come from that.

SMITH: Exactly. So how do you get kids, so again, I want to come to the parents and grandparents later, but how do you get kids to see that? I mean because I imagine you don’t have any trouble telling them how great their iPhones are. How do you get them to see the negative consequences and how those negative consequences almost against their will or below the level of consciousness will are showing up in their lives?

EATON: I think there are fun things that you can do. So, for example, when we talk about phones, we show some really compelling videos from the internet about phone addiction. And so all of a sudden you go from, I love my phone—which who doesn’t such a wonderful, incredible tool—to realizing that some apps on phones are designed like slot machines. I mean, there’s just the gambling theory that goes into it. And so when you realize that it’s an attention economy and that you don’t pay for Facebook or Instagram or Snapchat, therefore you are not the customer. You’re the product being sold. Your eyeballs are being sold. And so there are ways with infinite scrolling, or even with the slot machine, you have to pull the lever down. There are many apps where you pull the screen down and release it kind of in a slingshot fashion and that’s like a slot machine. And then what’s going to come up? You don’t know. It could be something good, it could be something bad. And because of that, the behavior that that creates in us if we don’t know what’s gonna come up next, causes us to want to have more. So I think on one level with students where like, Hey, let’s look beneath the surface on how this is shaping us. But then something that’s really big for us is that we’re trying to say not what we’re running from but what we’re running to. And so when we say, Hey, let’s spend less time on our phones, I’ll lead by example and say, I sometimes hate the way my phone makes me feel, just that pull, that it has that addiction to it. Or when I’m not present, I’ll be with my friends, but I’ll be in three or four places at once cause I’ll be texting this person back wondering if I’ve got a new email in waiting for something to come back. And I think the next generation they have this very terrible thing that’s happening to them. It’s called FOMO, fear of missing out. And it sounds cool when you say FOMO, but the first letter is fear. F for fear. Like, living in a state of fear puts you in a state of anxiety and no one likes being that.

So I remember when was in college, I had a friend tell me, Hey David, you know that life goes on without you, right? And that didn’t feel very good at the time, but I was like, that is true. And if I stopped, if I have to believe that life can’t go on without me, than I am believing something that is false and insane and it gives me freedom and realize, Hey, whenever I say yes to something, I’m actually saying no to maybe 20 other things or maybe five other things. So let me say a real yes and let me be here now and let me be present now. And so another way of saying instead of FOMO, JOMO—the joy of missing out, the joy of being fully present. So right there we translated, we flipped an idea on its head and saying we’re running towards deeper relationships because the phone is all about connection. I mean, such sophisticated ways to communicate and connect. I mean, you were just in here right now. It’s my mom’s birthday today. And so for my mom’s birthday, I just FaceTimed her to say hello. I saw her face on her birthday. She saw mine. She’s 800 miles away. That’s amazing about a phone. But if I wasn’t able to be present with my family because I’m always FaceTiming her or connecting with someone else, which is true for me, I’ve actually had to create boundaries. I have downloaded apps on my phone that shut down 90% of the apps on my phone so that I can—doesn’t that sound like an addict to anyone else?

SMITH: There’s an app for that. There’s an app to keep you from your apps. So bottom line, David, is that what you’re trying to do whenever you go into the schools with the kids is that you’re trying to say to replace this fear of missing out the sense of addiction with more a sense of being fully present and experiencing the joy of life and relationships? 

EATON: Yeah, that would be one of them. I mean, secretly I’m trying to convert the next generation and their family to a larger gospel. Now I don’t lead with that. I just believe that the Good News is incredibly good news on how to be a fully integrated human who’s connected and has right relationship with God, each other, ourselves, and creation. And there’s something that is—it’s life. It’s life-giving. So that’s what I want. But whenever you go and speak at a school or a church, they want you to deal with the symptoms, which is fine. So can you talk about media? Can you talk about technology? Can you talk about smart phones? And the answer is yeah, we love to. And then while we’re doing that, we’re going to try to root everyone in that room into a deeper, more fulfilling version and understanding of God’s love for them and their place in the world.

And so that’s the two spoonfuls of sugar and the medicine that we think about and we want to make it fun and entertaining. Something else that we do is whenever we travel and speak, we always take a team with us. So we have two men and two women speaking. And on one level you wouldn’t imagine just, again, we’re teaching, right? So we’re at some Christian school and you teach and you have the younger generation come up there who are 24, 23 years old. They’re leading by example. Not only are they teaching something that is true, they’re showing that it’s possible. So the next generation’s imagination can see, wow, like they’re modeling it as someone who’s just a few years older than me. And then to have a woman speak too, we have a couple of women who travel and speak with us. That’s incredible because we’re in a lack of role models. And so the next generation needs a see that the truth is not just something that you believe, but something that is possible.

SMITH: David Eaton, we talked in the first segment about what you say to the kids. Let’s pivot a little. And you mentioned a little bit about the culture translator, which is kind of a tool for parents more and grandparents more. But let’s talk more about what you say to parents and grandparents. Whenever you have an audience with parents and grandparents, what’s your advice to them? What’s your advice for them in dealing with their kids relative to these amazing little smartphone devices?

EATON: Well, I tell them to hang in there because you just feel so much pressure and you feel, you might feel left out, you might feel left behind. And I kinda like to think of it like this: Okay, Warren, do you have a foreign country that you love to visit? Let’s say I said, here’s $10,000 you have to spend it on vacation. You have to leave the United States. Where would you go?

SMITH: I’d go to England.

EATON: You’d go to England. Okay. So let’s say that we become friends and you’re like, you’re going to go to England and you love England. It’s just your spot. And then you invite me to come with you. And I’m like, I haven’t really been, this has got to be amazing. So we buy some tickets, we go to London, we fly over there, we get off the plane. As soon as we got off the plane, I’m like, where is the sunshine? It is so dark over here. And I start complaining. And then you’re like, let’s go get some fish and chips. And I’m like, Oh yeah, let’s get some fish and chips. And then we pull in and I’m just like, you know what? I’m gluten free and these are beer battered like I can’t, it’s covered in gluten. And then you’re like, all right, well let’s go do something else. So we go hang out somewhere else and all I do is complain and I whine and I critique. And you’d be kind of thinking in your head, I really hate that I invited David with me to go to my favorite country. Right? How dare you. Well that’s what happens when a teenager invites their parent into teen land and as soon as the parent crosses the border, enters in and says, why are you listen to Kendrick Lamar? Why do you like Drake? Why are you listening Nicki Minaj? Why are you on Snapchat? Why do you like Instagram? Why are you on your phone all the time? Why are you doing all this stuff? Why do you care about all these things? And all the sudden the kid’s like, all you’re doing is critiquing me all the time. And they revoke your passport. They take away your visa. They say you’re not allowed in teen country anymore, teen land anymore and they shut off to you. So one of the first things that we encourage parents to do is start off with a posture of appreciation and ask questions. Say, well, what do you love about this? What’s fun about this to you? What’s interesting? What do you find is creative about this platform or this app or whatever the new thing is. And so that allows the parent to listen and to understand and be invited back into the country. And so that’s the first thing that we tell parents oftentimes is withhold judgment for a little bit and just listen and try to understand what’s going on.

SMITH: So I get that, that—to refer back to something you said earlier—so I get that that really sort of lets you enter into this world where the parents are experiencing the wonder of the teen’s world. But how do you get the teens to experience the wisdom of the adult world?

EATON: Well, I think that once you’ve earned the right to be heard, you can start redirecting the conversation. You can start guiding the conversation, which is the second kind of pillar for us is that how do you go in and you have to understand what Fortnite is if you’re going to be able to talk and kind of redirect and guide that conversation. So Fortnite is the world’s most popular video game right now. They have a world cup coming up with $100 million in cash prizes for it. It’s just—and it’s a free game. So again, as a parent starts to say, all right, they ask questions and they start to figure out how do they talk to their kid because they started to earn the right. And I think one of the ways that you do that is we live in a world that’s so hyper-curated and where everyone is perfect. Like if you’re on Instagram, like never before in the history of the universe, could you compare yourself to so many other people at once. There’s an opportunity for vulnerability. There’s an opportunity to connect with your story to your teen’s story. And one of our favorite things to say at Axis, one of my favorite stories to tell is we had a young lady who came up to us and said, I’ve only had one real conversation with my dad and we heard that. We’re like, no, this is—one real… How is this even sustainable? One real conversation? It was really sad to us. And then she paused and she smiled and she says, we’ve only had one real conversation, but we’ve never stopped having that one conversation. So one thing that we tell parents is like, you’re going to have one conversation with your kids that lasts a lifetime. You don’t have to solve all the problems immediately. You can wait, you can be sustained. It’s going to be over multiple years and you’re going to have incredible influence. There’s no one who has more influence on their teens than you do. But sometimes you have to weigh, I mean, you’re meeting them more than halfway, many times cause you’re the adult. So if they want to talk at 11 o’clock at night, you talk at 11 o’clock at night. If they want to talk on the way to basketball practice, that’s when you’re having those conversations. 

SMITH: Well, that’s a good word, David, because I know as a father of four, you know, it’s like I want to solve the problem for them, right? I want to do the data dump. I want to tell them what they need to know now. You’ve got to know it now rather than realize that it is a long game and, and you have to earn the right to have that conversation and that conversation might be continued at a later time and they’re at a different stage in development and you’ve got to be—I know as a dad, especially as a, you know, as somebody—

EATON: Oh yeah, your intellect, Warren, is crazy. It’s awesome. 

SMITH: I’m not talking about my intellect, but I’m around people that are smart and have answers to questions and it’s really tempting not to just dump the answer on them whenever they’ve got the question, but let them—

EATON: But they might not want the answer.

SMITH: Right. They may not want the answer, they just want to be heard. They want to be listened to, they want to be engaged sometimes.

EATON: I think that something that’s been challenging to me and I have with my kids is just to say, can I spend 10 minutes a day doing what they love to do on their terms and just to enjoy them and marvel at it?

And I think that’s because we’re busy and we’re tired and we have our own agendas and we have our own stuff that we’re working on. And just to say, no, I’m going to do what you enjoy doing. Now, I know this may not feel like the hammer of truth that people want to hear, but I think you’re earning the right to be heard and they’re going to be so influenced by your compassion and your interest in their life. And then at some point you’ll be able to deepen the conversation. You’ll be able to say, hey, let’s like really figure out, you know, so you mentioned pornography earlier and so, well, how do we even talk about this and what does God say about this and how do we think around that topic? And so one of the things that, you know, again, starting off by saying, well, no, human sexuality is of very good thing and to be celebrated and then these are how it’s broken and it’s cursed. You’re inviting them into a story that’s bigger than all of you.

SMITH: Yeah. You’ve mentioned a couple of times that, you know, God created the world good, but that it is broken. It is cursed. One of the things that I really have sort of loved and resonated with about the message that you guys have hear at Axis is that you talk about, you know, the Bible not as sort of a list of do’s and don’ts and you know, thou shalts and thou shalt nots. But as a story. And you’ve mentioned the first two chapters of that story creation and fall. There are two other chapters to that story that you often talk about in your presentations.

EATON: Yeah, I think God chooses the people of Israel and you get to follow them through the Bible and see how, you know they’re bringing a restored humanity, but they fail a lot. And then out of that comes Jesus and where Israel fails, Jesus succeeds. And the way that he interacts with people and the way that he thinks about the world’s incredible. And so then you have this idea, okay, you’re saved. Great, okay, you got to follow Jesus. Follow him. Believe in him, trust in him, give him your heart, whatever euphemism you want to use from your upbringing, you know, ask Jesus into your heart. And then there’s this idea of renewal. And so it’s not like—there’s so many sixth graders who are like, they get saved when they’re in sixth grade and they’re like, God has nothing else for me. What am I supposed to do? Wait til I go to heaven when I die? And so their gospel lacks mission. And so where God says, no, I’ve given you the ministry of reconciliation, the ministry of right relationship. So where are the broken relationships between others and God and others and themselves and others and each other and others in the created world? So there’s a greater story to invite. It’s reconciliation, redemption, restoration. It takes all a lot of creativity and it’s not just let’s get as many people saved as possible. That’s important too, right? But we want to create, you know, we’re joining God in the renewal of all things. We’re looking at how he created the world and the vocation that he’s given us. So I think the idea of mission is something that has been missed out on and the next generation is longing for that and parents have an opportunity to invite their kids into that.

SMITH: You know, David, I want to come back to kind of, you know, the merging of your story, the story of Axis and some of the ideas that we’ve talked about. You mentioned that Axis was you said 11 years old, I think you said. It’s interesting to me, one of the things that we talk a lot about at the Colson Center is kind of the year 2007, the year that Facebook came into being, the iPhone was introduced. I mean, it was kind of a pivotal year. It’s also when you guys came into being, I mean, in some ways, and Thomas Friedman wrote about this when he wrote a book called The World is Flat it was a—the iPhone and Facebook and cloud computing and all of the stuff that we kind of take for granted, all kind of converged on that year. Where were you? What were you doing whenever all of this happened and you said, you know what? The world needs an organization like Axis because something strange is happening in the world right now. Something new, something that’s never happened before.

EATON: You know, when I was 23 years old, I was, you know, I’m between generations, so I’m right between Gen X and Millennials, and I kind of tend to lean toward the Millennial side of things. But I started realizing that you have a generation, and right now we have another new generation after Millennials is Gen Z. So when I was, back when I was a Millennial, I was just like, I can take these incredible ideas and the team and Axis can take these incredible ideas and translate them to my generation. I’d watched so many of my friends who were Christians in high school and in church with me who had just totally to become derailed in college. And you know, with sin comes brokenness and death or some types of death. And so I just said, what if we could translate this into a post-literate generation into a visual means? What if we could use current media examples and what if we could have that embodied in a young team?

And so that’s kind of where I was, but I’ve always been one who, yeah, I like technology, but at the same time I’m always doing experiments on myself and trying to say, all right, well what if I just use this portion of it or I don’t want to miss out on greater human connection because I’m always having to check my phone and think through things like that. So that’s kind of the—2007 man, Axis was just—I was just out of college and just trying to figure out who we were. And then now, you know, after we were around for five or six years, we just realized there’s no one more influential and a parent and we live in a world where you can be in a foreign country that—a developing nation and not have access to clean water, but have a smartphone in your pocket.

There is such an incredible opportunity to create—I mean, even what we’re doing right now, just the human creativity and culture with the way that we’re recording this and you’re able to distribute it and people can listen to it on their own terms. So, we just saw such an opportunity to be able to equip parents in the normal parts of their life whenever they’re with their students, when their ears are open and they’re ready to hear the truth.

SMITH: Well, when they’re ready to hear the truth, what do you tell them? I mean, what do you tell them about—

EATON: You tell them that you love them. And I think one of the most important things that you can tell your kid before you tell him the truth is you tell your kid that they can tell you anything. So whether it’s—and if you’re listening to this right now, this is your takeaway: tell your child, “You can tell me anything.” And in parentheses, “I will be fair. You can trust me. I love you, I’m proud of you. I have your best interests at heart. There is nothing that you can do to separate yourself from my love for you.” Because what happens is like we’ll experience—so let’s say your kid comes home from school and he says, I saw two boys kissing or I saw this song by this artist or my teacher said this, and you are shocked and they see it and you freak out and you react. And then all of a sudden they feel like, Oh, I don’t know if I can tell mom that again. I don’t know if I can tell dad that again cause they just overreacted. So parents want to practice their I’m not shocked face. So when you hear something wild, just kind of take it in stride.

I’m a very part-time youth pastor and I remember this happened. I was hanging out with a brother and sister from youth group. They’re both in high school. And one of the girls said, yeah this boy just kept asking me for nudes. Just kept asking me for nudes. And so my initial response was like, I want to punch this kid who keeps asking you for—and actually what he said to her, too, is like, he said, why don’t you send me nude photos like all the other girls do? What’s wrong? So he was shaming her for sticking up for herself. Now, I didn’t freak out. I let her know how I felt, but I wanted her to feel safe and comfortable—her and her brother who were with me that I wasn’t just going to start throwing things.

And so I think that’s a really important thing is for your kids to know that you love them and they can tell you anything. So they come to you because you—what you talk about with them, they will talk about with you. And so especially if you have younger students, you mom or dad are going to be taking away some of their innocence prematurely and introducing the topics that you’re like, really, I don’t want to have this conversation with my nine year old. Okay, well great. If you don’t want to have it then do you want Google to have it? Do you want their friend to have it? Because your nine or 10 year old is going to be walking around and maybe they don’t have a phone but their friends are going to have a phone.

SMITH: Well, can you give some advice for how to manage that sort of that frontier because there’s, like you say, you don’t want to have the conversation too early with your kids and kind of steal some of that innocence from them. On the other hand, by the time you as a parent think that the time is right, it’s probably past time.

EATON: Right. So you’re gonna want to, I think you have to be a little bit aggressive about it and trust your instincts, trust your intuition, think about their context and who they’re hanging out with. And then you can talk about things. I mean, even some of the topics that we talk about Axis we could be a little bit more grizzly with if we wanted to, we could be a little bit more graphic or intense with, and we have purposely chosen not to because we know younger students are going to experience it.

But, nonetheless, you can still handle some of the tougher topics in life. And I just think it’s your job as a parent or even as a grandparent, you might be raising the next generation right now. There’s going to be times where you have to introduce that. So for example, sexting, right? When someone sends someone else a nude or suggestive photo or some suggestive emoji or even the language in a text message, you have to give—and there’s no shame if you haven’t—but just thinking about this, you need to give them a plan for what to do when someone sends them something. Now, there’s a whole different plan if they’re asking someone for this or they send someone something. But what happens when it just gets sent to them? Do they know what to do when they receive that? And so you want to say, Hey, you know, there could be a chance for someone shows you something inappropriate and this is what I mean by that, on their phone. They hand it to you or they text it to you. I want you to know that I’m safe and that you can tell me anything and, yeah, I want—blame it on me. Blame it on dad. Say, Hey, say to your friends, “Yeah, my dad looks at my phone every now and then. If he sees this, don’t send me stuff like this.”

SMITH: Well, along those lines, do you have any practical advice? Should we be looking at our kids’ phones?

EATON: All the time. I mean, when you think about phones, phones are like incredible. Like, if you touch your phone in a certain way, a pizza will be delivered to your door. I would say that the next generation is not in a hurry to get their driver’s license because if they have a phone, they have the independence they’ve wanted and they’ve needed. A phone gives you more agency than you may ever—a greater leap in human agency than you may ever have in your entire lifetime.

And so, yeah, I think you should know—I mean, one of my favorite, so it’s a very simple conversation. It’s what is it for? And that’s a great question to ask of a wall, of a phone, of a computer, of an airplane, of an atomic bomb, what is it for? And so you should have that conversation to kids. What is the phone for? Okay, well, if it’s to make you more connected, hallelujah, let’s become more connected. However, if you’re all at dinner and dad’s checking his email, mom’s on Pinterest, and your kid is keeping their snap streak alive. I thought this is supposed to keep us connected and yet we’re all staring at our phones. So, I think you should know what every app on your kid’s phone is for. And then I also think, yeah, I mean, you’ve got to be careful not just calling it their phone all the time, but at some point there’s so many parents right now who get their kid a phone cause they don’t have a home phone.

But then they’ve given a Pandora’s box. So you want to get a point where you’re no longer—

SMITH: It’s my phone that you get to use, that we’re allowing you to use. Is that a better way to talk about it?

EATON: It is and then one day it’ll be yours. And so it’s just like driver’s ed. I remember when I got my first car. It wasn’t my car, it was my father’s car that he let me use.

SMITH: Well what about filters and blocks? And that sort of thing. Do you have any advice and counsel for parents or grandparents on along those lines?

EATON: Yeah, we have something called the 30-day Smartphone Reboot at Axis that will walk you through this over a 30-day period because it’s actually that crazy. I mean, you’re going to spend three to four grand a year, a family of four does, on their phones and hardware and software and there’s some families that fill that they’re arguing and yelling at each other every week over this. So that’s our long-term solution because there are over a hundred different conversations you can have, but I think there are seven domains that a smartphone covers and I’m not sure if we have enough time to cover it right now, but the first one is like there are non-negotiables with it where you know we’re not going to do illegal things, for example. But then you get into this idea of like, well what locations are the smartphone okay to be in? Can I have the smart phone in my bedroom? At the dining room table? In the bathroom? At school? During homework? And this has nothing to do with the phone. It has to do with manual controls. Then how much time do you spend on it? Then the app store. Then texting. Social media and the internet. Those are four other, just massive, incredibly, very good areas with a lot of challenges with them.

So I think, you know, for Android phone Google has an app called Family Link that’ll allow you to be aware of what’s going on in your kid’s phone. Apple has this thing called iOS 12. And so that’s out. That’s very helpful. And then you start saying, okay for social media there’s a app called Bark. And so it allows your kids to have social media accounts where you don’t have a full transcript of everything that happened on it because you have a full-time job. You have other things to do. You don’t have just time to check their Instagram feeds forever, but it’ll report back to you when dangerous messages come across. Covenant Eyes can be helpful, too. There’s a lot of third party apps that we outline. So you need like this mixture of all of these things, but at the same time, they need to know that you love them and that they can tell you anything. And they also need to know that you’re going to look at their phone. And there’s no app that can say don’t take your phone into the bedroom with you. I mean, those are decisions that you have to figure out on your own.

And if you are divorced or if your kids are divorced and you know you’re grandparents who are listening to this, mom and dad have to be on the same page because I have seen the smart phone divide divorced couples like nothing else. I know kids who have two phones: a phone for mom’s house and a phone for dad’s house. And it is an incredible tool, but it can also be used to divide and so you’ve gotta be on the same page. Find your common ground and find your goals for it.

SMITH: Well, David Eaton, thanks for being on the program. We have just scratched the surface. I’ve heard you speak a half a dozen times at Summit Ministries. You spoke at the Colson Fellows program this past weekend, and you’ve guys got so much rich content. There’s no way we can cover it all in the short podcast, but people want to know more, go to Is that the best way?

EATON: Yeah. Go to Sign up for the Culture Translator every Friday. That’s just going to help you understand what’s going on in your kid’s world and help you join them and have great conversations with them.

SMITH: Thank you, David. Great to be with you.

EATON: Thank you, Warren.


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