By Michelle Velbis … As I stand at the door helping my students get out of their cars, before they grab their lunch boxes and backpacks, I take inventory that at least 75% of them have to put away their digital device before they can snatch their things and say goodbye to their parents. When they enter in the door and sit down to wait for school to start, they get their devices out again. Looking down the school hallway, it seems to be a long row of swans with craned necks and intense downward stares.

This isn’t a high school, but a K-8 school, and at the end of the day, the scene is repeated–students not talking to each other, but are focused on that small rectangular device. For those who have forgotten to bring their device I hear the lament, “I am bored.”

As an educator and mother of six children, I have become increasingly alarmed at the behaviors and patterns I have been seeing in my school and in my own family, so I started to do some research. In fact, I became a Certified Digital Health and Wellness Level 1 Professional by The National Institute for Digital Health & Wellness. Unfortunately, the research has opened my eyes to more than I bargained for, and thus I feel a burden to share some of what I have discovered.

Throughout the course and in my research, I was struck with the realization that this boiled down to a spiritual battle and the enemy had found a very effective tool to distract and divide us from our Savior and each other.

The Message version sums it up very well in 1 John 2:15-17, “Don’t love the world’s ways. Don’t love the world’s goods. Love of the world squeezes out love for the Father. Practically everything that goes on in the world—wanting your own way, wanting everything for yourself, wanting to appear important—has nothing to do with the Father. It just isolates you from him.”

Isolation. Isn’t that what Satan wanted for Adam and Eve in the Garden, to isolate and tear them away from their heavenly Father? I think that is still his goal and he has come up with some persuasive and intrusive ways to do just that. What better way than to come up with a device that separates families into their own bedrooms to stare at a little screen and keep them scrolling for hours. A device that keeps us from going outdoors for the fresh air and exercise that we so vitally need to stay physically and emotionally healthy–not to mention the communion that it brings with our Creator. A device that keeps us tethered to what the world thinks instead of our wonderful Counselor.

In The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis’ main demon says to a younger demon, “But do remember, the only thing that matters is the extent to which you separate the man from the Enemy (God). It does not matter how small the sins are provided that their cumulative effect is to edge the man away from the Light and out into the Nothing.”

Satan, the great deceiver, tries to come up with alternative and unfulfilling decoys for all of God’s perfect plans. Dr. Nicholas Kardaras, one of the world’s foremost addiction experts, says in his book Glow Kids that, “Perhaps even more worrisome than the addictive nature of our new digital way of connecting is the idea that electronic connection does not seem to satisfy our deep-seated need for true human contact.” One of the largest groups affected by interactive and immersive technology are our teenagers, who naturally crave those connections.

The Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation, recognized as the world’s leading nonprofit organization helping those addicted to alcohol and other drugs states, “The extreme use of technology can disrupt normal patterns of mood and socialization in teens. Dependency upon social media, gaming, or other platforms to function can become the new and unhealthy ‘normal.’” In fact, they go as far as to say that, “Researchers have found evidence that people who overuse technology may develop similar brain chemistry and neural patterning to those who are addicted to substances.”

When was the last time you saw young people outside playing together? How about even just congregating without a device? How about going to a restaurant and seeing a family without someone looking down at a device? Even in our worship services, there are usually more heads looking down at their devices than up at the speaker.

I don’t say all of these things in condemnation, because I am just as guilty as anyone. But I do feel compelled to ask myself, my family, and my community to have more conversations about this topic and to do some heartfelt inventory on my/our personal relationships and the one with my/our Savior.

In fact, I am challenging myself, my school, and you to a Screen Free Week. The Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood is leading out in a national screen-free week, from May 3-9.* It was very interesting when I told my middle school students I would be giving them this challenge. One of the reactions I got was, “That’s like asking us to go a week without food!” That passionate response confirmed that we need to take a closer look at how addictive, especially for our young people, these little pocket computers, and other screens, have become.

As I go to the Bible for answers and solutions, I find verses that remind me of the intimate relationship that the Lord wants to have with me. I am also reminded that by beholding Him, I will be changed into being more and more like Him. (2 Corinthians 3:18). My question then is, “What am I beholding?”

My new daily prayer is that I will focus on my relationship with my God, who sees me and loves me and calls me to intimacy, and the relationships with those closest to me. I also pray for strength to not concentrate on what others say through likes and dislikes, YouTube, and other forms of media. I claim this promise and encourage you to do the same, “Come close to God, and God will come close to you” (James 4:8 NLT).

–Michelle Velbis is Springs Adventist Academy Principal; photo by iStock

*For more information and resources, go to <>