My boys are little and have never sent a text. Perhaps a few times we’ve typed a message to Daddy together, but overall they are quite young and not ready for the privilege of phone use. Still, I see that they are being affected by the emoji craze all around them. Stores sell pillows, candy, and pencils with emojis on them. Television incorporates their use. I’ve even used emojis to create a back-to-school party. These little symbols are efficient and fun!
While part of me enjoys this trend in communication, I have sensed God putting a caution in my heart to teach my children about the importance of words. I am not concerned about the use of emojis per say, but moreso in their overuse or inappropriate use. My pondering particularly involves two key areas: 1. Communication between males and females, and 2. Losing the importance of words to communicate. This isn’t going to be a post with clear action points. I’m not going to tell you how to think or act on the topic. I just want to encourage you to think about it. Sit down with your son or daughter if they are old enough to text. What is appropriate? Should your home have guidelines for guarding hearts in the texting process? What kind of communication will your family be characterized by?
Someday my little boys will be young men, and they will want to pursue young ladies. While the appropriate words to use may have clear guidelines, what will the boundaries be with emojis? Will it be okay to send a young lady the “heart eyes emoji” when they are just starting to pursue her? What about if my son is just texting a friend and has no intention of dating her? I know I may sound extreme here, but I’m young enough to remember how fickle my teenage heart was and how swayed it was by communication from boys. I remember how a smile could have my friends and I envisioning a prom dress. It seemed that boys never understood how their actions or words affected young women, and I doubt much has changed. Now we are introducing a new means of communicating to them. With it comes power.
Let’s not leave ladies out on this topic. Clearly they have a responsibility to honor young men with their communication as well. How should they communicate? How should they respond? Perhaps emojis will be seen as just an image, and not much more. Maybe our children will be desensitized by their use, and I’m foreseeing nothing legitimate. However, Matthew 12:36-37, records Jesus saying, “I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” I’m not willing to take that gamble by not addressing this point with my children. We will absolutely be having this conversation in my home.
I would also like to address the language of texting acronyms and emojis that has become so commonplace. I don’t want to overreact, but I don’t want to let the importance of the spoken and written word to be lost on this generation. Our God wrote a book. He spoke poignantly, clearly, and thoroughly to His people. We are created in His image. We are meant to communicate with one another. I believe God values efficiency. But not more than he values people’s hearts. He understands the culture we are in, yet He does not excuse us from building up our brothers and sisters. For a birthday, you can send a cute “Happy Birthday!” text with cake and balloon emojis, and it will be a sweet message to a friend! You could also say, “Happy Birthday! Your genuine, faithful friendship, witty sense of humor, and positive outlook truly bless me. I’m thankful you were born and that God placed you in my life!” I would like to train my children to communicate like the latter. Maybe this topic is specifically on my radar because I tend to receive love through words of affirmation, but I think most people enjoy thoughtful encouragement! We are called to build up the body of Christ. Words are one key method for doing so.
Another point to consider is that for much of today’s communication, there is a record. Today’s children need to be trained to evaluate the messages they send. Do I want everyone reading this? How would I feel if this text was shared? Is it worth it to post this tweet or facebook message while I’m mad, or do I need to pray and reflect first? A great guideline to use: Would I want Jesus reading this? Newsflash: He is!!! If you don’t want Jesus reading it, delete it! Another wonderful standard is Ephesians 4:29, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” (See Chapter 14 of Entrusted with a Child’s Heart for more instruction on using words to edify.)
May God bless you as you guide your children in righteousness!