(Photo: Erin Stevens)
A Tennessee-based couple threw away every single electronic device that each of their three children owned in an effort to teach them the value of face-to-face human relationships, which they are now advising families to consider doing for the sake of raising children who embrace physical social interaction versus technology driven relationships.
Pastor Todd Stevens of Friendship Community Church in Mount Juliet, Tenn., along with his wife, Erin, leader and founder of "Nashville Strip Church" ministry, disposed their seven, 10 and 13 year-old-sons' IPods, IPads, Ninentendo DSi's, PSP consoles and their Nintendo Wii game system six weeks ago.
Initially, the Stevens tried to have their sons become less dependent on their devices by limiting their time with each electronic. However Erin grew tired of bargaining and placing conditions so they could spend extra time together.
"I did it because they had no social interaction with each other. And my 13-year-old had almost no social interaction with anyone," said Erin to The Christian Post. "The other two were fine when I threw them away, the oldest became very angry and stayed angry for weeks. He was addicted to video games and social media."
Erin says her and Todd told their eldest son they would consider giving his electronics back in three years when he turns 16. So far, she says taking away their devices has made her sons communicate more with each other while family time in their household has taken on a new meaning.
"I always tell them that they are great men of God of their generation and I know God is going to do amazing things through them. They now spend a lot more time outside playing together," said Erin. "They run, bike, bird watch, play basketball, ride scooters and skateboards, read, draw comics, play Pokémon, draw with sidewalk chalk, do arts and crafts, make up their own games and they play with each other!"
She added, "Our kids talk to us more. In complete sentences! We are memorizing scripture and learning all about manners. They are all homeschooled, so the absence of electronics makes school time much easier. They aren't hurrying through to play something."
None of the Stevens children have cell phone, which Erin says has made the transition to being present and in the moment much easier for them considering that they have had game systems for years.
In addition to interacting more with each other, Erin has her sons help her out with her ministry by gathering gift bags that eventually make their way to strippers who benefit from her outreach efforts.
Prior to eliminating their electronics, Erin says monitoring their activity was not enough while adding that giving them easy access to the internet was like "playing with fire."
"Between Snapchat and Instagram alone, they could be posting pictures of themselves that no one should ever see. Not to mention becoming friends with people on Facebook that you as parents don't know," said Erin.
Now that their method of disposing electronic distractions has worked in their household, Erin hopes to begin a movement among parents.
"Sure, others may think we are weird and unusual, but I am convinced it will save families and marriages all over America. Value face to face human relationships, that's what we are teaching our boys, we tell them, 'don't hide behind a screen and become like every other kid in America, stand up and stand out for Jesus Christ," she said.
However, she admits that most parents will not agree because she says they would argue that doing so is a way of limiting a child's amount of friends or their popularity or that it will damage them socially.
"My question to that is, 'then how did all of us in our forties and up make it through and end up alright?'" she posed.