Carlos Whittaker makes his living on social media — yet he was the last of his friends to allow his three children, now teenagers, to own a cell phone.
"I guess you would say I'm an 'influencer' that has a lot of eyes watching and listening to what I have to say on a daily basis while also understanding the perils not only for children but for adults," the author and public speaker told The Christian Post.
"The waste, social media addiction and the places that it can lead you really all have to be covered in some semblance of not only maturity but grace and the Gospel."
It was from this acute awareness of social media's double-edged sword that the Nashville-based social media influencer and podcast host penned his latest book, GetYour Hopes Up: 90 Devotions and True Stories for Young World Changers.
His goal, he said, is to help foster a hopeful perspective in children amidst an online environment rife with division, injustice and negativity.
"You can fast forward childhood, but you can never rewind it," Whittaker said. "I feel like what social media fast forwards childhood; it's an accelerator in childhood, pushing kids to be able to see things that maybe they shouldn't see, things that even us as parents probably shouldn't see."
Yet, he believes phones, technology and social media "actually aren't the problem."
"The problem is a deeper-seated root where hope begins," he said. "Those are just things that can begin to destroy hope. But I believe that the hope that can be instilled in your child literally starts in the home; it starts with the parent not staring at their phone all the time."
In his book, Whittaker shares anecdotes from his own experiences and the broader community, illustrating how social media can be harnessed for good when used with intention and care. Online platforms, he said, have the potential to facilitate real-world kindness and connection.
For example, social media has allowed him to monetarily support causes he cares about: Whittaker raised thousands for a piano player in the Atlanta airport in need of dialysis and almost $285,000 in 24 hours for The Covenant School.
"I tell kids a lot in the book, 'What are ways that you can see people that nobody else is seeing?'" he said. "That's just one of the examples that I give out that I think gives a good example of ways we can see people without our phones, but then how sometimes our phones can be agents for good and technology for good."
Get Your Hopes Up celebrates various role models, from civil rights leaders to everyday heroes of all ages whose stories of resilience and hope — stemming from their faith — are woven throughout the devotional.
"I want the kids that are reading this to see stories of other kids that are doing this stuff as well, not just adults," he said.
Addressing the modern conundrum of technology addiction among both adults and children, Whittaker advocates for a balanced approach to device usage.
"Discernment is key," he stressed.
He suggested practical strategies such as charging phones away from the bedroom and engaging in a screen-free morning — practices grounded in research highlighting the detrimental effects of excessive screen time on well-being.
"We all feel a problem with our phones; we weren't created for that much consuming of information," he said. "We feel like the world is speeding by us; we feel like the world is more divided than it's ever been. But here's the truth. The world's not more divided than it's ever been. Just take a look through any history book in your public library, and you'll see the world's always been divided. The difference is we just now have access to more people's opinions than we've ever had before. As adults, we need to start thinking about how do we handle the access to opinions and content that we've never had access to before?"
In September, the author is releasing an adult book addressing the relationship between technology and the soul.
He acknowledged the potential of today's youth, including his own children, to navigate the digital landscape with greater discernment than their predecessors. This perspective, he said, is bolstered by personal practices within his family, such as sharing screen time statistics, which fosters an environment of mutual accountability.
"I feel like there's a generation rising up that sees the addiction of their parents, that maybe are going to be the ones that teach us how it is to have these boundaries," he contended.
Through his book, the author said he hopes to provide a roadmap for raising resilient, hopeful children equipped to face the challenges of the modern world with confidence and grace.
"Get your kids this book so that they can read it, get hope, and then maybe they can give it to you and share some stories with you to be like, 'Everything is actually going to be OK as long as we're purposeful with technology, as long as we're purposeful with screens," he said.
Get Your Hopes Up: 90 Devotions and True Stories for Young World Changers is available on March 12.
Leah M. Klett is a reporter for The Christian Post. She can be reached at: email@example.com