rebelling against low expectations

Teens and Technology: An Interview with Tony Reinke


“Technology is so immersive, it’s like oxygen.”

So says Tony Reinke, a senior staff writer and researcher for desiringGod, who has studied culture and technology for years.

“It’s so around us that we don’t even recognize technology as what it is. We’re sort of bathed in technology, if you will.”

He’s right. In our day and age, technology is pervasive, and, in our culture, ubiquitous – especially among our generation. Everybody’s talking about teens and technology these days.

Which is why it’s critical that Christian teens think about how to use media in a way that glorifies God.

To this end, I was privileged to sit down and talk to Tony Reinke about that very subject.

Tony has just written a phenomenal book called 12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You, which comes out on April 30, 2017. He’s a non-profit journalist who has worked primarily online for the last nine years and he describes his beat as “where the dominant media of our culture intersect with the Christian life.”

With insight and grace, Tony answers my questions about whether Christians can and should use technology, what advice he’d give a teen unboxing their first smartphone, how to use social media, why digital detox is so important, the greatest danger for teens and technology, and more.

Perhaps you’re a teen who has just been gifted with new technology for Christmas, or perhaps you’re a parent who’s just done the gifting. This is a conversation for you.

You can listen to our interview in full below:

Download MP3 – 49MB

The Questions and Highlights

2:47 – Is technology inherently a bad thing, and, if not, how should Christians use technology?

4:15 – Tony gives an overview of the history of technology, from Eden to New Creation.

9:21 – What would you say to a teenager unboxing their first smartphone?

16:39 – Should Christian teens use social media, and, if so, what advice would you give us on usage?

21:36 – Do you think digital detoxes are a good idea? How should teens (or anybody) go about them?

25:43 – How should we deal with the pressure to constantly be digitally connected?

29:34 – What do you think is the greatest danger for teenagers and technology?

37:01 – What steps can teens take to engage in technology in a better, healthier, more biblical way?

40:45 – What is one book related to technology that you think every teen should consider reading?

Some Key Quotes

Technology has always been part of the world God created. It’s just been unfolding at different speeds, and now I would say that we are living in an age where we have to adapt so fast because technology is changing faster than it probably ever has before. And so when we’re talking about technology and whether it’s good or evil, then it really becomes a question of, “How do we use the technology?” (8:16)

To a first time smartphone unboxer I would say, “See the power of the phone, embrace the potential of it, and stand in awe of just how wonderful this technology is and what you could do with it.” (15:49)

I think the greatest danger for teenagers living in the digital age is that they will lose a sense of the true value of the local church. (29:57)

The world is looking for solutions about how the digital age is rewiring [teens], what it looks like to be healthy in social media, and the church stands here with arms open wide, doors open wide, saying, “Come here and experience what God intends for you as a whole person – not just as a brain that types words on a screen through thumbs but as a mind and a heart and a soul, a whole person that needs to be reborn, a whole person that can fellowship and worship and experience this fullness of joy.” (35:57)

If you have Christ and you have a phone, you have a mission and you have a message. (37:44)

[Using social media well] is not just about talking about Scripture and doctrine and ethics, but it’s about taking God’s truth and His goodness and His beauty and letting that intersect with who we are and the story that He is writing for our lives. (39:42)

We need to keep thinking through what technology means for our lives, for the church, for our communities, for our families. That conversation isn’t going to end, but I think it does need to start, and that’s what I’m trying to do. (53:18)

Recommended Resources

Tony’s Author Page at desiringGod

Pre-order 12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You

“Know When to Walk Away: A 12-Step Digital Detox” (Tony’s article at desiringGod)

“Going Deep on Our Smartphone and Social Media Habits: An Interview with Alistair Roberts”

Also From Jaquelle Crowe:


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About the author

Jaquelle Crowe Ferris

is the former editor-in-chief of The Rebelution and author of This Changes Everything: How the Gospel Transforms the Teen Years (Crossway). She's the co-founder of The Young Writers Workshop and hosts a podcast for youth called Age of Minority. She's married to Joe and lives in Nova Scotia, Canada.


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  • This is really good! I don’t have social media yet, but I try to use my phone for good; I send encouraging verses and quotes via text…
    This is such a big topic for teens lately, thanks for tackling it!

  • Great interview! Thanks for sharing. I’m definitely feeling the need for a spiritual detox for myself—and just in time for the New Year! It’s so easy for technology to become an idol, but I want to take the time I need to define myself at the beginning of 2017 by how God sees me.

  • I feel like I’m in the 2nd category for social media. I’d love to get to the 3rd one.

    Thank you both for your comprehensive and engaging look into social media. I feel as if God is using your podcast here to change many lives, but at the very least, mine.

    I’m going to plan this out some more tomorrow, but I believe I will be doing a digital detox very soon (God willing, starting Sunday). I feel like all of a sudden becoming crazy-active on social media to build an audience for my book has had some negative affects on my spiritual life. So taking a break is probably warranted. Thank you guys for this reminder only a day after my youth pastor said the same thing in a different way.

    • So, it’s tomorrow, and I have decided that this detox would be very healthy and wise. I feel like I’m not obsessed with social media, but I’m not exactly at the healthiest spot with my use for it either.

      So, starting Sunday, I will be stepping back from internet use in the areas where I believe I do not have as much control as would probably be best:

      – Facebook, Instagram, G+, and Twitter.
      – Email on my phone (I will only be checking email from my computer and only once a day).
      – Phone/Computer games of any kind.
      – TV games of any kind (except with other people)
      – Any internet use on my phone.
      – Any internet use on my computer, with the exception of listening to audio on the internet (such as music, sermons, talk shows, etc)

      I won’t be announcing my return at all, but will just come back sometime after the two weeks are finished (hopefully Yoda wise! lol). I am especially excited about coming back to reading here on The Rebelution.

      Appreciate y’all! This came at a really great time in my life.

rebelling against low expectations

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