Look around you. What do you see? Where do you see technology impacting your life? When you are home with your family, how is time spent? Are you living a lifestyle of choice or have you settled into this place out of convenience? As parents, as Christians, we need to evaluate our own use of technology and the ways our children engage with it. We need to choose intentionally what part our cell phones, iPads, computers, tablets and TVs will play in our family life.
No matter where we go, the influx of new technology bombards us. Screens have popped up everywhere, from the grocery store check-out lane to the walkways of the mall. Even as we meet with friends and share meals out, we turn to our handheld devices to participate in other conversations, continue our daily work or oversee our children. We are constantly expected to be available and accessible and our ability to wait for an answer, think through a problem or extend others the courtesy of patience has been greatly impacted.
And yet, due to technology, we are newly aware of the plight of others world-wide. We can pray for those who are in turmoil and collect supplies for those in need. We can use our technology to help search for lost airplanes, educate ourselves on almost anything, find our way from point A to point B. With cell phones alone, we can remain available to our children, have ready contact with schools and connect quickly and easily to friends and family, all while enjoying our favorite tunes.
And so the topic of technology is a tricky one. It is a blessing and a curse wrapped in a tiny, pocket-sized package. So what are we to do? As parents, how do we find and maintain balance in a world that has become technologically driven? Boundaries are needed. Here are some to consider:
- Use technology for good. Years ago, when we were stuck on a homework question, teachers and parents alike would tell us to “look it up.” Yes, we turned to dictionaries and encyclopedias back in the day. Our children turn to the internet. We must encourage their curiosity while helping them to learn to discern. Can we teach them to use more than one source? Can we teach them to evaluate the perspective from which the information is written? In doing so, we are encouraging our kids to look deeper and think well about a subject. We are teaching them that they need to understand why someone writes what they do. Having access to a world of information is not a bad thing. Not knowing how to use that information, how to process that information, how to work that information in a growing, faithful, world-and-life view, that is dangerous business.
- Create balance in your home. Living in a family with tweens and teens, we have found that adding some simple boundaries for technology use helps us to create an environment that still values face-to-face connections and family bonds. We live with the following guidelines:
- No phones at mealtimes. This is our time to reconnect with one another and we want to teach our children to be with those they are with. We model and expect conversation and eye contact, two skills that are being lost in this technological age.
- No technology in bedrooms. While there is much good that come from our access to technology, danger also exists. Our use of phones, computers, tablets, etc. is done in public places in our home.
- Phones away for family time. When we sit down to share an activity together, phones are set aside. (Mom’s and Dad’s phones, too.) Whether we are enjoying a movie or playing a game, the time we have as a family is limited. Our children are growing so quickly. We want to value the minutes we share together and release the distractions technology can bring.
- Allow for times of “Yes.” With homework done and chores accomplished, our kids need us to give them the space and time to enjoy their devices without judgment or interruption. We may not appreciate texting, Instagraming, Facebooking or Snapchatting as forms of communication, but these are the modes teens are using. We need to be careful to build bridges in place of walls. Speaking in demeaning ways about them creates a division in our communication that can be difficult to undo. So allow a time when they can enjoy connecting with others using the methods they love and you allow.
Remain knowledgeable. Technology is changing constantly and our kids keep up with this easily. It is important that we do the same. While it can be helpful to have a teen nearby to help us learn to use a new device, it is also important that our children know that they can turn to us for help, as well. If you feel like you have fallen behind in your understanding of what is new in the world of technology, start small and begin to catch up. We must see the good that is out there, understand the excitement about it and balance our worries with the wonder that exists. When we educate ourselves well, we can understand the good and the bad and our help our kids to see both, too.
Parents have a part to play in helping kids to learn to balance technology use. In creating healthy boundaries in our homes, we can continue to work on building strong family connections while honoring the place that technology plays in our lives. And as we teach our kids to use it well, we can also help them incorporate their faith in the ways they interact with this influx of information thus helping them to see their world, in its entirety, from a Christian perspective.
As we walk alongside, listening and guiding, educating intentionally, we make it possible for us to teach our kids to use the best of what technology offers while limiting the bad.
It is worth the work.