How much technology is too much? As a boy, Sega Genesis, Nintendo, and Game Boys were the technology of my younger years, and they created a new world for me! With friends, we could choose which system to play, play next to each other, and even take games on the road (which made our carpooling and long car rides to soccer games much more tolerable,probably for all involved). I have fond memories of "camping" in the backyard with a long extension cord to power a clunky TV and my Sega console. This technology allowed my best friend and me to stay up late and get up early just to play games. The technology was different, but it drew us in and called for our attention much like the technology of today.
When my son entered middle school they took his picture, gave him his class list, and handed him a school laptop for which both he and a parent were required to sign. His typical homework assignments? Often it’s to watch a video and then answer questions on a piece of paper, or maybe it's to research a topic, type up your answers, and submit them to the teacher on a shared drive. He has music homework that requires playing along with a video, recording your part, and submitting it online. His teachers send out homework online and require him to record and submit online as well. The online practices of business have even come to schoolwork! Then there is personal technology. Cellphones keep us constantly connected and our rarely outside our reach. We have vacuums and refrigerators that communicate online, apps on our phone that can turn on and off lights and tell our TVs what to record while we're gone. And I’ll admit--when I’m home alone with lots to do, I’ve turned to YouTube, Netflix, and Amazon to babysit my kids for me.
Physicians who study these things are finding that, at a young age, too much screen time can damage a developing brain. Dr Liraz Margalit writes in Psychology Todaythat young brains need to work by dexterity movements, figuring things out, touching, feeling, tasting, and all the other ways small children interact with the world. Tablets and phones simply do not give us full interaction with the physical world. But before we go “off the grid” with fear, is there a healthy way to navigate technology in our homes? Lets explore how we can set guidelines to live WITH technology instead of living FOR it. Here are some suggestions I pray will help you navigate the digital waters with your family as you try to find what works best.
Maybe you feel you want to create a “digital-free” home and that’s wonderful. That is your prerogative and that is your family space. Maybe you want to allow technology from certain hours and not for others. You should find what works best for you, your kids, and your family. We have been entrusted to raise, teach, love, encourage, and foster a home that delights in God's good gifts. You have a role to play in engaging in your child's life. Know what they do, who they hang out with, which YouTube channels they watch, and how much time they spend on and off technology. If your child loves a game then look into it and maybe play with them but at the very least know what people are saying about that game and if there are safety issues. You cannot control what is said and done on other side of that internet line--but you can within your house. So find what works for your family and think carefully about what you want to encourage in your home.