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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.

Today’s Tech-World

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.

Finding Healthy Options

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.

  • Recognize that “digital” and “reality” are the same thing for many young people. Technology is simply part of everyday life and reality, more for our children than it is for us. We may view life as a “digital vs reality” kind of world, but to them it’s all one. It’s just reality. Your grandparents might remember life before TV and automobiles, but they've always been part of life for most living people. For today's children, there's never been a time without Internet on mobile devices. And there is a beauty there that we should recognize. 
  • Remember that God created us for community. Hebrews 10:24-25 says that we must build each other up and not neglect each other and that we must meet up, encourage, and simply spend time with each other. You can do that somewhat on Facebook. But that’s hard to do with real people when you’re glued to technology. The problem is less the tech than the distraction from the people in front of you. Remind your children of the value of wholly investing in the people in the room. Set and enforce times of disconnection when it's time to be social "in real life." 
  • Consider times of disconnection for non-social time too, so there's time to go outside or read a book. Sabbath rest is simply good and needed. Rest from work, rest from anxiety, rest from our daily routines. Create a Technology Sabbath to help you emotionally recharge. In my experience refraining from technology is both beneficial and challenging all at the same time. Guide your children to observe a technology sabbath requires planning, parental involvement, and personal participation. This must be a technology rest for all. This is valuable for all ages as we all are pulled toward the overuse of technology. We all benefit from setting healthy limits around the use of technology.
  • Remember that technology CAN be good. Certain programs and apps that help kids learn their basic skills are valuable and can be a beautiful complimentary skill--but as long as we see it as a “helper” instead of a “leader” then we should be okay. Use technology as a gift for keeping scripture in your pocket or helping you create devotional habits. Delight in how technology shows you God's world and helps you marvel at his bigness. Enjoy the good gift, but don't let it become an idolatrous focus.
  • Last but certainly not least, download an app that limits screen time and websites available to see. We have them for our kids--and they are wonderful. I can set time limits on tablets as well as when they are on and off. So even when I’m away I can still monitor usage.

Creating Your Family’s Space

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. 

 

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