Lydia wants to know if she can do Starfall on your computer? Can we play Wii for 15 min.? Can I text Anna back because she asked a question? After dinner can we watch a show tonight? David asked if I can follow him on Instagram?
My nightmare. Well, one of them anyway.
There are times when I’d love to just get rid of it all. There’s a reason I returned the iphone my husband bought me a couple of years ago. I have a definite love-hate-relationship with technology and all things screen-ish. And yes, I get the irony of sharing this in a post as I type away staring at a screen. My tendency would be to bury my head in the sand and just wish it’d all go away.
But—there has to be a balance—right? And that’s part of our job— To help our children find the balance and to help them learn how to keep it, To help them learn to use technology and all things media for the glory of God.
First We Must Look at Avoiding the Dangers and Negative Impacts of Technology:
1) Overuse: There's a definite tendency for overuse. And that's a real possibility for all of us. Screen attachment can become a borderline addiction (or real for some) and we must set limits when it comes to using technology and screen time. The balance will be different for every family and should be age appropriate.
Exceptions are made as needed, but in general, as a family, we have some guidelines that have eliminated the need for constant decision making about usage. When it comes to television, we watch a weekly show together on Thursday nights and then after evening chores are complete, our crew is allowed to watch something for half an hour while we are waiting for dad to get home (for us that is 6 to 6:30). Unless it's a special occasion-- online games or Wii games are reserved for the weekends and this has eliminated the requests for permission that were driving me bonkers. For now, we also have decided that devices will not travel with the kids to most social functions (church, Bible study, friends' houses etc.).
I'm not at all suggesting this is what every family should do, but the point is to have an actual usage plan.
2) Safety: Dangers lurk on every corner when it comes to technology and this is an important discussion to have with our children. As parents we need to explain why it's important to never share personal information or open emails/photos from strangers and why downloads need to have approval.
There is wisdom in keeping computers and devices centrally located and for putting safeguards in place to protect our children. Pornography is just one unintentional click away. We must make safety a priority. This recent article has excellent suggestions specific to creating a porn-free family plan.
In our home, our kids' profiles must be kept private and they are not allowed to accept friend requests from people they don't know. And until they are a bit older and wiser, we've asked them not to search and click on unknown sites without our permission. A central family docking station, ensures that all devices are accounted for. Open communication is huge when it comes to safety...our children need to feel comfortable coming to us if something negative happens online whether intentional or unintentional.
3) Costly Words: Words have the ability to cause great damage and it's so easy to quickly make a comment online without realizing the hurtful impact. It is important to explain that a text, email, comment, or post is often irretrievable and that "when there are many words, transgression is unavoidable, but he who restrains his lips is wise" (Proverbs 10:19). As a family, studying James is a great place to start when discussing how death and life are in the power of the tongue.
4) Missed Opportunities: The choice to engage in screen time is also a choice to not do something else. Technology often replaces good conversation and face to face relationship building. It can isolate family members from one another and it can lead to a loss of other interests. When we start noticing that our children are choosing screen time regularly over other activities, that's usually when we implement a technology Sabbath.
5) Lack of Courtesy: It's also important to stress courtesy when it comes to all things screen. And sometimes it's as simple as the basics-- when you are in the company of someone else, it's unkind to be glued to your phone. If there's any opportunity for conversation, it's rude to not make eye contact and engage. These are words we must preach to ourselves as well.
Then We Must Encourage the Positive Aspects of Technology:
1) Building relationships and friendships: Technology creates a wonderful opportunity for building connections and encouraging others. If we can help our children view it in this light, technology can be a blessing in their lives and in the lives of others. We want to help them consider: Who can I encourage with my comments? What friendships can I strengthen by online connections? What family members or friends can I reach out to?
2) Developing Skills/Creativity: Creativity is limitless when it comes to technology and it's important to encourage our children to develop skills in this area. Many excellent typing, programming, and coding programs are available. Our boys enjoy stop motion and creating videos. All of our children enjoy photography. These are skills and interests that God can use in their lives and we want to encourage their curiosity and delight in these areas.
3) Sharing the Gospel: Technology offers incredible opportunities for sharing about Jesus' rescue mission to save us, bring us forgivingness and how He made a way for us to live in deep, real relationship with God. We want our children to approach technology with a heart to "(make) the most of every opportunity" (Eph. 5:16).
4) Keeping us in the tension: It might be easier to just do away with it all, but instead we have to listen for God’s whisper that we may be out-of-balance or over-balanced or missing– Balance.
It might be simpler if God just gave us Commandment #11– Do not use Facebook. But instead, He gives us a relationship where we must come to Him regularly, willing to lay it all, all the techno-everything-options, at His disposal. Technology and all things "screen" create this opportunity for our children as well.
I am sure there are many other positives and negatives that I haven't considered... And I'd love to hear your thoughts or suggestions below in the comments.
For now though, I'll just admit that I did eventually get a smartphone. Smile. And truthfully, I use it, enjoy it, and find it very helpful. But it's a constant battle to keep the balance.
And it's in that place of tension that I want our children to stay... Where they are constantly asking--
How can I use this _________ (insert your device of choice) to bring glory to God? Our God is a God who redeems. “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.” ~Psalm 24:1
With Love, Kara @ The Chuppies
This post is part of our series Finding Balance as a Busy Mom.
Please check the series page for all of the posts!