Tackling Technology Part III

This final installment for parents, written by CPLS counselors Melissa Gossard and Sara Vincent, provides more encouragement and helpful tips as we navigate technology in the 21st century.

In our previous post, we looked at what Scripture says about how self-control and boundaries play a role in healthy tech management styles. In this third and final post, we will discuss why we should prepare for tech management to be a challenge but also why we should be willing to embrace that struggle with our children.

Rules + Relationship

It is easy on a topic like this to feel like the only right response is to wrap our children in a technology-free bubble until they are thirty. Unfortunately, those haven’t been invented yet, nor are they realistic. Instead, we must enter an on-going conversation with them about goodness and truth, righteousness, and wisdom. We must talk to them about the dangers of the internet and the ways the internet is used for good. We must let them know that we are safe to talk to when they make a mistake or stumble across something they shouldn’t while surfing the web. We must teach them about the value of social media and the convenience of texting while also empowering them to have face-to-face conversations and call people on the telephone without fear. All these things happen not in the confines of rigid rules (though rules are necessary). Rather, they grow and flourish in the environment of relationship. When our children are small we can set rules and expect them to obey with limited explanation, but as our children grow, we need to be able to explain our rules and expectations to our kids, to teach them not only the dos and don’ts, but also the why and why not. Just as we lead our students through the Grammar, Logic, and Rhetoric stages of learning in school, we must also lead our children through those stages of learning at home and in the world, being willing to challenge and be challenged in conversations with our children.

Do Hard Things and Expect to Fail

Technology is often fun and entertaining, but does it lead us to a full, rich, and abundant life? Not really. We find that abundant life only in relationship with Christ and through authentic relationships with other people. Technology can be a tool that facilitates those relationships, but it cannot replace them.

Technology has also made our lives immeasurably easier in many ways. The convenience of online shopping, instant access to information, and the ability to communicate with someone anywhere in the world almost instantly has revolutionized culture. These are not bad things. But they are things that have made our lives easier through the hard work and relentless efforts of those that discovered and invented these technologies. People who create and innovate and change society do so at great cost and sacrifice, not through choosing the easiest path. To raise children that are willing to challenge the status quo and stand up for righteousness and truth, we must be willing to do hard things and we must expect and require them to do hard things. While it is always easiest in the moment to choose the path of least resistance, that is rarely the most beneficial choice in the long run. We as parents must be willing to be inconvenienced and made uncomfortable as we teach and require our children to do things that are difficult but worthwhile.

As we prepare to close, a difficult challenge has been placed before you and you may be feeling overwhelmed. You may even feel that it’s already too late for you and your child, that your student is too old to change how you’ve handled technology so far, or that you are too far down the path of technology dependence to make a useful change. Do not be discouraged! We serve a God who loves to redeem and restore broken things. He does not delight in our mistakes or sins, but He does delight in using us despite those things. If you feel like you have failed in this area, pray and ask the Lord how to make things right. Confess your mistakes to your children and ask their forgiveness and then talk to them about how and why things are going to change. Don’t be surprised if they push back or argue. Simply remain steadfast and faithful in what God has called you to do. Parenting is the hardest, most rewarding task given to humans, and parenting in this time in history is filled with challenges never faced by our ancestors. Let us give grace to one another as we navigate these challenges in various ways and let us give grace to ourselves when we fail to do this well.

As we close, I leave you with this prayer: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me – practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4:6-9) May we all remain steadfast in the call that we have been given to raise children that are set apart for His glory.

Tech Management Tips

  • Share with your kids the “why” of your rules and limits with technology.
  • Avoid allowing your children to be isolated with their devices whenever possible. Keep screen use in the public eye to encourage face-to-face interaction and to discourage inappropriate online behavior.
  • Limit your kids’ screen time (and yours!) per day, per week. Consider fasting from your screens for a whole day (or even a few dedicated hours). Pull out old games and story books. Go for a walk or play soccer in the yard.
  • Know your kids’ passwords. This is a safety measure, not because you want to spy on them. Many conversations and interactions happen within apps. It’s important that parents be able to monitor those. On the other side, respect your child’s privacy. There is a balance to be found between the two.
  • Check out axis.org to discover ways to engage your child about technology.
  • Consider using a program to monitor online activity. A few to choose from include:
    • Qustudio
    • Disney Circle
    • Covenant Eyes