An awful lot of children born in 2007, turning ten years old as this book is published, have been competing with their parents’ screens their entire life.Andy Crouch, The Tech-Wise Family
As we consider today’s teenager in a world driven by “smart” devices, there is a strong tendency to critique their use of technology. I often hear phrases such as: “they are glued to their phones” or “they can’t go a day without social media” or “they don’t know how to have real relationships“.
Although some of these critiques are valid, it is important to recognize that what we are dealing with here is not a modern teenage problem, it is a modern technology problem.
Parents, we are not immune to the same issues that our children struggle with when it comes to our phones.
It has been said that the average person checks their phone 150 times a day. This is about every ten minutes. In his book, The Tech-Wise Family, Andy Crouch makes the observation that “an awful lot of children born in 2007…have been competing with their parents’ screens their entire life.”
What a scary but true thought. As parents, how many times have our children been speaking to us while we completely ignored them, or even worse, we saw them as interrupting us while we were on our phones?
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your souls and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates.Moses | Deuteronomy 6:5-9
When Moses was giving his final instructions to the people of Israel, he made it clear that parents’ number one priority is to see all moments as teaching moments to point their children to God.
Biblical parenting is all about intentionality. It is about seeing each moment as an opportunity to show God’s glory to our children.
Yet, I wonder how many moments we miss because we are so focused on the small screen that we carry around in our pockets. Of course we can make excuses and say it is for work or for some other “all-important” thing, however if looking at a screen takes precedence over talking with our children something is out of order in our lives.
The questions we must ask as parents are: (1) Are we using technology to become the people God has made us to be? and (2) Are we using technology to help our children become the people He has created them to be?
The reality is that if Christian parents are going to parent in a way that Moses speaks of in Deuteronomy it is going to look different from the rest of the world.
If our interaction with technology and the way we are raising our children looks just like the rest of the world there is a great chance that we are missing something important.
Crouch speaks to this type of parenting, “…it is absolutely completely possible to make different choices about technology from the default settings of the world around us…it is possible to love and use all kinds of technology but still make radical choices to prevent technology from taking over our lives.”
When God created humanity He designed us with a longing to be with Him, to know Him and to be made whole through Him. Can technology assist in this process? Absolutely. Technology is a powerful force that can be used for good and evil. However, as Andy Crouch states, “Technology is only good if it can help us become the persons we were meant to be.”
So what do radical choices look like as a parent?
I would argue that radical choices begin with us not with our children. If we cannot model what the healthy use of technology looks like, how on earth can we demand it of our children? In other words, if we are unwilling to think differently on these things, how can we expect our children to think differently?
Here are five simple yet profound starting points to consider as we examine our own addiction to technology:
- First Hour, Last Hour
Commit to putting your phone away for the first hour of the day and last hour of the day. Studies have shown the beneficial impact on sleep and focus when we do not start and end our days in front of a screen.
- No Phones in the Bedroom
Keep your phone on a charger outside of your bedroom at night. Amazon does still sell alarm clocks so that is not a valid excuse.
- No Phones at the Dinner Table
Have family dinners with actual face to face interaction and no technology interruptions. A family phone basket for dinner time is a great way to get the whole family focused on being together in person.
- Social Media Gut Check
Analyze how many hours a day you spend on social media. In 12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You, Tony Reinke said, “the essential question we must constantly ask ourselves in the quickly evolving age of digital technology is not what CAN I do with my phone, but what SHOULD I do with it.”
- Phone Fasting
Are you willing to put your phone down for an hour each day, a day each week, and a week each year? I am becoming increasingly convinced that there are few more valuable things than uninterrupted time with our children.
This is by no means an all-inclusive list, but it is a starting point.
So often the problem with technology today is not our teenagers, rather it’s the way we model using technology. I challenge all of us as parents (myself included) to radically rethink our own use of technology. If we are able to do this well, we will then have a voice into the lives of our students. How can we possibly ask our children to do something that we are not willing to do?
May we use each moment as an opportunity to point our children to Jesus Christ. At the end of our lives, there is nothing more important we can do with the time He has given us.