We believe every Christian household needs an intentional strategy for navigating technology! Here are 5 practical steps:
- EDUCATE YOURSELF. We need to do our best to keep up with what is going on and what our children are doing online, even though they are digital natives and we may feel like we’re floundering new kids.Sometimes what we need to know can come directly from our kids. “Hey son, would you show me how that works?” They are the experts after all and this creates multiple opportunities to build relationship.
Generally though we should have a basic understanding of the major categories of technology our families are utilizing—the internet, mobile devices, computers, gaming consoles—so that we can make good decisions on what devices and software we allow in the home, and how to manage them once they are in use. Check out some of these links to begin doing your homework!
PROTECT WHAT YOU CAN. There is no perfectly sealed bubble we can place our kids into when it comes to technology. Just like when your child learned how to walk, there were gates for the stairwell and cushions for table corners, but still, they fell and experienced pain. And you did too. But they learned. And you did too.
Breathe, parents! Regardless of the limitations we set, nothing is foolproof. Protection should be a strong focus when our kids are young, but as they develop they will need to learn how to guard their own hearts and their own tech use (Proverbs 4:20-27).
That said, there are still basic steps you should take such as downloading blocking and/or accountability software on all mediums, researching available parental controls on all devices, password protect access and know your kids’ passwords, never give young children unsupervised tech access, keep devices in common family spaces, set clear boundaries, and establish ongoing dialogue. Remember, your goal is to protect not police. Invite your kids into the process and submit yourself to good guidelines as well.
- MANAGE SCREEN TIME. It is important that we gain an understanding of the amount of time our families are spending in front of screens, particularly in light of a constant stream of research indicating the harmful mental, emotional, relational, spiritual and physical effects.Taking an inventory of household tech use and setting limits to manage our own and our kids’ screen time is a basic task for today’s parents. Your kids may have some great ideas when you bring them into the discussion!
Chronicle a week’s worth of screen time and see how your family is doing. Then, create reasonable boundaries for use.
- SCHEDULE REST. Sabbath. What a wonderful principle God gave us from the beginning. It is one we ought to apply to a digital world that never stops turning. As we become proactive in our approach to technology, scheduling rest for ourselves and our kids needs to be a vital part of that overall plan.Consider a weekend getaway to completely disconnect. Maybe that’s a camping trip, maybe that’s just a staycation where you can enjoy more creative family time building forts and building memories. When your kids have friends over, drop the devices in a tech basket and encourage them to spend real time together.
Find daily and/or weekly rhythms to build in breaks. A daily “tech curfew” when all devices are turned off and placed in a common area may be a great solution for your family. We need to help our kids understand that regularly disconnecting from screens is a vital part of our deepening connection to God and others.
- EQUIP YOUR KIDS TO THRIVE IN A DIGITAL WORLD. Whether it’s the eight-year-old looking at pornography on his smartphone during the bus ride to school or the sleepover at a friend’s house where no parental controls are activated, our kids need to be equipped to think critically and act courageously because they will be confronted by harmful content and inappropriate tech use.What is most important, what will stick with your kids, is not how many activities and devices you said “no” to and controlled effectively. The greatest impact you will have on your kids’ stewardship of technology will be your stewardship of technology. Choose courage instead of fear and use the tools at hand for the benefit of your family. Choose connection instead of digital isolation and let your kids see the value you place on real relationships. Choose to turn the channel because you see no benefit in watching what is on the screen and you want to honor your family.
This is the stuff you can’t get from technology, but you can teach through your use of technology!
So, how can a tech strategy help your family navigate the challenges of the digital age?
For more information and ideas on this topic, check out our Quest: Parenting in a Sexualized Culture resource.
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