Kids staring at screens. Music playing. TV blaring. Conversation silenced. What’s a parent to do? With technology filling our every moment, how can we connect with our children in a way that engages their curiosity, encourages wonder, and causes us to look one another in the eye? Is this even possible to balance the use of technology in this electronic age?
Much study has been done on the affect that technology is having on our children. And while there are many advantages, the negative impact must be explored as well. Dr. Kathy Koch, the founder and president of Celebrate Kids, has done just that. She explains that our excessive exposure to electronics has caused kids to:
As Christian parents, this causes concern. If we do not have the patience to struggle, if we always believe there is another option, if we only value what is current, what does this mean for the spiritual lives of our kids? Suddenly we see that the myriad of technological toys pushing in on our daily lives may have more of an impact that we first believed. The way our children think, the way their brains are wired, is changing due to our devices. Awareness of this is an important way for us to turn the negative tide being caused by technology.
While it may seem impossible to limit mobile device use, give it a try for a day, a week, a month. What would happen if we encouraged our kids--and ourselves--to use our phones for communication rather than entertainment for a specific amount of time? If we release some of the activities--like gaming, surfing, or watching videos--we may find that we feel less rushed, less pressured, and more able to accomplish our tasks for each day. Time will be available to spend together as a family. Conversation can begin again.
Designate at least some regular times when screens go off. Meal time might be especially valuable to focus on the people at the table and not the world on the phone. Leave the devices in the kitchen to charge overnight so the bedrooms can be for sleeping. Develop some conversation starters for your time together. Ask at each meal, "What was the best thing about your day? What was the worst?" or "What does tomorrow look like?" Let sharing our daily adventures become a routine part of our family conversation.
Encourage questions that have no answers. Wonder for wonder’s sake. The spiritual implications of this are vast. The world we live in was created in such a way that we can never discover the whole of it, no matter how many questions we ask. The practice of standing in wonder can help us to see our place. The God of All is omniscient and we were not created to understand everything. When we think about our smallness in a giant universe, we open our minds to unknowable thoughts. Our kids are being raised in a Google Generation where all wonders immediately cease with a quick search. But all things are not answerable. Everything is not knowable. We must offer our kids the opportunity to wonder and question and know that answers are not always there. And we must find ways to help them draw near to God, who understands all.
Allow for silence and find ways to embrace it. Technology has filled our homes, our ears, our every minute. The sound is drowning out those things we were meant to hear. Birds singing. Wind blowing. Children laughing. Can we set aside an hour each day to turn off our devices and let the quiet reign? Initially, this can be a difficult choice. But as we practice this, we can begin to settle into a calmness that does not draw us outward but pulls us in. We will share this peace, use it for connection, and embrace the break from the chaos outside.
Technology itself is not evil. In fact, in many ways it has made our lives easier. We must learn, however, to evaluate the good and the bad and find ways to create balance. We need to listen to the wisdom of those experts who are studying this and find ways to incorporate needed changes into our lives. We need to look at our kids and dream for their future and decide what we feel is best for them. And we need to examine what the use of electronics means for their development and for their faith life, while offering healthy ways to balance what technology teaches them daily.
Can we teach our kids to put down their devices? Can we engage their minds and hearts and enjoy conversation again? Is any of this possible in this day and age?
If we seek to balance the use of technology, pursue wisdom and choose well when the choosing is hard, all this and so much more is possible, accessible, and needful, today.
Rev. Travis Jamieson