The Truth About Technology
Though the great majority of this post will be about how to set healthy technology boundaries for your family, I want to start by stating the fact that I believe technology gets a bad rap. In fact, most people would argue that technology has greatly improved the world in which we live. However, because we live in a fallen world, technology is a tool people use to commit sinful acts. This misuse of technology has the ability to affect us as an individual, as a family, and as a society. As a result, we can embrace all that technology allows us to accomplish, but we must also be aware of the pitfalls it can provide.
Here’s what some of the leading experts in this area have to say:
“The evil here is not technology. Satan is using it to try to destroy the family.” – Dr. Kathy Koch (Axis Gen Z Faith Summit)
“It’s impossible to filter everything bad out because the human heart is sinful.” -Kirk Cameron (Axis Gen Z Faith Summit)
A Balanced Approach
I am so glad that I got to listen to Kirk Cameron’s session from the Axis Gen Z Faith Summit before watching Kirk Cameron: Connect because he talked about the fact that we require kids to go through driver training and licensing before they drive a car on their own. However, we think nothing of handing our kids a smartphone with no instruction or supervision, even though the argument could be made that it is just as dangerous as a car. As a result, he advocates for the approach of giving kids smartphones at what you deem to be the appropriate age and then implementing a licensing procedure with them. The idea is to walk alongside your kids and teach them healthy technology habits while slowly loosening the reins as they signal they are ready for the added responsibility. This is not a one size fits all process, even with kids who are being raised in the same family. It really has to be approached on an individual basis.
Though I agree with Kirk Cameron’s approach, none of our children are at an age yet where I feel like they have a justified need for a smartphone. However, we have already begun the instruction and licensing program in these ways:
- All of our children have iPads with a number of rules and restrictions by which they must abide. They also have a filtering and monitoring program called Covenant Eyes installed. If a rule is broken, they lose the privilege of having their device until we can have a discussion about why the infraction occurred and how to rectify the situation and regain trust.
- I allow my children to help me monitor my friend requests on social media. We have developed a list of things we examine before we decide whether it is safe to accept the request or not. A few of the things we consider are whether I know or know of the person, how many friends we share in common and who those friends are, how long the person has had their account and what kind of information is posted on it, and what the possible reasons are for wanting to be added to my list of friends. We talk through all of these items and then decided whether to accept the request or not. (We also use this procedure when someone tries to send me an unsolicited message.)
- When there is fraudulent activity on my social media accounts, I show it to my children and discuss the fact that children are not the only victims of this type of activity. Recently, someone claiming to be Pastor Rick Warren followed me on Twitter and tried to send me a message. We examined his profile together so they could learn how to spot a phony account. They were amazed to see how closely this person’s account matched the real person’s account, right down to the profile picture. However, we looked at how there wasn’t a checkmark to show that it was a verified account and how the phony person only had a small amount of followers. We also discussed the fact that the real Rick Warren really would have no reason to try to converse with me and how that was my first sign that something was off.
My hope is that by the time my children do receive smartphones, they will have developed the critical thinking skills to navigate around many of these pitfalls. This approach also lays the ground work for future conversations we will need to have about appropriate technology use.
The Importance of Transparency
Many parents are hesitant to monitor their children’s technology use because they are afraid it will be seen as an invasion of privacy. If that is the camp you find yourself in, I want to share something Kirk Cameron said during the Gen Z Faith Summit. He raised the point that in the real world we would never let our child connect with someone and spend massive amounts of supervised time with them, so why do we think it’s okay to do that in a virtual world. His advice was to make sure the doors are always open and the lights are always on. Some great resources to help you monitor your child’s technology use are:
When Things Go Wrong
No matter how much we try to help our children make wise choices in the area of technology use, the odds are that there will be some bumps along the way. When that happens, be glad that it happened while they are still under your care and supervision so you can help guide them through rectifying their mistake. Instead of flying off the handle and confronting them, try to make a heart connection and find where the root of the issue lies. This doesn’t mean that consequences are not handed down, but it does mean that you want to leave the lines of communication open. I love the way David Galvan addressed this during the Gen Z Faith Summit when he talked about how in the garden after Adam and Eve had sinned, God first asked, “Where are you?” and then asked, “What have you done?” I also loved this comment from Bob Lepine from the same summit:
Today’s parents are raising sin avoiders and sin concealers. Instead we should be raising sin confessors and sin repenters.”
The area of navigating technology as a family is extremely complex. Parents have to do their homework, evaluate the maturity level of their children, and spend lots of time in prayer in order to create a plan that will work for their family. My hope and prayer is that this post has given you some tools and resources as you work through this extremely important process. The next section contains some of my favorite resources to help you on this journey.
Screens and Teens: Connecting with Our Kids in a Wireless World by Dr. Kathy Koch
Dr. Kathy Koch’s Screens and Teens Website
If you enjoyed this post, you may want to check out my Interview with Dr. Kathy Koch.
I am praying that you and your family will have a blessed week! Dawn