This guest post on technology was written by Jeff Henderson BEFORE the pandemic. While the pandemic has changed a lot, these points of wisdom still ring true. Original post found here.
Do you remember when the phone rang and you wondered who was calling? Your kids will never know that feeling. They simply look on the screen to see who it is.
You certainly don’t need me to tell you our kids are growing up in a different world than we did.
Technology is having a pervasive influence on all of us, especially the next generation. And while it certainly has its positive attributes, the cracks on the hearts and minds of this generation are showing.
In 2011, sociologists noticed an unprecedented increase in anxiety and depression among teenagers. As Cal Newport points out in his excellent book Digital Minimalism, the only factor that also dramatically increased at this time was the number of teenagers owning their own smartphone.
“The use of social media and smartphones look culpable for the increase in teen mental-health issues,” said Jean Twenge, San Diego State psychology professor. In her article for the Atlantic entitled Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation? she went on to add, “It’s enough for an arrest – and as we get more data, it might be enough for a conviction.”
This new reality has caused anxiety and fear on the part of parents, and rightly so. How do we find the right balance for our kids between benefiting from technology while avoiding the danger of it? That’s a great question.
The goal isn’t to ban technology. The goal is to manage it. Like anything in life, when managed and led well, technology can actually be an asset to our lives.
To get there, we need to avoid these four common mistakes parents make with technology.
One of the best ways to manage technology use is to limit where it is used at home.
Wendy and I made it clear to our kids that all technology stayed on the main level. There were times they “forgot” and this resulted in restrictions on their phone use.
Plus, by reducing phone use to the main level, it created more time with us and the family versus being alone and lost in time on their phones.
Remember, the goal isn’t eliminating technology. It’s managing it. When kids take their phones into their rooms it results in more screen time. Kids don’t need more screen time. They need more family time.
The obvious pushback from kids is, “I’m bored.” Let me give you some encouragement.
When you hear “Mom/Dad, I’m bored,” it’s a sign of great parenting.
Somewhere along the line, we equated boredom with bad parenting. It should not be our goal to entertain our kids. It’s our goal to raise them as well as we can with character, love, and care. Not only that, boredom is actually a gift. It’s the place where kids discover creativity, how to think, and where their minds are provided a time to rest.
Also, it’s helpful to define the purpose of why kids get a phone. The ultimate goal isn’t to play games or text with friends in their room all day.
When our kids started getting more mobile – sports practices, after-school activities, going to a friend’s house – we wanted a way to stay in touch and to track them. (Shout-out to Find My Friends where we can track where our kids are.)
Whenever our kids didn’t respond promptly to a text from us we reminded them of this primary purpose of why they had a phone. It’s a privilege and responsibility to have a phone – which we can easily take away.
Our phones used to be attached to walls. Now, we are attached to our phones. Unattach them from your kids at home.
Recently during a Q&A at one of our presentations, a school principal stood up and pleaded with parents to not give up but to keep up with technology. This doesn’t mean you have to know the latest Snapchat filters but it does mean you need to take the mindset of a learner.
Remember, our kids are digital natives. They were born into this. As a result, they have a natural advantage. We are immigrants to this new land but we can learn the customs and culture.
You don’t have to know everything but you do need to know some things. The bigger risk is not keeping up.
If you feel like you’re behind, here’s a starter’s kit:
A lot of times our kids want apps just because their friends have them not because they are intentionally trying to get bad or dangerous ones. Sure, they may not want to talk about this but remind them who pays their cell phone bill and that it’s part of their job to keep you current. Trust me, this will spark the conversation.
Google. Participate. Ask. It’s a great three-step starter kit to keep up with technology.
The reason many kids are addicted to technology is because their parents are.
We are the leaders. We must model the way.
For example, the dinner table at home should be a tech-free environment. I’m not responding to the latest text or email on my phone. It’s not the time for that.
I’ve discovered one of the best ways to do this is simply putting the phone away in another room at home and not carrying it around with me. This allows me to resist the temptation of replying immediately to that text or call when I’m with my family.
Additionally, your mobile device has a way for you to track your screen time week to week. Honestly, this is very convicting for Wendy and me. Some weeks are better than others. But simply knowing that number helps us shoot for something lower in the week ahead.
The point is simply this:
If I want my kids to understand how to manage their technology, I need to manage mine.
When Wendy and I talk about this with other parents, we often hear how difficult it’s going to be implementing the technology tips we discuss. They are absolutely correct. It’s why it’s important to remember this principle which we’ve had to remind ourselves over the years:
Parenting isn’t for the faint of heart.
It’s wonderful and hard. Sure, I want my kids to love me but there are going to be times they might not like me. That’s okay.
Our goal as parents in these formative years isn’t necessarily to be popular with kids. Our goal is to shepherd, guide and lead them.
I can’t tell you how many times we heard, “But Mom and Dad, all of my friends are on Snapchat. Why can’t I get on Snapchat?”
It’s helpful to pre-determine some certain milestones to help you stay strong in these moments. For example, Wendy and I had one milestone and one goal the kids had to complete before they could have a Snapchat account. First, they had to turn 16. Until then, it was a moot point. After their 16th birthday, they had to watch the sermon series, The New Rules of Love, Sex and Dating by Andy Stanley. With us.
Watching a video series with your parents about love, sex and dating would make anyone rethink whether they truly wanted a Snapchat account. The point is that these kinds of milestones and goals helped us stay strong as parents.
After all, we can’t forget who’s in charge. We can’t forget who pays the bills. We can’t forget that we are the parents.
It’s not easy. But remember, we didn’t sign up for easy. We signed up for worthwhile. And helping your kids navigate this new world of technology is certainly worthwhile.
The good news is we don’t have to go it alone. There are lots of parents reading this blog post with lots of great ideas. That includes you.
The NextGen team at MISSION Community church is committed to partnering with parents and helping kids find and follow Jesus Christ.