What does your family Christmas wish list look like? I’m sure if your family is anything like mine, your wish list will have little to do with toys and a lot to do with technology. Whether it’s the new iPhone 6s, iPods, iPads or iTunes, the massive takeover of technological devices and gadgets is what most consumers will be placing under the tree this year. But as popular as everyone thinks it is, have families, including mine, stopped to think about the real price that will be paid by giving everyone so much technological and media attention?
I understand that we are all completely dependent on technology. Kids have a wealth of educational information and healthy resources available to them to learn, dream and achieve greatness. And the pressure is great at such a young age to keep up with their peers. Even my nine-year-old daughter is telling everyone that the top of her Christmas list is a cell phone. So, when it comes to devices and technology, how much is too much? When do technology and resources cross over from educational and healthy to unhealthy and dangerous? When this cross over occurs, kids, teens and now adults face struggles and addictions with what used to be considered only adult issues. Struggles like anti-social behavior and private worlds and fantasies can very easily consume households through the world of technology and the devices that we hold so dearly.
An overabundance of social media, unnecessary websites and time wasted through browsing, posting and chatting can ultimately lead to addictions and introductions to dark and dangerous people and places. This all-consuming desire to constantly be connected to groups of people and their private lives can ultimately lead to unhealthy sexual boundaries, deception toward those closest to you, secrecy in your marriage, breakdown in real conversation with your spouse, invasion of your intimacy with your husband or wife, and devastating consequences that leave kids and adults confused and destroyed by physical, emotional and relational pain.
In a recent national report, Outreach Magazine shared that teenagers spend just under nine hours a day consuming entertainment media. “Media is an enormous presence in our young people’s lives,” says the Common Sense Media Group. They go on to say that “when teenagers spend more than one third of their day on media content, we have to wonder how it’s affecting their attitudes and perspectives.” The full report can be read at commonsensemedia.org.
Believers are to be wise. (Ephesians 5:15) Wise parents can discern what is right and wrong for their kids and take action. Wise parenting helps kids know how to make right choices for themselves. Wise parenting is hard work. It requires knowing what’s trending and setting up family guardrails for success. Kids will not always understand amidst the pressure from their peers, but wise parenting is what God expects even when it goes against society.
The Bible instructs believers “not to conform to the pattern of this world but to be transformed by the renewing of the mind.” (Romans 12:2) Yes, we cannot avoid technology; it has its place in our lives, but we also have to keep our family safe from conforming to it. Wise parenting requires applying strategies that help our kids know how to renew their minds daily concerning how they use technology.
Social media comes in many forms, but the overall popularity revolves around having an identity and a voice to whomever you choose. The top social media sites are Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Snapchat, Tumblr, Instagram, Vine and Hot or Not. Social media gives everyone the ability to communicate to others with anything that they want to say, emulate what they want as well as projecting images of themselves without any discretion.
Email and texting
Communication through technology is tricky. My two teenage boys were given their first cell phones at the late age of 14 and were taught “responsibility first.” A cheap phone with no data or internet was how they learned responsible communication. As their maturity grew so did the technology privileges. And we expect them to hand over their devices upon request so that we can monitor how and who they are communicating with. It’s not going to kill your child if you take away their ability to have texting or data if they have abused the privilege.
Accountability and hard work
Finally, be in charge. You are the wise parent! But it’s hard work. You will probably face some resistance, but that’s ok! Everyone is accountable. Require that your kids give you all of their passwords, and in our home, no one (including myself) is allowed to be on a computer in private. All computer monitors are facing in a direction where everyone can see them, and proper filters and protections need to be installed.
Bring Christ into your home this Christmas and build memories together. Perhaps this Christmas season, the ideal Christmas gift as a family is for everyone to put away their technology for a few hours or a full day. Spend a few nights together simply sharing or playing games or just communicating with each other without any disruptions from any devices. Share the message of Christmas, play Christmas music. Watch classic Christmas movies (Elf is always good). And be strategic to have technology turned off and put away.
Perhaps by silencing your phones and devices this Christmas, you will not only provide your family with a Silent Night, but more of a Holy Night.
Pastor Brody Howell is the founder of Core Solutions for Family Life. He consults and teaches in churches and schools, presenting strategies to help impact youth and families including a seminar entitled “Parenting Through Technology.” You can reach him at [email protected].