How to Keep Technology in Its Proper Place

Pastor Dillon Thornton

“Ninety percent of parenting is hiding iPads from your children.” –Jim Gaffigan 

Faith Church recently kicked off a new teaching series, Arrows: Wisdom for Present-Day Parenting. (Not to be confused with Arrow, the Netflix show about a green guy who hunts down criminals.) The idea for the series comes from an ancient text, Psalm 127: “Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them!” Children, like arrows, must be aimed. I’ve said before that parenting is rightly understood as sending; the ultimate goal is to send our children out into the world as faithful participants in the great gospel story. When our children are young, we should do everything within our power to aim them toward success, as God defines it. But aiming our children is stressful and far more difficult than it was a few generations ago. Present-day parents face some unique challenges, and technology is at the top of the list. Every family I know is struggling to some extent with the issue of technology in the home. Is technology good or bad? Should Christian families love it or hate it? Should we utilize it or avoid it?  

In the series opening talk, Screen-Zombie Apocalypse, I contend that many technological developments are good products, but when good things are misused or misplaced they have harmful effects; therefore, we need to establish household commitments that will help us keep technology in its proper place. I close the talk with some tips on how parents can shape the space of their home and structure their family time so that they use technology appropriately. These are things we try to do in our own home. We’re not perfect at keeping these commitments, but we’re mindful of them, and we regularly evaluate our technology usage. Here are the tips, in summary form:  

Family Room: We want to create, not just consume, so we fill the center of our home with items that spark creativity (e.g., books, games, puzzles, art supplies, places for conversation). We place our primary screen alongside these items so that screen time becomes one of many family activities. We use screens together and for a purpose, rather than mindlessly and alone. 

Dining Room/Kitchen: We aim for multiple family meals each week. During mealtime, our devices go in the “tech trap.” The table is a great place for prayer time and family worship.

Bedrooms: No screens behind closed doors. Spouses have one another’s passwords, and parents have total access to children’s devices. We wake up before our devices do, and they go to bed before we do.

Morning Time: God gets the first word of our day. For at least one hour a day, we detach ourselves from our devices and we read, think, pray, and write.
Car Time: Is for conversation time. (Unless it’s a really, really long car ride, and then car time is for Benadryl time!)

Big Moments: We show up in person for the big events in life. We want to be fully present, not virtually present, for the most formative moments (the weekly gathering of God’s people) and for the moments of greatest joy and vulnerability (e.g., birth of a child, graduation, wedding, memorial service). 

For parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles interested in further exploring the topic of technology and the family, here’s a list of recommended resources, many of which I leaned on in the preparation of my tech talk. 

·      Gary Chapman and Arlene Pellicane, Growing Up Social: Raising Relational Kids in a Screen-Driven World

·      Andy Crouch, Culture Making: Recovering Our Creative Calling

·      Andy Crouch, The Tech-Wise Family

·      Tony Reinke, 12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You

·      Daniel Strange, Plugged In: Connecting Your Faith with What You Watch, Read, and Play

·      Sherry Turkle, Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other

·      Sherry Turkle, Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age