I remember exactly when I first realized that technology was becoming a problem in our culture. I was serving as a youth pastor and taking part in a mission trip with some of my favorite youth in the church. It was after dinner and we were playing a card game, and I realized something odd. No one was talking to each other. In fact, no one was even looking at each other. As I looked around the table, each teen was glued to their phone – texting and interacting with people who were states away instead of those who were feet away. They were present, but not really present. Technology has a way of doing that to us — it dislocates and displaces us.
And my guess is, that many of you know this experience all too well. You’ve watched it play out time and time again in your living room, at your kitchen table, or in the car. We’re together as a family, and yet, we’re not really together. It appears, at least for many of us, that technology may be robbing our families of something that we can’t afford to lose. Quality time together. It is in those moments when we’re together and truly present with one another that relationships are formed, developed, and strengthened. These are vital times and even without the distraction of technology they are hard to come by.
This current wave of technology (smartphones, iPads, social media) has not only altered family time together, it is also altering the way we think, feel, and live in this world. It’s changing us — who we are and how we relate to this world and to others. Now, the solution is not to engage in a crusade against all things technology, though we often might want to do so. Technology has proven to be a wonderful tool and servant, but a terrible master. We simply need to be more intentional in how we utilize technology so that it serves and strengthens our families.
In this endeavor, Andy Crouch’s The Tech-Wise Family has proven to be enormously beneficial to our family. By far the best work I’ve encountered on the topic, Andy presents ten wise and practical commitments for parents to consider as they lead their families to glorify God in the midst of a tech-saturated world. Here are three commitments our family is seeking to implement in light of this charge:
- Having a designated place to park your devices in the home, especially at night. Phones are out of sight if not out of the room at bedtime.
Practicing a technological “sabbath” — 1 hour a day, 1 day a week, 1 week a year with no social media, email, text, etc.
Our norm will be to use screens together and for a purpose, not aimlessly and alone.
You may choose not to adopt any of the above commitments, but my hope is that you will choose to be intentional in leading your family in this area of technology. As Christians, we cannot afford to operate out of a default setting, our families are too important and the danger is too pervasive. But don’t let the negative be your primary motivation, consider how God might work in and through your family when technology moves from being a hindrance to a help.
Jeff Strickland – I am the Discipleship Pastor at Rock Point and a current PhD student at Southern Seminary. I am the father of an energetic, slightly crazy, talkative, and hilarious little man, Carson Nolan. Thankfully, he has an incredible mom, my patient and truly kind wife, Stephanie. Expect my posts to reflect our parenting endeavor and to often be a little on the nerdy side.