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Devices Down!

An eerie silence settled over the living room and was punctuated only by the tap, tap, tapping of styluses and thumbs on touch screens and tiny keyboards. Our family of five had joined the information age as proud owners of five, shiny new devices. The world was now at our fingertips. We were armed with iPods and smart phones and possessed limitless gigabytes of memory for games, music, and a million other apps. We will never again have to miss a status update, a tweet, or an e-mail as that little ding alerts us to each new arriving message.

At first, as I sat listening to nothing but those few, intermittent taps, I was amazed. This peace and quiet was a welcome break from the rowdy chaos that typically ruled our home. Yet, as the quiet minutes turned into hours, I grew uneasy. Ironically, although these devices could connect us to the world in a whole new way, they could also isolate us from it as we plugged in and tuned out. Just exactly how long could we sit here as a family in the same room completely unaware of one another’s presence?

As my uneasiness morphed into certainty that these gadgets did have the power to suck my children in and never let them go, my determination grew as well. I resolved to keep our family off the latest list of technology casualties. We would not succumb to the pressure of replacing our real relationships with virtual ones or allow these new shiny devices to pull us away from our priorities. So began my offensive against the absolute takeover by technology in our home.

We need to revisit our priorities as Christian parents. One of our foremost priorities is to make Christ the center of our family so that we can communicate him effectively with the outside world. Keeping our eyes on that priority prevents us from burying our heads in the sand and shrugging off the increased screen time as a sign of the times. Rather, we run earthly things through our Christ-centered filter and decide how to make our daily lives captive to Christ while teaching our children to do the same. As Paul wrote to the Corinthians: “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5).

As we attempted to make this new technology captive to Christ, we couldn’t help but notice the blessings it was bringing into our lives on a daily basis. Technology allows us to see and communicate with our loved ones no matter how many miles may separate us. It allows us to keep up on old friendships and create new ones while providing opportunities to witness to and pray for one another. Technology can give us a sense of peace, knowing that our children can contact us anytime, anywhere, even if they are only texting us to find out what’s for dinner. In addition to the improvements in our ability to communicate with others, it is hard to fathom just how much easier it has made our daily lives. Remember going to the library to do research? At the touch of a button, we can instantaneously access more information than is found in many libraries. Typing a question, any question, into our computer’s search engine can answer a myriad of household questions such as how to get chewing gum out of the couch cushion or what home remedies will alleviate tooth pain.

And while these new shiny gadgets astound us with their capabilities, the daily news we read on them reminds us how sinful our world is. Children are ensnared by chats with child predators pretending to befriend them. Images of pornography run rampant and can be accessed more easily than ever before. Social media sites are used to bully others, make death threats, or post pictures of indecent behavior. Just as this technology blesses our lives with a wealth of new, useful information, it brings a flood of shameful, sinful things into our living rooms as well. These things predicate a need for boundaries as we seek to separate the blessings technology provides from the immorality it can unleash.

So although our knowledge is limited by our inexperience, here are the guidelines we established in our home to counteract technology’s threatened takeover. Just as the technological world continues to change and grow, so do our guidelines to accommodate new information and problems as they surface.

  1. Communicate your reason. Let your children know why boundaries are needed, what dangers exist, and why these issues concern you. This is a great time to remind them of your purpose as a Christian parent: to communicate Christ.
  2. Face time is the greatest priority. Remind your children of the importance of face-to-face time and the value of developing personal relationships by modeling good relationships both within the family and in the outside world.
  3. Technology is a privilege, not a right. Even though my kids have saved their own money to purchase their devices, they have to earn the privilege of using them on a daily basis. And although my daughter may feel as if her very life is in danger when she loses access to her iPod, we want her to learn that building positive, respectful relationships in our home is the priority.
  4. Eliminate distractions. I realized that when I checked my latest e-mails or status updates as my son tells me about his day at school, I wasn’t setting the right example. Now we try to set aside time each day when all devices are put down, even if it is only for a 15-minute family devotion.
  5. Be in the know. Know what your children are doing on their devices. Play the games they have downloaded, check out their music and listen to it with them. Allow them to teach you if they are more technologically savvy than you . . . which most of them are. By taking these simple steps, we found that technology opened doors for conversation between us.
  6. Set specific boundaries. In our family, we limit screen time (TV, movies, computer, video games, and time on their devices . . . anything with a screen) to one hour per day during the week and two hours per day on weekends. This is not an arbitrary number that we enforce with a stopwatch. Rather, by encouraging them to regulate themselves and engaging them in other activities, we let them know what we expect.

Every day as Christian parents, we continue to wade through new hurdles and uncharted territory. The sinful world and our own flesh bombard us with new temptations and will continue to do so as long as we live. But as we struggle to make this new technology captive to Christ in our homes, and as it changes how we communicate with one another, may it never change why we communicate. May we continue every day to communicate Christ crucified to our own families and to the world outside our front door.

By Katie Martin, from Parents Crosslink © 2012 Northwestern Publishing House. All rights reserved.

Photo: ShutterStock

Katie Martin lives with her husband, Josh, and three children, Allison, Lucas, and Madelyn, in Speisheim, Germany.

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