Heart to heart: Parent Conversations: Digital Age

Welcome to FIC’s new parenting column, designed to be an honest forum for Christian parents to build one another up and support each other. As the column’s title suggests, we want this to be a conversation. So please join in. Let us know how you’ve dealt with these topics in your family. Some readers may even have their contributions printed here.

In this debut article, three parents share how they deal with technology in their families. Have a thought you want to add? Join the conversation!

 


 

I love connecting with my kids instantly via texting and Facebook. But I hate that texting and Facebook have replaced much of our family’s face-to-face communication.

Here is a text exchange that I shared with my son Micah one day after school.

Micah: Do you know where Ethan is? I am waiting for him in the parking lot.

Me: No. Can’t you text him?

Micah: I don’t have his cell phone number.

Keep in mind:

1. My sons, Ethan and Micah, had been riding to high school together for two years.

2. They are brothers. They live in the same house.

3. During this exchange, I am at work—miles away from their school.

So what did I do? I texted Ethan: Micah is waiting for you in the parking lot. Can you two PLEASE exchange cell phone numbers?!?

As I look back, I’m not sure whether to laugh or be a little bit horrified. A decade ago, Micah would have trudged back into school, found his brother, and expressed his impatience face-to-face. How technology has changed the way families communicate!

So how can families stay connected in this digital age? And how can we make time for the most important connection of all—our relationship with Christ? I won’t pretend that our family always gets this right, but here are a few things we strive for.

Use technology to build one another up. We’ve sent many “I love you” and “I am praying for you” texts. We’ve also texted Scripture passages.

Don’t use technology to tear one another down. Remember, “the tongue has the power of life and death” (Proverbs 18:21).

Don’t let communication via technology take the place of personal, heartfelt communication. It is so important to share family meals, minus

the distraction of electronic devices. Sharing the day’s highs and lows at meals is a tradition we started when our boys were small. It provides a rich opportunity to pray about each family member’s triumphs and struggles.

Our world is changing at lightning speed, and we may struggle to keep up. But we don’t need to. Ultimately, there is only one thing needful, as Jesus gently reminded Martha (Luke 10:42). I think I’ll text my kids that thought.

Ann Jahns lives in Germantown, Wisconsin, with her husband, Thad, and their three sons.

 


 

“Dad, you are totally awesome! By the way, where’s Mom?”

“In the kitchen, bud.”

“Mom, you look really pretty today. I like what you did with your hair.”

It was nice to hear, even if my kid was totally insincere and only saying it because it was in the rules. Before you (correctly) jump to the conclusion that the Guenthers have weird rules, let me explain. . . .

We love our technology in the Guenther household. We realize what a blessing it is that we can connect with our relatives in the Lower 48 via Skype or FaceTime. Mom and Dad love their iPhones. The boys love their iPad. We all love the Wii. But sometimes we need to rein it in a bit.

“No iPhones at the dinner table.” That was a rule the boys came up with. And it’s a good one. It gives us a chance to interact as a family, sharing our highs and lows of the day—with no interruptions.

We have some rules for the boys too. First, they have to limit their time on the iPad. Siri helps us out. “Siri, set a timer for 30 minutes,” they tell her.

Even before they get to play, there are rules to keep. They have to complete all the tasks on the laminated page that sits on the iPad.

Is my homework done for tomorrow? Memory work too?

Is my bed made?

Are all of my chores done?

Have I played outside today?

Have I spent time with my brothers today?

Have I asked Mom or Dad if they need me to do anything for them?

Have I told Dad how awesome he is today?

Have I told Mom how pretty she is today?

If the answer is yes to all of these questions, then you don’t need to ask permission to play the iPad. Just set a timer for 30 minutes and have fun! 🙂

Okay, so the last two are really just meant to be fun. But we do want our kids to learn to enjoy the blessings of technology without becoming slaves to it, to use God’s gifts responsibly, and to maintain human contact and not get too absorbed in the games. And everything will be okay—the world probably won’t come crashing down—if I ignore my phone for 45 minutes each night around the dinner table too.

Thank God for his gifts of technology—and for his forgiveness in Jesus for all the times that we’ve misused or abused them. May God help us to use these gifts responsibly.

Rob Guenther is a pastor in Kenai, Alaska. He and his wife, Becky, have four sons ages 10 and under.

 


 

I’m glimpsing 50, so before digital, I have to talk analog. When 21-year-old Phil and 23-year-old Anna were little, I was certain TV would fry their brains.

They’ll gleefully tell you how I monitored their screen time with a capitalist system I invented. I gave them quarters they could use to buy half-hours of TV. If they didn’t watch, they got to keep the quarters. Not surprisingly, the system didn’t last as long as the mockery of it has.

Even while I fretted over the frying of their brains, I never found a babysitter better than Walt Disney. Using screens as a babysitter has always been a no-no, and I sinned boldly. Little Anna and Philly watched those Disney videos over and over, singing and dancing along.

TV has since morphed into every manner of magical machine. My stepson, Sam (11), was born into this magical world and knows no other. Sam will play Madden 15 on his dad’s tablet while listening to Bruno Mars on his iPod while following the Timberwolves’ game on TV while texting someone on his phone.

But here’s the thing. Despite the deluge of digital distraction, all three kids’ brains remain unfried. Yes, they multitask in ways I can’t fathom, but they still read and write intelligently. They exercise, play piano, and know how to cook pasta. I’m certain they’ll find gainful employment—probably with digital media as part of their jobs.

I wish I hadn’t been such an anxious parent with the older two. Turns out, they mostly grew up to be the people God made them.

That’s not to say anything goes. We have the same rules you probably do. No screens at the table. Homework before games. Parental monitoring of websites and TV shows. And every once in a while, an enforced quiet time—no screens, no music, just people in a room together, listening to their own thoughts or engaging in conversation.

I guess parenting in the digital world is the same as in every other world, isn’t it? We pray for our kids, knowing our heavenly Father loves them even more than we do. We explain how rules—ours, God’s—are for their protection. We let them make their own choices and watch quietly if they have to suffer the consequences. We talk, talk, talk about everything. We forgive them, and they forgive us. We feed them, hug them, tuck them in.

And late at night, we grab our devices and push the buttons: “Love you, kiddo.” Sometimes they’re up too, and they text their love right back.

Laurie Gauger-Hested and her husband, Michael, have a blended family that includes her two 20-somethings and his preteen son.

 


 

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Author: Multiple
Volume 102, Number 1
Issue: January 2015

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