Are you in control of the technology in your home? Does it control your children—and you? In this excerpt from his longer talk on the home’s influence, Gerald challenges us to reckon with the crisis we face—and to go beyond talk by putting parameters in place to guide our children through the pressures of our culture.
My question is, “Are families in control of technology, or being controlled by it?” We are continuously plugged in to assortment of digital gadgets that demand attention. Life used to be more boring, so children would play ball, ride bikes, explore the world, climb trees.
I can’t help but notice the high number of special needs coming into school. It’s doubled in cases I’m familiar with, and tripled in some cases. Did you realize that recent research confirms that sleep deprivation in children can cause a pseudo form of ADD, often the result of social media and connectedness through the night? Gary Small says, and I quote, “The current explosion of digital technology not only is changing the way we live and communicate, but is rapidly and profoundly altering our brains.” It’s becoming difficult for us in the schools to know what learning disabilities are intrinsic and what has been created through their environment, through the digital world of our students.
- The medical field has research that says the symptoms of being addicted to technology can include:
- Compulsive checking of messages
- Frequent changing of Facebook status and uploading of selfies
- Social withdrawal
- Loss of interest in activities that don’t involve the computer, phone or gadget
- Feelings of restlessness when unable to go online, like when your WiFi or your internet goes down
The same thing that causes a casual drink to turn into alcoholism is biologically exactly the same as most internet behaviors such as Facebooking or video gaming. Our lives our being changed dramatically, and I truly believe that we have a crisis that’s really difficult to address. School needs to do what it can, but homes are so important here, folks.
Just let me offer quickly several ideas. I encourage you to talk with your children, but that’s not enough. They are talked to a lot. You have to actually create some lines.
- If you don’t have software accountability on every device, I consider that parental malpractice. For $10 a month you can do this. Do it in relationship. It’s not about just, “Here’s the hammer, pow.” It’s about, “I love you enough to know what’s going on. Let’s keep talking about what’s going on,” and my daily summary, my daily report from each of my children, will keep us accountable, and it gives us a great way to talk about things. I’ve been blessed over and over.
- No phones in the bedroom. It’s not necessary. “Oh, it’s just charging, Mom.” Well, it can charge out in the kitchen, too.
- No technology during supper.
- Is Snapchat acceptable? Do you have time limits for YouTube? The banal and perverse is changing our view of what being a lover of God means. Create parameters: even if it’s not perfect, it’s at least a parameter. I see too much unfettered access to anything that they want.
- Teach your children not to multitask. Children don’t do well listening to music, doing homework, talking on their phone, and watching a video all at the same time. Multitasking is proven to be very damaging to the ability to focus and learn. In schools, we need to figure out how to differentiate between the real issues of ADD (I talked about that) and a pseudo form of ADD that comes directly from multitasking. Pills aren’t the answer to this kind of ADD; single-tasking is.
Churches and school boards need discussions about these things. What do we believe?
As parents, we must learn to say, “No.” That’s old fashioned. I’m sorry. I’m glad we’re in relationship—I encourage it—but let’s see the dangers of some of this. We are in uncharted territory and yet we are not careful enough. Our children will not be deprived if we don’t give them everything they want. They will benefit greatly if we take the big picture and limit screen time.
The cultural forces vying for our children’s allegiances and loves are great. “What people don’t realize is how much religion costs. They think faith is a big electric blanket when, of course, it is the cross” (Flannery O’Connor). But I believe we are changing far more rapidly than we realize. We have not yet seen the fruit of the rising generation.
Barna found this: that parents were just as dependent on technology as their teens. We—my generation, many of you—we have created this generation. Let’s not go blame them; this is about us. We are responsible. Rather than only decrying what has happened to our culture and subculture, can we become a part of the solution in which we begin to pay fresh attention to who we are becoming. Who we become as a family unit will ultimately shape our schools.
As parents, let’s be vigilant to take on the responsibility of raising precious children that God has given to us so graciously. May God help us to raise the next generation of warriors through careful attention to our children and the culture and the times that we live in.