How Parents Can Model Balanced Technology Use

1380315_40329376Parenting & Technology

My parenting has never not known technology. In fact, I’m not sure how my parents disciplined or entertained me when I was a kid.

Today, my relationship with my kids cannot escape the influence of technology. Like it or not, technology shapes my kids’ thinking and will forever be a part of how they interact me and with the world.

More and more though, technology also impacts how I think and interact with the world. And I’m discovering that if I don’t deliberately choose how that interaction takes place and especially how much that interaction takes place, it too easily replaces valuable connection with others.

Training a Child

According to the Pew Internet Research Project 75% of all teenagers have a mobile phone, and 58% of all 12-year-olds have one. Of those kids…

    • 90% send/receive texts
    • 50% send 50 or more texts daily
    • 80% use them to take pictures
    • 64% share pictures with others
    • 60% listen to music
    • 46% play games
    • 32% swap videos
    • 23% access social networking sites

But before we are too frustrated with our children’s seemingly constant use of technology and blame it for the disconnect all to apparent in way too many families, consider the following data from the Barna Group

  • Parents are MORE likely than their teens to use their mobile devices regularly.
  • Parents watch just as much TV, movies & use the Internet as their kids daily.
  • 2/3 of parents think technology (cell phones, computers & video games) make family life better.
  • 1/3 of parents say they do not regularly take a break from technology.
  • 49% of parents worry that technology wastes their children’s time.
  • 21% of youth say parents have a double-standard regarding technology use.
  • 17% of youth say their parents bring their work home too much.
  • 39% of parents and 27% of tweens/teens say they’re frustrated that technology makes face-to-face conversations more difficult.

This research tells us that while teens/tweens spend a lot of time on their cell phones parents are equally guilty with regard to their use of technology. This research also illustrates that the Biblical instruction to “train a child in the way that he should go,” (Proverbs 22:6) most certainly now involves technology use not just in our children’s lives but in our own lives as well.

Modeling Technology

How can Christian parents model a balanced use of technology in a culture seemingly obsessed by and revolving around technology? Consider the following suggestions:

  1. 1105898_27026966Make face-to-face communication a priority. Since only about 10% of our communication happens with our words, a lot of communication fails to take place when limited to only words such as through text and email. Make a point to model effective communication in all your relationships, so your kids see you placing consistent value on it.
  2. Set technology boundaries. In a study by Psychology Today of 55 families, 1/3 of parents used mobile devices throughout a family meal, and 40% of parents ignored their children by focusing on their mobile devices leading to kids acting out to get parents’ attention. Start by banning mobile devices & television during meals, and consider creating regular breaks from technology.
  3. Remember that you can’t have rules without relationship. In other words, boundaries on technology or in any other area mean nothing when true relationship doesn’t exist. Get involved in your children’s lives. Instead of spending the entire track meet or baseball game on your phone, enjoy that moment in your child’s life. Instead of complaining about your kids always texting or playing video games, text them and play video games with them. The more consistent you are in developing and maintaining relationship, the less impact outside influences such as technology will have on the depth of those relationships.

For certain, there are a lot more ways we can model a balanced integration of technology into our lives. What are your suggestions?

19 thoughts on “How Parents Can Model Balanced Technology Use

  1. This causes a flash back to last Christmas. I had the whole family here. After we settled in from our Christmas meal I broke out laughing after observing why I cold not get onto my own wireless network. Three of the five grandkids were on linked devices playing games, even the two sat in my lap as we watched Mickey Mouse and Thomas the Train videos on YouTube. All four of the parents were on I-pods, pads or phones chatting, texting, sharing pics. My wife was on her new Iphone learning how to use it to have live video chats.

    What a message that sent to me.
    My recent post Enduring Times of Grief…

      • After young (3 yr olds) Eli and Dillon flipped out that our signal disrupted our video stream, and heads began to turn from their devices, we all broke out in a laugh.

        We discussed technology. My son Russ and his family do not have TV Cable – they lived in a constantly connected world. His wife uses technology for their homeschooling activities. Russ is an 24/7 Creative Art Designer and it is funny he answers texts long before he answers his phone.

        My older son and his family have all the latest cable set ups but also have a footprint on the web but it is far less so. They enjoy their virtual games but they are busy professionals in a more conventional sense. Their oldest has a Ipad for games and a desk top in his room but for monitored interactive games.

        Funny, Brandon (10) and Dillon are more apt to be found playing with their toys than their tech devices. The exact opposite of Noah (10), Natalie (8) and Eli, their cousins.

        As a family overall, we grasp the benefits of the communication connection with live video calls, but even the kids realize virtual is not the same as actual hugs and horseplay when we are together.

        Even this old coach has learned the value of the 21st Century world we live, and TV is losing its grip on me, except for football and March Madness – I embrace it more every day, but with caution. As my grand kids taught me, virtual is no replacement for actual communication. We need to be reminded that the tech bridges us when we are far apart, but do not let it separate us when we are within arms reach!
        My recent post Enduring Times of Grief…

        • Interesting… Love your quote at the end to sum it all up and to inspire others with similar realities (I'm certain there are many)… "We need to be reminded that the tech bridges us when we are far apart, but do not let it separate us when we are within arms reach!" Tech is a tool, for sure, but we need to be sure not to become its slave.

  2. My husband brings work home far too often. But we've set a rule that during dinner time he can't answer his phone. That's one limit we have…wish we had more 🙂

    • My husband used to bring home work a lot. He's stopped doing it much at all even though he's still really busy at work. He's learned to be more balanced, but it was tough for him to learn. It's hard for our guys who want to provide for their families and do a good job at work.

  3. The kids are grown – but they watched me dive overboard and not come up for air when the internet was a new thing. They didn't have cell phones until they were adults. We watched TV and movies together, but their childhood was closer to what mine was like in that it was more outdoor activities and reading than it was tied to a wireless device simply because they did not exist until their late teens – just before they deployed as Marines.

    I'm on the thing for one reason or another most of the day (PC, mostly – I still hate text messaging as I find it far more an interruption than email, but I'll take a phone call any hour of the day or night). Dinner? No tech. Evening out? The phone stays on mute, and ignored – a must to keep sanity. Meeting with clients, the laptop is there, but the phone goes off – no interruptions – that's a reminder to me that we don't multitask on someone else's dime.
    My recent post These Three Remain…

    • You, dive overboard & not come up for air? I can't imagine! Sounds like you have some healthy habits regarding technology to kind of help balance out the times where you're holding your breath. Do you think you need to make any changes?

      • Well, when you're trying to re-launch into the web design/development field, you hold your breath a lot 🙂 I take more time away than it may sometimes appear, but I'm far from the American average in terms of lifestyle to begin with. TV is something I don't watch as a rule – who's winning or losing any of the shows on now I could care less about – as I'd rather read. Even there? Nowadays, I have a Kindle which helps with the amount of physical space that my tech library alone would occupy. My spiritually-oriented library that exists as pixel dust is also rather large, but it is augmented by four floor-to-ceiling bookcases that are full, a headboard library, ditto, and every available shelf or flat space I can lay paper? Got it covered.

        Seriously? I think we're going to see more of a push to integrate more tech in our lives – and I'm more than a little bit leery of some of the things I see headed our way. I'll be happy to develop a few web apps, build a few web sites, but I won't be a Google Glass owner (nor will I be in the room with one knowingly), nor will I have chips inserted beneath the surface of my skin.
        My recent post These Three Remain…

        • Really does sound like you have more balance than may first be apparent. But, your friends have to ask and be concerned… Am putting a lot of thought into technology in general for one of my posts next week, and the thought of what's coming is part of that at this point. Read some about Google glass as well as smart contacts and am amazed at how science fiction movies have predicted real life as well as the potential good and bad for some of the technology coming out. Yet, I can't help but think that individual choice really lies at the heart of not just how much technology we use and let run our lives but also why we need it in the first place. Sure, we can't do much about a lot of what technology is doing in our world, but maybe we can be like the Amish (or like Will Smith in I Robot) where we control what we can, where we make individual choice based on convictions. Good chat, Rick. Missed this!

  4. I love the way my daughter's family sets aside the early evening and dinner hour to be off technology and focused on one another. Rev and I also spend an hour or two at the end of our work day to sit and chat. The statistics you shared are great . . . especially in showing this is an issue for everyone – no matter what their age.
    My recent post Etiquette and Good Manners Will Help You Succeed

  5. Technology is a bit overwhelming! Learning it all and then being careful to manage it responsibly. I often wish I lived back in the old days!

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