The internet and use of personal screen devices exploded during our kids’ teen years. We had successfully negotiated the perils of TV and done a pretty good job in general with parenting inside the funnel during their growing up years. Our teens were all actively involved in church, serving on music teams and in children’s ministry, and were mostly a delight to be around. But there was a crafty fox that had crept into our vineyard unawares with evil intent and he was aiming right for our children’s hearts and minds with a new “weapon” we totally underestimated.
It is easy to find information now about the dangers of the internet and over-use of screens and social media. Don’t put your head in the sand. Watch the documentaries. Read the research and articles. The internet and social media can have devastating effects on the nicest of Christian kids. The effects on brain development can be awful and the distorted effect on self-image can be just as damaging.
From one mother to another – this is not just a problem for our kids, is it?
There is a passage of Scripture from Deuteronomy that is so relevant here. Verses 6 and 7 say: These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Did you notice what that said? First, “These commandments that I give you today are to be on YOUR hearts” THEN “Impress them upon your children” How is your social media use? What is your first go-to in the morning? Where do you go for advice? What are the foxes that are sneaking into the vineyard of your heart? The digital example you set for your children will have far more impact on them than the verbal warnings you give them.
Don’t undo all your wonderful parenting by allowing technology to kidnap your child’s or teen’s heart and mind. Yes, technology is useful and helpful but, and it is a huge BUT, the balance can be really hard to keep in check. Keep limits and boundaries in place for both you and your children.
Here are some suggestions:
- Designate tech-free zones such as the dinner table and overnight in the bedroom.
- Limit screen time while traveling in the car so you can talk instead.
- Plan tech-free family outings for a day at the beach or lake.
- Brainstorm family fun night activities and enjoy some goofy time together at least twice a month.
- Encourage your children to have some old-fashioned screen-free fun: charades, read-alouds, nature walks, or making homemade pizzas.
So, get off the screens. Gather around the table for conversation. Get out of the house. Enjoy nature and relationships face to face. Talk, cuddle, enjoy imaginary play, games, jokes, and good books (the kind with pages) and don’t fool yourself that the versions of these things on screens as just as good. They are not. Be intentional about what and when you use screens for and, when in doubt, err on the side of less.
None of this is rocket science, but it is those small everyday decisions that create the habits of the heart and will continue throughout your life.
For more information, see the 2-CD set iImpact: Where’s the Balance? at christianfamilyheritage.org