Parenting in the digital age does not have to be scary.
My oldest son got his first gaming device when he was six years old. It was a gift. And I was pretty sure that it was going to be the end of all that was right in his world.
I had read the studies on screen time and limited his exposure to television from the day he was born. This gaming system that had now entered our home was a direct violation of any early childhood brain research I had ever read, the antithesis of all that I believed to be good and healthy in the world and if I’m honest, it scared me.
I was certain he would become addicted, that this gift of entertainment would come laden with a healthy dose of whining and begging and every other negative behavior we were working to weed out and would further lead to fixations and obsessions and probably even jail. Oh yes, I managed to believe the worst.
It’s funny now (and a tad bit embarrassing) to see that boy as a thriving teenager and remember all of those certain fears I gave my heart to not many years ago. He’s not in jail. The video games have yet to destroy him and he’s actually a pretty great kid.
So what gives? Were the studies wrong? Were my fears completely irrational?
A few things have led to the successful introduction to technology in our home:
In my mind technology, in this case, a gaming device was a green-eyed monster that would infiltrate and consume brains cells and free time and relationships, but I momentarily forgot, I’m the parent here. Just as my husband and I set boundaries and limits in other areas of parenting, I get to teach my kids boundaries in the area of technology as well. Sure we now owned a gaming device, but discerning how much we used this device was still up to us.
For many years, that looked like one afternoon per week that video games were allowed in our home. Now that my kids are older we have extended the boundaries a bit, but clear and firm expectations have kept our relationship with technology fairly clean and simple for both us and our children. And no one seems to be losing brain cells yet.
We Parent Hearts
The challenges of parenting today may be varied from what they were when we were kids, but the root issue is very similar; we are trying to guide hearts. I am trying to raise kids who obey, kids who understand the importance of limits, who are sensitive to marketing hype and habits geared toward imbalance and addiction. We can make technology all about devices and limits and timers, but what we are really trying to parent here is hearts.
Is it distraction or idolatry that is the real issue? Is it obedience or selfishness or envy? Often times our negative interactions with technology have a heart issue at the root. While technology, in this case, might expose the root, we try to keep the heart issue the real focus of our parenting.
We Do Not Fear
Clearly, as a new parent of the digital age, technology scared me. I was fearful about all of the bad things technology could and would bring upon our family. I chose to adopt a spirit of fear instead of power and love and self-discipline. (2 Timothy 1:7). This is both my promise as a believer and my responsibility as a parent. We will not fear technology. We will be wise and discerning here, but we will not walk in fear of it.
As my children have grown, my concerns regarding technology have shifted. The way they interact with technology seems to grow as they do, and with that comes new and different risks.
But the way we address these challenges remains much the same. We are parenting hearts here. God is for us and with us in this. We can be wise and discerning leaders and consumers and we need not fear.
For every parent who has worried about over-exposure, every parent who has sought to lead and guide their children down this new road with discernment, living in the world but not of it, this prayer is for you:
God, may we be moved by Truth more than our own fears and emotions; more than cultural trends and new technologies. Forgive us for fearing what surrounds us more than we fear You. Our tendency toward distraction from what matters most and idolatry of what does not–is not a new thing. You know us. You see us. And you have positioned us here in this very landscape at this very time to lead the children you have blessed us with. Guide us as we guide them. Convict us as you convict them and give us the wisdom to forsake fear and walk in the freedom of your Truth. Amen.
Katie, I Choose Brave
Read more of our tech series here.
Katie Westenberg is a wife, mother and writer who is passionate about living life bravely for the glory of our Creator and encouraging others to do the same. She enjoys country living in a small town, time spent with friends and family, and saying YES to adventure. She writes at ichoosebrave.com.