Faith, Culture & The Church
"In Him [Christ] you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit."
(Ephesians 2:22, NIV)
(Ephesians 2:22, NIV)
In a previous post, A Letter From the Young, I expressed a call to all of us adults to see the challenges that the young face in this world full of access to technology, rampant with loneliness and in need of healthy ways of life in the midst of it all. A seemingly fitting analogy for this call for adults to step into the lives of the young is a playground:
When we were younger than we are now, we used to play in playgrounds with fences around the perimeter to keep us safe and within bounds. We had adults who knew what it took to keep us safe. But where are those fences now? Where are the adults who know where the perimeter is and who put up the fences to let us know where the lines of safety are? Where are the protectors and guides who outline the boundaries for us and blow the whistle to keep us from crossing over to places that harm us?
Perhaps you read, A Letter From the Young, and wondered: What does it look like to be a guide? How do I help set up boundaries to keep the young safe, healthy and thriving? If so, the 6 ideas below may be helpful for you to put this call into action. This list is not exhaustive, but it is a start.
Teach through modeling and discussions that devices are tools we are to control, but that if we are not careful can control us. These tools, when they are in our control, help us learn and grow. But when used to fill a need for relational connection, avoid boredom or as a means to generate ideas, it will not satisfy and potentially leave one craving more. Steve Jobs once used the analogy of a computer as a bicycle for our minds. (This was 25 years ago so I think it is suffice to now say, any personal technological device in place of computer.) A bicycle is a tool to carry a person to a destination he or she planned to go. And it gets one their more quickly than walking. But the rider determines the direction, pedals the wheels and steers the bike in the direction she intends to go based on the purpose she has for getting on the bike. Knowing why we use our devices and setting time limits on how long we will be on them helps us remain in control of the tool we are using. Perhaps this analogy in itself will help you explain to a child the positive ways in which to view and use the devices around them--most importantly, determining purpose and destination prior to tuning in, singing on, or scrolling through.
Know the guidelines for screen time issued by The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). Then work towards following them as many days of the year as you can. The site, HeatlthyKids.org, is full of specific and helpful guidelines. Here are the recommendations from AAP:
Do not allow devices of any kind in bedrooms or behind closed doors. Keeping screens in view not only helps you monitor what a child is doing, but the amount of time spent on a screen. Also, avoid screen use before bed. Staring at a screen makes your brain alert and alters the melatonin levels in your body, making it both hard to fall asleep, stay asleep and get into deep (REM) sleep. All of which heavily impacts your metabolism, your mood, your appetite for sweet or junky foods (and in turn your weight), your risk of developing diabetes and possibly even cancer, the list goes on and on. (Harvard researchers, Psychology Today).
4. Guide your child based on your family's values. In our family, we value learning, exploring and adventure. We value togetherness and interaction. In addition, we value hard work. Ways we instill these values in our home is by using them in our reasonings for our actions. In the summer, our children are required to “earn” screen time by completing the following list of chores and activities. There were many summer days they didn’t even get to screen time because they got caught up in the creativity birthed from the activities required on the list. Also, when screen time is allowed, compromise is taught because only one screen can be on in the house at a time. This promotes negotiating skills and screen time as something done together. Lastly, if there are friends over and screen time is requested, our answer is always, “We spend time with our friends when they are here. We don’t use screens because our friends came to spend time with us.” Allowing your family’s values into your language and conversations both teaches your children what is expected and helps them to see that they too can learn to make healthy decisions based on what aligns with your family values. (For more on creating and using family values, check outTriune Leadership’s Family Portrait Retreats.)
Become familiar with brain research and the impact technology, gaming or screens can have on development and self-control. It may be hard to find unbiased articles, but wade through what you find and glean what is helpful while not allowing fear to overtake your thoughts and actions. One helpful book is, The Culture-Wise Family: Upholding Christian Values in a Mass-Media World.
Let the Bible be your guide. Memorize, instruct and frequently discuss the meaning of pertinent Scriptures with the young in your life. In a culture that is always changing, we know that God’s word is constantly steady, active and able to penetrate to bring to light Truth, wholeness and wisdom. Believe that Scripture can help you know how to guide yourself and others to healthy boundaries in the area of technology, social media and entertainment. Here are some verses to get you started:
I believe the most powerful ally in this endeavor is the wisdom, discernment, and courage that is provided to all those who ask for it from the Lord. My challenge to you is to seek out knowledge and advice on how to navigate guiding the young to healthy habits but to not stop there. Instead, to continually seek the Holy Spirit’s guidance for what is best for each of the children you are guiding. And also for yourself. We lead others well when we are able to model for them healthy boundaries and habits in our own lives. Let the strength of the Lord be your source of grace, power and victory in pushing back the against norms of culture that can silently and slowly bring destruction to one’s heart, soul, mind and strength. Let’s claim and live the hope and promise found in Jesus’ words recorded in John 16:33, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
Technology is not evil. In fact, many amazing miracles and relationships have come about because of the advances of communication technology. I love that I can keep up with former students and colleagues who literally live around the globe. Yet, we need boundaries to live healthy and productive lives and the younger generation needs us to help them learn wisdom within boundaries. All of which begins with placing media and personal devices in a rightful place in our lives, as tools that can be used for good when combined with wisdom, guidance, an understanding of the purposes and side-effects, and appropriate boundaries.