There is no doubt we are in an entirely different era of life. Smartphones, iPads and iPhones are seen in almost every hand, pocket or purse. It’s nothing new to see kids texting at the table or hurrying through a meal to get back to their conversations online. But kids are not the only ones guilty of these relational faux pas. Parents are just as likely to be texting during times when connecting with their kids would be best. Whether it’s during “family time”, a sporting event or even church, adults and kids need to set some healthy boundaries for technology and relationships. May I offer a few do’s and don’ts for the school year and even life.
1) Designate a “tech free” time-out.
Technology is great for connecting with people who are distanced from us. However it can prevent us from connecting with people right in front of us! The tendency is to take the people closest to us for granted. Technology fools us into thinking that what’s happening somewhere else is more important or exciting than what’s going on right in front of us. Creating a tech free time-out for certain periods of the day can allow cultivation of personal familial relationships where each person can truly be focused. Setting aside morning times of 3o minutes for breakfast for quiet time, prayers, and connection with each other and God can be a wonderful way to start the day. Also, setting aside time at the dinner table, even if eating out, where technology is banned for the meal time can be a huge witness to others. Closing the day by requiring all phones and technology to be powered off by a certain time can also promote health within the family and allow for a good night’s sleep.
2) Designate a “tech free” zone.
These can be places like the kitchen table, church services, (I know some people have their Bibles on the technology but encourage old fashioned Bible carrying), and the car. All of these places are prime for connecting with each other in meaningful conversations. Technology can become a distraction if we are not careful and create spaces for people to cocoon and become lost for an entire journey “together”.
3) Determine to not allow technology to prevent connection.
If you are in a room with people you really want to connect with and they are using their phones of tablets, send a text from your phone and simply convey that thought. Use the direct path and communicate that you desire face to face, eye to eye connection at this time. Sometimes the best way to fight a fire is with fire. Sending a simple text, or making a phone call to the person right beside you can be the gentle reminder without condemning.
4) Be consistent with what you ask and what you practice.
If you are going to require your children to use technology in certain ways you have to do the same. You have to pay attention, connect and communicate clearly. Technology is something we as adults feel like we “deserve” or need to do business etc. However, many kids can also feel cheated of their parent’s attention due to technology. It is imperative for the adults to set the right tone and example.
5) Don’t make technology the “bad guy”.
We all know that technology allows us to do so many things we were never able to do years ago. Practicing healthy boundaries and guidelines will only benefit us all the way around. Talk with your kids about the dangers of technology and the importance of safely using their phones, tablets and computers. Construct a family tech covenant that all can sign and honor. By adopting such practices, families and individuals are able to serve God without becoming slaves to technology.
George Lockhart is a full-time missionary with Vision 2 Hear and serves as youth pastor at new Vision Church in Fayetteville, GA.