by Noel Bouché
After reading Christianity Today’s cover story this month on the juvenilization of the American church, I was struck by a number of things the article points out, most of which are sermons for another time and place. However, a comment by David Kinnaman of Barna Group in response to the story is something all of us who are parenting in this digitized, sexualized culture need to consider.
Kinnaman’s response is titled The Rise of Digital Urban Tribes, and he points out that generally the church underestimates the social changes taking place, the profound ways in which youth especially are shaped by technology and media, and the potency of youth culture. He also believes we overestimate the power of our own ideas about how to change the emerging generation.
But tucked away in the piece is statement that leaped off the page at me as a parent: “Our research shows that typical parents are just as ‘addicted’ to media and technology as are their teenagers, just in different ways. In an ironic and telling shift, the teenagers we interviewed complained that their parents’ use of technology was inhibiting quality family time.”
This was painfully highlighted for me a few years ago when my young daughter knocked the smartphone out of my hand and scolded me with a “No, Daddy!” because I was firing off one last email instead of lovingly observing her princess ballet performance. My attention was elsewhere when it shouldn’t have been, and she knew it…and it hurt her.
What I’ve learned as a 21st Century parent, and what the Kinnaman quote above underscores, is that the perils we face are not just things like porn and sexting. It’s a lack of quality family time. It’s a lack of attentiveness and intimacy. It’s a lack of “being present.”
We all need to understand that a fundamental aspect of wise and loving parenting in the mobile age is prudent stewardship of technology in our lives and homes. The networks, devices, and content available to us (and sometimes heaped upon us) can become overwhelming, both in the endless opportunities they provide and the harmful ideas, images, and activities they make possible (see stats like this and this). Living for Jesus Christ and cultivating a gospel-centered home in this age means applying the principles of Deuteronomy 6:4-9 to our technology-saturated context, to both protect against the damage technology can inflict on personal relationships, and to honor God in every aspect of our lives.
Here are a few suggestions for beginning to take back control of the technology that has taken control of us. First, pray for your family and pray together as a family, asking for God’s counsel in navigating these challenges. Second, seek to better understand how your family is currently using technology and how that use is encroaching upon quality time together. Third, resolve to make some courageous changes to create space for undistracted, uninterrupted family time. Lastly, engage with one another in developing a tech strategy for your home; click here, here, and here for some suggestions on getting started.
Question: How have you and your family overcome the problems of constant technology temptation and distraction? Leave a comment by clicking here.
Noel Bouché serves as Vice President of pureHOPE, and is also a husband to his high school sweetheart, a father to his two energetic young daughters, a recovering lawyer, and an “incurable fanatic” in the spirit of William Wilberforce. He has also reread The Lord of the Rings more times than is good for him.