Parenting

How to Parent Technology

byChris Pennington

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two young toddlers playing on an iPad

Parenting in a world full of modern technology is complex to say the least. The tech in our lives is always changing, always with us, essential for modern life, and fundamentally different from advances of the past.

It may be tempting to think of today’s technology as a neutral tool—like a hammer. But hammer’s aren’t driven by constantly-tweaked algorithms, data analysis, advertisers, and clickbait. Behind today’s tech sit real human hearts trying to influence our thoughts, beliefs, and actions.

So how can we help our families use technology wisely in our homes?

One Central Commitment

Starting with technology is actually a bit out-of-order. To know how technology fits within your home, you first need a very clear picture of your home.

What words do you think God wants to describe your home? Or put another way, What is the goal of your home? Without a commitment to nurturing a certain kind of home, you won’t know how to evaluate technology’s place.

Your one central commitment must be to grow a biblical, Christ-centered home.

Two Common Pitfalls

We constantly make theological assessments of ourselves, God, and the world. When these are wrong, they can twist reality and lead us into error. Here are two common tech pitfalls:

1. “Our biggest problems are outside of us.”

When we believe this assumption, it encourages us to parent protectively. “My kids are good; if I can just keep bad influences away from them, they will stay pure.”

James 1:14–15 says,

But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.

2. “I don’t need to have a strategy.”

Many of us fall into this second pitfall. But technology is too powerful to simply hand to you or your children without thought.

One who is wise is cautious and turns away from evil, but a fool is reckless and careless. (Proverbs 14:16)

If I can encourage you to sit down prayerfully with an open Bible, I’ll consider this post a success!

Four Starting Principles

With the commitment to build a Christ-centered home, we’re ready to ask, “How can technology help and hurt this goal?“ Let me suggest four basic principles as a starting point.

1. Create a home full of confession and forgiveness.

For all its benefits, technology gives our hearts the chance to engage in secret sins—pornography being the most obvious. Your children will fall into sin while using technology because they are sinners and the internet is full of sinners. But…

Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy. (Proverbs 28:13)

If you want your children to hide their sin, refuse help, and become experts at living lies, make confession rare in your home. But if you want your children to run to you and to Christ for help, make confession the norm. This will give you the best chance of helping them when they stumble with tech.

  • Be quick to confess to sin yourself. Set an example. You sin all the time and your kids know it. So confess your sin openly and regularly.
  • Respond with gospel grace when sinned against. When you yell or are harsh when you’re sinned against, you’re teaching your kids to sin in secret.
  • Reward confession and forgiveness. When your kids admit wrongdoing (however small), offer the mercy mentioned in Proverbs 28:13. There may still be consequences, but your children need to know that confession will be met with help.

2. Safeguard against your own heart.

Our own hearts are our biggest problems (Matthew 15:16–19; Jeremiah 17:9), and however we deal with technology should account for that biblical truth.

You’ll know your own home better than I, but here are four common tech dangers you’ll likely need to safeguard against:

  1. Time/energy/focus drain
  2. Pornography
  3. Selfishness/self-promotion
  4. Normalizing sin through entertainment

So how can you safeguard against your own heart? Let me make a few suggestions:

  1. Set up parental controls and filters
  2. Set engagement boundaries (plan your use of technology)
  3. Evaluate entertainment (research entertainment beforehand objectively and evaluate it while being entertained)

3. Rule tech prayerfully and purposefully.

Tech today has mastered the “nudge.” Every app defaults to sending you notifications, every streaming service auto-plays the next episode, and the scroll of social media is infinite.

If we’re not careful we’ll find ourselves ruled by our tech, rather than the other way around.

“All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything. (1 Corinthians 6:12)

The key word here is “intentionality.” Let me offer a few ideas:

  1. Schedule time for entertainment
  2. Wake up before your phones and go to bed after them
  3. Check your ability to go without tech
  4. Establish no-tech times (e.g., the dinner table, etc.)

4. Use technology for good.

If you’re committed to building a Christ-centered home, technology can be a tremendous help to you!

Let me offer four starting points:

  1. Use technology to share the gospel: brainstorm how you can use technology as a family to reach out to others with the gospel story
  2. Use technology to bring you together as a family (e.g., FaceTime long-distance relatives, play games together, refuse to isolate with tech or hide behind headphones, etc.)
  3. Use technology to connect your family to others (especially people in your church family)
  4. Use technology to serve (rather than using technology for self-promotion or self-image building)

Conclusion

As an older fish swam by two young fish, he called out, “How’s the water, boys!?” The boys looked at each other and then replied, “What’s water?!”

Technology is so ubiquitous, it’s easy to not notice the gentle current taking us downstream. Currents are only noticeable if you push against them, and technology is the exact same.

And if you don’t have a plan for today’s tech, it will plan for you. Would you prayerfully take some time to craft a plan for your family?

Note: Need a place to start? Let me recommend Andy Crouch’s Book, The Tech-Wise Family. See my full review here.

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