Help for the Digitally Drowning Family

Tony Reinke, in his book, 12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You, asks questions about our smartphone use, among them are:

  • “Do my smartphone habits expose an underlying addiction to untimely amusements?
  • Do my smartphone habits reveal a compulsive desire to be seen and affirmed?
  • Do my smartphone habits distract me from genuine communion with God?
  • Do my smartphone habits preoccupy me with the pursuit of worldly success?
  • Do my smartphone habits disengage me from the needs of the neighbors God has placed right in front of me?”[1] (Tony Reinke)

Convicting enough? For me too. So, what should we do? How should we approach the technological marvels? Here are some helps.

You MUST Pre-determine Your Family’s Technology Culture

I say pre-determine because billions of dollars of research and development are invested to allow Facebook, Apple, and others to decide your family culture. If you let Mark Zuckerburg and Tim Cook decide your home’s culture, your kids will become digital zombies and you likely will too. Most of these apps are designed to be addictive, like a casino.

Much of what I’m sharing here comes from two books (see covers below): 12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You by Tony Reinke and The Tech-Wise Family by Andy Crouch. Both are fantastic.

 Crouch speaks to the cultural issue, “three choices…are especially fundamental. The first and deepest is to choose character—to make the mission of our family, for children and adults alike, the cultivation of wisdom and courage.”[2]

Wisdom involves knowledge and learning. Courage involves risk-taking and exploring. Character is slowly shaped over time. None of these come from passive participation in a digital experience. Here’s the wonderful reality. Each of us gets to decide the culture of our homes.

Parents, your child is not mature enough on their own to have a healthy relationship with screens and media. My daughters LOVE the iPad. They were digitally capable at 18 months or so. Why? The most brilliant minds of this world are becoming billionaires because they create attention and obsessive need for their product. Thousands of design engineers and human behavior sociologists are being paid enormous amounts of money to capture you and your child’s attention. They are billionaires for a reason.

Buying a smartphone for your child is likely the most significant and potential perilous decision you will make in your entire parenting life. It’s a life-changer. A family culture changer. I’m not saying, don’t; just think very carefully before you do it. “We only get one life to live. Wouldn’t it be better spent enjoying and serving the world God made rather than a glowing screen?”[3] (Courtney Reissig)

We need to get ahead and a hold of the technology and access before it gets a hold of our family. There are many new data management helps. Here’s one:

The Circle Device – It monitors and controls access for every device and app. You can set time limits and when Wi-Fi is available and to whom. Get a hold of your family’s culture and don’t let societal norms do it for you.

You MUST Practice Digital Sabbaths to Fight the Addiction

Andy Crouch again: “The discipline here is committing to this simple rule: the screen stays off and blank unless we are using it together and for a specific creative purpose.”[4] Further, the best way to fight the addiction to smartphones is to exercise discipline and self-control. A Sabbath is an intentional time away from our devices or TV. “One hour a day, one day a week, and one week a year, we turn off our devices and worship, feast, play, and rest together.”[5] (Andy Crouch)

The level of aversion to this thought is itself an indication of whether this is a problem in your life or not. Do digital Sabbaths.

You MUST Determine to LIVE Present and Interpersonally

The vortex of media and passive engagement creates superficial minds and superficial family relationships. We easily share presence in a room but don’t share presence with one another. This will happen naturally during Sabbath times but what about the rest of the time?

There is a whole movement right now away from smartphones. Many people are going back to flip phones or data-free phones just to get their lives back again. Maybe you should consider that. There are ways to do it without throwing your $800 phone away. Did you know you can dumb down your smartphone? I don’t have time to explain how but there are settings to help. Go grayscale. Use the do not disturb. Please turn off all the notifications and beeps. Dumb the smart watch down or go buy a Mickey Mouse watch. It might transform your life.

The Freedom App (See screenshot below)

We must rid ourselves of digital distraction if we are ever going to be human as God intended. Be present with people. Focus your mind on others in conversation. Psalm 1 says that the righteous man meditates on God’s Word day and night. That’s hard to do with an iPhone nearby. These devices become unhelpful if they distract us from loving God and loving people.

That is a lot of information. I offer it hoping at least the urgency of this sticks and we all make small steps toward the life God intended, which is a life not dominated by pixels. Are we free? Sure. Is it wise? Is it helpful? Does it promote or distract from loving God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength and loving my neighbor as myself?

Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

© 2018 by Steve DeWitt. You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author, (2) any modifications are clearly marked, (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, (4) you include Bethel’s website address (www.bethelweb.org) on the copied resource.

[1] Ibid, p. 72.
[2] Andy Crouch, The Tech-Wise Family, p. 38.
[3] Courtney Reissig, “Let Andy Crouch Help Your Family Become Tech-Wise,” Thegospelcoalition.org, April 12, 2017.)
[4] Crouch, p. 149.
[5] Ibid, p. 41.

To hear the message of this excerpt in its entirety, click here

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