A Christian Guide to Technology Part 2:  A Parent’s Top 10 List

This Christmas as we think about buying our children technology, let’s keep this “Top 10 List” in mind. This Top 10 list encourages parents to think “God first” and then decide what to do for their children, since the best Christian parent is a thinking Christian parent.

  1. We want to temper our love for our children’s happiness with our wisdom to keep them safe. We know that scripture assumes a good father wants to give good gifts to their children, which we may assume will make the kids happy (Luke 11:11-13); simultaneously, one of the responsibilities parents have is to protect our children from their immature lapses of judgment.  What do I do? Don’t give your child something which may make them happy, but in the long run isn’t good for them.  We do this by making an honest assessment of our child’s emotional maturity and their ability to exercise the word “no” for themselves.  If they can’t step back and stop themselves from engaging in ungodly or unhealthy behavior when using technology, then say “no, you may not have that” or “no, you may not go onto that site.”  Be clear, explain why, enforce the “no”.
  2.  One rule for the family may not be as helpful as making individual rules for each individual child. No 2 children are the same, so the wise parent parents each individual child.  What do I do? Prayerfully consider each child’s best interests before you set rules and expectations and don’t fall to the false belief that “one rule fits all”. Example – one child gets an iPhone at the age of 14, but another may need to wait until 16.
  3.  In a family, parents count as much as the children do; as such, know yourself and embrace your limits.  You only have so much time in your life; it’s key that whatever you allow in your child’s life, you have the time to interact with your child about it.  All technology is most beneficial for a child when the parent monitors the child’s use of it. What do I do? Ask yourself, do I have the time needed to monitor this device or how they will be using it?
  4. Encourage your child’s relationship with you before their relationship with technology.  Spending more time in front of a screen and being dismayed when they have to talk to you face to face are symptoms that technology is becoming too important. What do I do? You might consider a general principle that goes something like this: If you can’t talk to me respectfully or enjoy spending time face to face with members of the family, then I won’t allow you to hide behind a screen to talk to someone else. (Take the phone away or turn off the computer.)
  5. Don’t let your love for your child blind you to their limitations. Not all kids are above average – in fact, most are just average. Therefore, don’t give your kids more credit than they deserve.  Assess honestly what they can handle. If you even think they might make an unwise decision while they are on a device, think twice and three times if you want to put them in a position to make that unwise choice.  What do I do?  Think honestly about what your child might be handle and don’t be afraid to say “not yet” if you aren’t sure they are absolutely ready.
  6. Beware of healthy fear-based decisions vs. unhealthy fear-based decisions.  Look at the realistic dangers of technology and media (healthy fear), but never forget that God has His eyes and ears on our children even when we aren’t there. Avoid having more fear of the world than faith in a sovereign, omnipotent God (unhealthy fear).  What do I do?  Become up to date on current research reports on how technology affects children and teens and while you are learning, pray for God to give you faith and discernment as you navigate the millions of questions that technology will inevitably evoke.
  7. Embrace the value and finite quality of money.  There’s only so much to go around; debt is to be avoided if at all possible and money is to be used for the ultimate good of God’s Kingdom and the needs of the entire family.  What do I do?  Look at how much things cost – notice the fine print on extra fees if there are any.  Be willing to wait if the financial resources are not there yet. Let the technology you have be enough until you can afford something new.
  8.  Don’t engage in fantasy thinking.  Technology and a social media presence will not make you more popular, smarter or better looking no matter what the advertisers say.  Also, more and new is not always better – sometimes it’s only more and new. What do I do? Like the Apostle Paul, learn the key to being content (Phil. 4:11-13). Work to find your identity in Christ by studying His word, praying, worshiping and fellowshiping with other believers who love you even if you don’t have the newest phone or best social media site.
  9. Identify the difference between wants and needs. Knowing the difference between wants and needs is key to preventing a life of disappointment.  An unwanted need puts me in the path of peril; an unmet want makes me grumpy, uncomfortable or inconvenienced.  What do I do?  Think carefully – know the difference and you have found the secret to perspective.
  10. Enjoy the fun and usefulness of technology.  We don’t have to feel guilty about having fun on our devices or even cultivating relationships through social media. As long as they are not idols in our lives, we can enjoy the creative outlet they afford us.  What do I do?  Use your devices for the purpose of communicating and connecting in appropriate and godly ways; play games that are fun and even exercise your brain. Learn and shop. Whatever you do, however, do it all to the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31)  by displaying the fruit of the Spirit in your words (Col. 4:6) and in your self-control (Ga. 5:22,23).

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