Strengthening Your Family Relationships by Organizing Your Technology4
As Christians, we can rightfully view technology as a gift or tool from God to use for God’s glory and our good. Technology is great because it can help us bond with the people we love; it can be utilized to start meaningful conversations, and it can help us cultivate awe for God’s beauty in the world.
While technology is both a gift and a tool, we know it can also overwhelm us if we aren’t careful. Technology can become like our children’s toys and stuffed animals. Pretty soon technology is all over the house and all over our lives! We end up with a big, awful mess if we don’t organize our technology.
Below are some recommendations for organizing your technology in the home so you can strengthen your relationships with your family.
Organizing Your Technology:
- Structure Your Time Appropriately: Come up with a schedule for when everyone is allowed (and isn’t allowed) to use technology. For example, no technology before 8am, or in-between 3-4PM during homework, or after 9PM bedtime. Bedtime is for sleeping and the morning is for getting ready for the day. Also consider: Would it ever be helpful for your family to structure a break in your schedule from technology? Maybe one hour a day/one day a week/one week a year?
- Use Your Space Intentionally: Designate “technology-free” zones in your home (bedrooms!) as well as designated “central working stations”. Where in the house can you be on the TV, computer, phone? Using technology in public is always better than using it in private. Generally, the more secretive the practice, the more dangerous the situation.
- Prioritize Person-to-Person contact: For example, maintain eye contact during conversations in your home. If possible, whenever your phone buzzes or rings during a conversation, prioritize your conversation before you check your phone.
- Talk with each other during family meals. Meal-times should be as technologically-free as possible. Studies show how important frequent family dinners are for children.
- Increase Transparency. Set passwords on phones and limit access on internet to allow for accountability. Parents and children should always be talking about what is being explored online. Charging devices can be done in central locations to increase visibility of devices.
- Post Online Carefully: Your profile should always be set to “private” so only your friends can see your information. Keep in mind: Anything you say online is tracked and can be passed on to anyone else. When you post, it is online forever. Don’t forget: Pictures speak louder than words. Are you posting a picture the whole world should see? Beware of bullying. Harmful words hurt just as much online as they do in person. Your online postings consist of your digital resume – future employers or even colleges may look at it. Also, keep in mind that it is easy for people to lie to you online about who they are or what they want.
- Be Aware of How Technology Shapes You: Technology can create in us an addiction to distraction; a craving for immediate approval; feelings of loneliness; an outlet for secret vices; a fear of missing out; an avenue for being harsh to one another; a propensity towards multi-tasking which adversely affects efficiency, and a potential for losing our place in time.
Strengthening Your Relationships:
- Make Screen-Time Family-Time: Whenever possible, allow TV viewing to be a family bonding experience. Watch shows everyone can enjoy and have conversations about the shows you are watching. If watching shows separately, make sure to talk about them with each other. Watching on purpose together is always better than watching aimlessly and alone.
- Car convos: Parents can take turns listening to the music their children enjoy, and vice versa. Learn to sing (not just listen) together, and discuss messages of songs as often as is enjoyable.
- Family Interaction Online: Parents and children should talk about the sites they frequent online. If they are social-media sites like Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter or Instagram, parents can create a profile along with their children. Parents can strengthen their relationship with their children online by: Sending an encouraging message on the days s/he has a big event; posting an inspirational or funny quote; Let your child know if you will be late to pick them up. Let your teen use you as his/her “out” in a socially or morally awkward situation. Join a conversation on social media – or talk about the online comments together. Beware of posting embarrassing photos of your family or yourself. Keep comments short. Parents: no lecturing online! Practice giving each other space when appropriate.
- Prepare for Mistakes: We mess up all the time. But without the freedom to succeed and fail, we can’t grow in wisdom. Make a plan together for how computer, online or cell-phone mistakes should be dealt with. Discuss worries together and make a plan for accountability.
- Be there for each other: Show up in person for the important events of life whenever possible. Social media messages will never replace actual, real human presence.
- Find fun alternatives to technology: Board games, exercise, social gatherings, special events. What else can you do with each other away from glaring rectangles?
- Revisit Technological Decisions Often: Create a culture in your home of honesty, openness and vulnerability. How is technology helping you? Overwhelming you? Frustrating you? Hurting you? Bringing you joy? An open line of communication between parents and children will do wonders to the future development, maturity, and relational connectivity of the family
Books referenced for this article and recommended for further learning: A Parent’s Guide to Understanding Social Media by Mark Oestreicher & Adam McLane, 2012. Tech Savvy Parenting by Brian Housman, 2007. The Tech-Wise Family by Andy Crouch, 2017. 12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You by Tony Reinke, 2017. Reset Your Child’s Brain by Victoria L. Dunckley, 2015.
Books I’ll be reading in the next few weeks to learn more: Growing Up Social: Raising Relational Kids in a Screen-Driven World, by Gary Chapman & Arlene Pellicane, 2014. Calm, Cool and Connected: 5 Digital Habits for a More Balanced Life, by Arlene Pellicane, 2017. Every Parents' Battle: A Family’s Guide to Resisting Pornography, by Dan S. Spencer Iii, 2017. And 52 Ways to Connect with Your Smartphone Obsessed Kid: How To Engage With Kids Who Can’t Seem To Pry Their Eyes from their Devices! By Jonathan McKee, 2016.
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