“I feel like we’re Amish.”
I heard this one evening as my teenage children and I discussed the issue of smartphones in our home. I chuckled to myself inside because I was once that cool, 20-something youth pastor that every teen in the church loved to hang around. I used to be that bridge between the misunderstanding youth and frustrated parent.
Now I was that frustrated parent and my kids were the misunderstanding youths. Maybe it was all those years working with students that made me so hesitant to allow them to have smartphones at such a young age. By the cultural standards around us, we were pretty conservative as a family. We didn’t let our oldest get their own digital device until they were 15. Even after we made this concession as parents, my wife and I would still discuss how we wish we could have waited a little longer.
I can look back and divide our family into two seasons: before smartphones and after smartphones. Allowing personal digital devices (tablets, phones, iPods, etc.) forever changes the family dynamic within a home. Since this is a decision that we all have to make now as parents, I thought I’d share some thoughts and advice that I wish someone had shared with me as we were making these decisions:
Block out the noise
There’s a pressure I feel as a parent that I don’t think my parents felt. I don’t think my parents ever cared if my siblings and I were cool or culturally “with it.”
For some reason I don’t want my kids to feel Amish or feel left out of the social norms of the day.
I believe today’s parents care too much about their kids being socially accepted. I don’t want to get too deep into that issue, but this can be a real problem with our decision making.
You can’t let what other parents do determine your own convictions. You know what is best for you, your children, and your family. God has called us as parents to protect them from evil and prepare our children to follow Christ once they leave our home. As they get older we do less protecting and more preparing. I knew I had to prepare my children to be able to handle technology, but I didn’t want every other family around me to determine when that should take place.
Spend time in prayer, discuss this with your spouse, and use the wisdom that God freely gives to us to make the best call for you and your family.
Be ready to be vigilant
I used this analogy a lot with my kids when they asked me why I wouldn’t allow them to have smartphones. Currently I have to make sure 3 doors are locked every night before I go to bed. When a smartphone enters into our home, I now have to lock a million doors.
The access point for potential evil from personal devices is beyond what words can express. I’m not trying to be a fear-monger, but I have heard the stories. I’ve sat with families picking up the shattered pieces of what peace they used to have. I had to be ready to take on the responsibility to make sure a lot more doors were locked every day now.
Once you allow your child to get a smartphone or tablet, the complexity of saying “no” and “yes” to things gets a lot bigger.
Do your homework
The pitfalls and dangers of smartphones and tablets are enormous. Make sure you educate yourself on what you are saying yes to. There are a number of great resources that I would recommend that parents work through before making this decision. Here they are:
- The Tech-wise Family by Andy Crouch
- 12 Ways your Phone is Changing You by Tony Reinke
As we all walk through this complicated issue, my hope and prayer is that we as parents will encourage and support one another in this journey. We are the first generation of parents in human history that are having to learn how to lead our families with such technological intrusion.
For those of you who have children with smartphones, I’ll be sharing some thoughts next time on how to manage technology and personal devices for your children.