How parents deal with tech can be a deep source of parental guilt — whether we’re screen-free or teaching our kids to code, we always question ourselves and wonder if we’re doing the right thing.
Our family is no different!
We dance along the technology spectrum, sometimes giving and sometimes taking away and always wondering if we’re directionally correct in what we’re doing.
Let’s be honest, we’re all navigating an unknown world that we didn’t grow up in hoping that our decisions will have positive long-term results.
And as we make these decisions about tech, we’re following some unwritten plan. Because whether we’ve said it out loud (or just thought it in our heads), we have a media & technology philosophy for ourselves and our families.
A Media & Technology Philosophy
What is a media & technology philosophy, you ask.
Well, a media & technology philosophy is the guiding light on how you and your family interact with tech. It’s how you allow and disallow your kids (and yourself) to engage with social media, television, music, the internet and devices.
In this article, I’ll share how we deal with tech in our family, especially with our son. I hope that by the end of this article you will have developed (or at least thought about) your family’s media and technology philosophy.
In fact, we’ll share a resource with you to help you start asking yourself and your family the same questions we ask ourselves to start the journey of creating your own media & technology philosophy.
What We Believe about Technology
When I asked my husband what he thinks about technology for children, he sighed and said, “I don’t have a problem with it, if it’s used well. There you go!” Mind you, he said this as he’s propped up in front of his computer screen while playing a video game.
Well, here is what we think…in my words.
We believe technology is a powerful tool that can be used for good or for evil. Specifically, the internet is like a city, with all the good and bad of a city. Just as we wouldn’t let our kids navigate the city on their own, we shouldn’t let our kids navigate the internet on their own either.
If used respectfully and responsibly, technology can enhance our lives and the lives of our child(ren).
In our family, child-access to technology is a privilege, not a right. Access to the internet, devices and music can be revoked if the parents believe it’s in the best interest of the growth, development and discipline of the child(ren).
We operate under the system of ask and verify. We often ask our son what he’s doing online and several minutes later return to verify the information. If we find discrepancies between what we’ve been told and what we’ve seen, we express that our trust has been broken and we remove the technology in question.
We do this because we understand that nefarious things and people are lurking on the internet waiting to snare us into ungodly things. We believe we should be mindful of what we engage with, who we engage with and how long we engage.
Similarly, we understand that we were not made to sit in front of technology all the time. Overuse and abuse is harmful to our bodies therefore, we need to be rejuvenated from technology. For this reason, we are intentional about disengaging our child(ren) and ourselves from technology.
We believe our child(ren) has (have) the right to his (their) own online identity, therefore, we choose not to share (many) photos or information about him (them) in the online space.
We believe the internet has democratised information — information is now freely at our fingertips. We have access to learn things that were once gated behind the doors of expensive schools and pricey encyclopaedia sets. For this reason, we allow our child(ren) to explore his interests online to allow himself to learn and grow, to explore his interests and to realise his full potential.
As Christians, we are guided both online and in person by Matthew 5:14-16
“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.“
We use this as our guidance in our activities on the internet.
This philosophy is evolving and it grows with our family as we understand new things and as we all grow older, gain awareness and have expanding interests.
Here’s what we do in specific areas:
Our son is still quite young and isn’t in to video games. I might get a lot of heat for this, but I really don’t like video games. I think they’re a huge distraction, and I say this from what I’ve experienced about video games within my own family, but I’ll explore the opinions of others on this topic in other places on this website.
If I have to choose between a computer, a phone, the television or an iPad for my son, I would choose the TV because we, as parents, have more control over it and it’s playing out loud so the whole family can hear it and turn the channel if necessary.
We don’t have a specific time limit on screen time. Typically, we eyeball it.
We’re more concerned about the content our son is consuming then monitoring a precise number of hours he’s watching. Additionally, we monitor how screen time is making our son act and how he’s reacting to it.
For example, as I’m writing this article, my son is watching Emily’s Wonder Lab, which is a show about a lady doing science experiments with kids. As a result of the show, he just asked me what lava and he has been really curious about ultra-violet light.
So, in our family, screen time can be a time of fun, intellectual stimulation, connection with God and even connection with family.
Lately, we’ve decided that screen time is earned. This is because we want to encourage certain behaviour and we know we can do this through screen time.
We opt out of entities using our son’s image in their marketing or on their social media accounts.
TV is played often in our home. When my son was quite young, he got to watch quite a bit of worship music/videos on TV while he played with his toys.
While this may not be the case for every child, it’s unusual for my son to sit and watch TV without having a toy or pencils or scissors or some other activity in his hands.
We try to make television watching as educational and interactive as possible. For example, we watch videos that encourage us to move and dance, like
we like to watch drawing Youtube channels, like this
and use TV to learn languages. These days it’s been Spanish and French, but there has been fleeting interest in Russian letters as well.
While exercise isn’t directly related to tech, I’ve included it here because I’ve found that incorporating technology into exercise has drawn my son into the activity.
One trick I’ve found with exercising with my son is using the stopwatch on my iPhone.. He likes pressing the lap button every time he’s completed an activity.
God & Technology
We use technology quite a bit to share stories about Jesus. We watch shows like Superbook and Bible Adventures. We also like watching shows like the Tuis, The King’s Kids and Oaktown from Oakwood University Church.
In that same thinking, we try to promote content that supports our Christian worldview.
I primarily like for my son to listen to Christian music. We play and sing it often in our home. His favourite song of all time is
This is an overview of how we treat technology in our home. What’s your family’s media and technology philosophy? How do you treat technology in your home?
The Challenge with Technology
When it comes to kids and technology, we’re constantly doing detective work to see how they’re interacting with it, how it makes them behave, how it’s influencing their thoughts and behaviours and how it’s impacting their temprament.
I noticed with my son that for a few weeks he watched a lot kids shows on ABC Kids, a local channel here in Australia. His language and his pretend play became super silly. His thoughts were so influenced by the shows, and I knew in my gut that I needed to get him engaged in other things. I could sense the technology was having a bad influence on him so we made changes in our home.
I truly believe that God is invested in our journey of raising our kids, and He gives us wisdom about what to do for our children as we’re raising them.
Creator Vs. Consumer Paradigm
The final idea I want to share in this article is the creator vs consumer paradigm. One idea I try to instil in my son is that he should focus more on being a creator than a consumer. For example, we’d rather he draw and create than watch someone else play. Because of this thinking, we’re adamantly against him watching kid Youtubers promoting consumerism, advertising products or playing with toys.
So, now that I’ve shared what we do, what’s your family’s media & technology philosophy?