I have a love/hate relationship with technology. I love the convenience, the access to knowledge and the ability to communicate quickly with others. On social networking sites, it’s fun to see what my friends are up to and to share the antics of my children. Despite this, I’ve actually broken up with Facebook and Twitter several times. But they always pull me back.
Let’s face it, technology is part of the very fabric of our lives and we can’t live without it.
What concerns me the most about all forms of technology is its addictive nature. If you’ve ever been on Pinterest, you know what I mean! It can suck you in and consume all your time. Technology has actually trained our brains to require quick responses to everything. We’ve become used to the constant stream of information and images on a screen. It has made us unable to simply sit and use our imagination. Instead, we have to always check for new emails, messages, or responses.
I find this especially true for my children’s generation. While technology is helpful in keeping them occupied during a long doctor’s visit, they too struggle to simply sit and be “bored.” I find that they are so accustomed to playing a game on my phone or watching a show on the iPad, that if ever we are waiting for something, one will turn to me and say, “I’m bored. Can I have your phone?”
I read an article once on this very subject in one of my professional magazines. The article cautioned that technology is “rewiring” the brain for speed. It stated, “technology, therefore, is changing the very nature of modern stress. It demands over-engagement–a sort of “go-go-go” mentality. The digital world is robbing us of “recovery times,” much-needed sleep and rest.” (Archibald Hart and Sylvia Hart Frejd in Christian Counseling Today) In essence, when we overuse technology, we maintain a constant high stress level. We are constantly being stimulated by technology, giving us a high cortisol and adrenaline arousal. Our bodies feel like we are in a continual “fight or flight” situation. Ultimately the frequent exposure to technology is changing our brains and the brains of our children.
Whether it’s riding in a car, sitting in a restaurant, or waiting in line at Disney, my kids think they need to always have their hands and eyes occupied. In an effort to help our kids with this “addiction” and to teach them how to use their imagination, we have a few rules on use of technology.
1. Games on the phone are only for doctor’s appointments and meals where we eat out with a large group of people.
2. They only get 20 minutes a day of game time on the computer.
3. TV shows are reserved for first thing in the morning, if there’s time, and before bedtime. Educational shows are acceptable for the late afternoons. Movies are for when traveling or for family movie night.
4. When we go out to eat as a family, we encourage them to bring a book to read or we play games together. We’ve brought our pizza game night board game to the pizza restaurant to play together. We also take turns making up fun stories and adding to them until our meal arrives.
5. Because our kids are highly competitive, playing games on a gaming device has also been problematic. We limit their time on the Wii to when my husband is home to play with them.
Whenever my kids ask why I am limiting their use of their favorite gadgets and games, I teach them about how it affects their brain. I point out to them the activities that are better for their minds to be engaged in. I also remind them that whenever they feel a strong desire to play a game and it upsets them that they can’t, they need to evaluate their heart. I point out that perhaps the game is taking up a place in their heart where Jesus is supposed to be.
One aspect of “teaching Jesus” to our children is teaching them how to self-monitor their entertainment choices. They need to be always mindful of where God is in the priorities of their heart. Anything can try to take God’s place in their heart and we need to guide them to Jesus, their true heart’s treasure.
Have you found this to be true in your family? How do you limit technology with your children?
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