Patrick Sullivan is a Catholic lay evangelist, speaker and creator of Me & My House, a DVD series that offers advice to parents who are raising their children in the faith. He and his wife, Kyla, have eight children. In the post below, he tackles the topic of how parents can help their kids have a healthy relationship with technology.
According to a report on the "Digital Well-Being of Canadian Families," 43 per cent of parents surveyed reported that their biggest source of conflict with their children across all ages is excessive use of screen time.
The report highlights some of the worries that parents have about their children using digital technology, including them encountering sexual content, violent content and cyberbullying.
As if raising a child in the faith wasn't challenging enough before smart phones!
Technology is a tool like many others but our interaction with it is not predetermined. In other words, technology may be used for entertainment or communication or research or simply to perform a mechanical function. That being said, parents need to decide when and in which ways they want their family to interact with any technology.
To guide those decisions, I find it helpful to keep three points in mind:
1. You are your child's original hero. Long before they eyed screens filled with various pajama wearing figures, your kids looked to you to see the best way to live. And even though they have grown, your kids still look to you to understand the best way to interact with technology. In short, practice what you preach. If you don't want your kids being entertained by a flickering screen for hours on end, then your actions need to be a model of a healthy relationship with technology.
2. If you can't discuss it, try not to digest it. This may seem obvious but your kids do not have the same reasoning and filtering systems that you do. While you can consider the merits of any message provided by any media at any time, your children do not exactly have that luxury. So make this your goal. If you cannot watch the program or game or show and discuss what you find there with them, then it is off limits to your kids.
3. Have that very adult conversation about addiction in child-friendly tones. Our kids need to know that their behaviour can and often does lead to unhealthy habits, the kind we can have difficulty changing. So let them know and bring it up often. If our habits with technology are proving that we are beginning to love the creations more than the Creator, then it is time to take a break.
To read Patrick's previous reflection on the theology of parenting, click here.