In an age where most of us turn to our computers for affirmation be it through Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or any other social media site, it is no surprise how natural it is to put a phone or iPad into the hands of our little ones. Not only to (inadvertently) teach them to do the same, but also to keep our time to ourselves. Make no mistake, over the past decade, this insideous action is changing the landscape of human interaction. Any gen-Xer knows it, but the millenials and Gen-Z’s don’t (it’s been the natural way of life for them!). Don’t get me wrong, technology is great – there is so much to behold. Literally.
So before you think I’m going to tell you to throw the baby out with the bathwater…consider asking yourself some honest questions. By doing so you may be able to find some creative ways to use technology – AND be intentionally present with your family.
How much attention do I give to my devices?
How often do I turn to my devices?
Am I giving as much attention to my child as I do to my devices?
How can I use technology to be present with my child?
It is a challenge but I’m aiming to be intentional about leaving my phone (in particular) aside – and only checking it every few hours for a few minutes. Texts included.
For example, every time I use my iPad with my child, I make sure I turn it on airplane mode to limit the amount of options we have (as well as the radiation to his growing body). I sit with him and play/watch him play games and then celebrate his achievements – All the while ensuring we have both eye and physical contact – for no more than 10 minutes.
I see far too many parents tossing their child an iPad or phone – leaving them to play with it for long or indefinite periods of time. Sure they’re distracted (I mean, don’t we need a break?) but they’re also isolated and in a little world all on their own. What is this teaching them? At younger and younger ages, they are learning that that is where they belong. And not with mom and dad in traditional social relationships.
So how about picking up the good old classic storybook? Or if you have older children, watch a documentary or a YouTube clip of some kind and discuss what it means to each of you.
Whether you integrate current technologies (computer devices) or older technologies (TVs, movies, books), be intentional to spend undivided physical and emotional attention together (eye contact, hold hands, sit your child on your lap) and most importantly, discuss and engage the good old-fashioned traditional social way!
Seriously though: as adults we’ve all been with people in restaurants who are constantly checking their phone and have felt the effects of that. Consider the reality of that feeling magnified in the heart of your child - who may be sensing that all day long. Sadly for some, being ignored enough will cause them to turn to a device for recognition and affirmation – after all, it’s what Mom and Dad do all the time. And so we shouldn’t be at all surprised when the day comes that they don’t open up to us at all.
Perhaps the most important question for us in all of this is: What am I modelling to my child? Many have heard the old adage, ‘So much of what a child learns is caught…and not taught’… What they see us doing is the loudest message of all. I believe their spirits ask, “Am I really as important as that phone?”
Give them the human attention they need as often as humanly possible as long as humanly possible.
For wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be. – Matt 6:21
Read More: Digital Technology and Youth