In James chapter 1 we read, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” And in Proverbs we read, “Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore, get wisdom.” We need wisdom, we need to ask for wisdom, and we need God to make us wise.
And we need wisdom in particular for navigating a world of devices and screens, the world of the internet and the smartphone, of social media and digital distraction, of virtual lives and digital temptations. We need wise families, and we need tech-wise families if we will have Christ-glorifying families. We need tech-wise families if we will raise our children in the paideia and instruction of the Lord, so that they would rise up and bless the God of their parents.
God has called us to love and serve the Lord Jesus Christ, and that means we must embody countercultural, miniature incarnations of the kingdom of God in our homes.
That is why your children are at Providence Classical Christian School. That is why you sacrifice and serve your family. If we will raise families who fulfill the classical Christian vision, we will have to be intentional and make choices that might not make us popular. But faithfulness to Christ is far more important and far better than popularity.
We need tech-wise families today more than ever. Consider:
According to the Barna research reported in The Tech-Wise Family by Andy Crouch:
- When asked, “Why do you think parenting is more difficult today?” “technology and social media” ranked first by a wide pargin, at 64%, above “the world is more dangerous” (52%), “lack of common morality” (40%), and “financial factors” (26%).
- On a typical weekday day, parents say their children spend 5 hours using an electronic device (and that was in 2017 – since the pandemic, that number has risen dramatically).
- 48% of preteens have a smartphone, and 88% of teens have one.
- 8 in 10 parents say their teenagers have their phones with them when they sleep, while 7 in 10 parents sleep with their phones next to the bed.
- When asked, “On a typical weeknight, how do your children generally spend their time?” Watching TV or movies (64%) and playing video games (42%) outranked engaging with family members (56%), informal play or activity (39%), reading or doing homework (32%), doing extracurricular activities (25%), playing a sport (23%), or hanging out with friends (22%).
- 62% of teenagers say they have received a nude image on their phone and 40% say they have sent one.
- According to Covenant Eyes, 90% of boys and 60% of girls are exposed to internet porn by the age of 18.
- The data about how much children use devices has only gotten more shocking, though. According to a study conducted by the University of California-San Francisco, children’s screen time has doubled during the pandemic — and it hasn’t gone down since. According to this new research, children “are spending almost eight hours a day looking at smartphones, tablets, and televisions, compared to less than four hours before COVID.” That is, simply put, a stunning finding.
As parents we desperately need help navigating this world. We are raising our children in a world that in many important ways is just like the world that parents have raised children in since time immemorial. The temptation to idolatry is the same. Our sin nature hasn’t changed. The devil is just as busy today as he’s ever been. The seven vices are still the seven vices. It’s not just hard to be a faithful parent; it’s impossible, and always has been. And so we are cast back on the grace of God in Jesus Christ as parents and as husbands and wives (Eph 2:8-10). Parenting begins with faith and repentance and entrusting ourselves to the grace of God in the promises of the gospel.
Yet, in other key ways, raising children today is totally unlike doing so in any other era of human history. The challenges of raising children in the world of the smartphone are many and may seem insurmountable.
So consider that God is calling you to examine how you are doing in your home with technology. He might just be calling you to do some new things that will potentially make a massive difference in the lives of your children. Consider what conversations you should be having with your spouse about how to be intentional with technology, to craft a life for your family that puts technology in its place, and to create a different kind of culture in your home that is the good life in Christ.
So, Providence parents, I encourage you to meditate on these foundational truths:
First, God’s Word is the final and ultimate authority over our lives. Knowing, trusting, and obeying God’s Word in the Bible is the foundation for a family that honors God. When it comes to technology in your home, it’s really not about your preferences. It’s about God’s will and Word. And we are not to be simply about rules and saying “don’t” to our children – we are to be about shaping the hearts of our children, as God shapes our hearts through the wise application of His Word. “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim 3:16-17).
Second, when it comes to technology in our homes, there is a ditch on either side of the road. It is not wise to fall into either one. We might be tempted, on the one side, utterly to reject technology in our homes, or else on the other side to immerse our children into technology without limits. Wisdom lies in putting technology in its place in your home, which means using it properly and purposefully. This involves intentional choices on your part that require careful examination and that will certainly set your home apart from the herd. “The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him” (Prov 18:17).
Third, the classical Christian vision cannot and should not be contained to the school day. It spills over into your vision for your home. In other words, there is no such thing as a drive-by classical Christian parent. It’s about a culture that extends from your home into school and vice versa. You can’t leave to teachers what must be accomplished by both you and your children’s teachers, who serve in loco parentis, as an extension of your authority and care. The purpose of a family is to add to virtue to faith, to develop wisdom and courage in you and your children, to give a deep understanding of the world and an ability to act faithfully in it. This is also the purpose of Providence: the development of virtue and equipping with a thorough Christian worldview. We must be united in this purpose for the power of classical Christian education to be let loose in your children’s lives.
Fourth, change begins with you. If you want your home to put technology in its place, put it in its place in your life. If you know that technology needs to change in your home, begin with yourself. Your children will likely imbibe your priorities and habits and practices. Approaching technology in your home in a godly and profitable way begins with you establishing the right patterns for yourself. What is your vision for your children as adults? You’ll nurture them to that vision, by God’s grace, only by first fleshing out that vision for yourself now.
Finally, the basic issue for the tech-wise family is worship. You and I are worshiping something or someone. God is calling us to make worshiping Him, in spirit and in truth, the primary focus of our lives.
In the words of Andy Crouch,
Worship reminds us of the shape of true life. One of the biggest threats to wisdom and virtue in a technological age is that we can so easily settle for something less than the best. What kind of life do we want for our children? The easy, safe, protected life afforded by modern technology – the kind of happiness that leisure and affluence can buy? Worship calls us out the of the small pleasures of an easy-everywhere world to the real joy and burden of bearing the image of God in a world where nothing is easy, everything is broken, and yet redemption is possible. [. . .] And so worship is the most important thing a family can do. It is the most important thing to teach our children and the most important thing to rehearse throughout our lives. (The Tech-Wise Family 189-190).
I close with the words of a prayer from the book Every Moment Holy (Vol. 1):
O Christ who alone are sufficient to my longings,
I would be your trusted servant,
at liberty to employ and to enjoy all things at my disposal,
without being owned by any of them –
using technologies to further good ends,
while never seeking them as ends in themselves.
For it is not the advance of digital platforms
that will usher in your kingdom,
but the work of your Spirit in the world,
and in the hearts and lives of your people.