It’s an all-too-familiar sight: two parents and their children perched comfortably around a table in a bustling café. It seems the idyllic moment for familial bonding: food, fellowship, and the deepening of relationships.

However, nothing could be further from reality.

Each one is not just distracted, but emotionally, mentally, and existentially ensconced with their noses hovering a dozen inches from their smartphones.

So exemplifies the challenge of raising teenagers in a world where most of us carry more computing power in our pockets than NASA used in humankind’s first mission to the moon.

Living in a Digital World

Paul’s example in Acts 17 and 1 Corinthians 9–10 provides incredible wisdom for us parents today.

Paul was able to preach effectively to whomever he met—the Jews in the synagogue, the business people in the marketplace, and the thought leaders in the university.

This is because he knew each culture and setting intimately. He knew each of their worlds, was not overwhelmed by them, and engaged people with Christ effectively.

How can we, as Christian parents, learn from Paul’s ways?

As technology rapidly advances, what do we need to do to speak into the world of our children, who are digital natives?

And, what can we do to ensure we’re not overwhelmed by technology, but use it wisely, serving as good examples for our children who are watching us all the time?

Here are three suggestions:

1. Understand

The biggest mistake a parent can make amidst the seemingly endless avalanche of apps, networks, and gadgets that young people use today is to run away from them.

As is the case with science, free markets, democracy, or television, digital technology is not immoral, but amoral. A wholesale rejection of it is illogical at best and—for us parents—negligent at worst.

What matters is how we use it. And the extent to which we are able to use anything—from sliced bread to quantum physics—first depends on the extent to which we understand it. It might seem like a steep mountain to climb, but we must work hard to understand the digital technology that infuses much of our children’s lives.

If we want credibility with those around us, we must first enter their world. Paul shares with us his example in 1 Corinthians 9:19–23:

  • “Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. . . . I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.”

Just as Paul “became all things to all people”, we too must be up with the latest trends, “so that by all possible means” we might save some, including our kids.

The biggest mistake a parent can make amidst the seemingly endless avalanche of apps, networks, and gadgets that young people use today is to run away from them.

A commitment to embracing digital technology is—thankfully—accompanied by countless benefits. For example, we could . . .

  • turn to reliable YouTube channels for concise explanations of specific aspects of Scripture (such as The Bible Project)
  • set up WhatsApp groups with other parents to share prayer points, wisdom and struggles
  • use the countless Christian Spotify playlists to fill our homes with background music
  • follow podcasts and blogs from trusted sources that deal with issues that are relevant to us and our children

2. Balance

When it comes to digital engagement, parenting shares parallels with ice-skating, gymnastics, and stock market finance—it’s all about balance and risk.

As we seek to understand technology and its benefits, we must also understand its risks, with an overuse impacting attention and sleep.

All families are different, so getting the right balance on screen time will vary. With this in mind, there are options that can be both sensible and biblical without being stifling.

Phone curfews, Wi-Fi blackout times, screen bans at family mealtimes, and an open communication channel with your children (offline!) can all help establish a healthy digital culture in the family.

In addition, protection measures can help to guard our children’s hearts (Proverbs 4:3), such as child-protection apps, filters, and software.

A helpful tip, which we heard recently on a Christian podcast, suggested that it is never too early to plan out your child’s introduction to technology. If your children are still young, consider what age you want your child to start interacting with screens—from electronic toys and pretend phones, to old cellphones with no data connection, to tablets and smartphones.

3. Model

We have no hope of being effective as biblically-driven parents in the digital age unless we model the standards we proclaim.

Our children must know that they are more important to us than our work, our social networks, and our phones.

We cannot expect our kids to honour a screen-ban at mealtimes while we continue to sneak a look at our work email when we think no one is looking. And, we cannot expect our kids to understand the importance of talking face to face, when we spend more time scrolling our Facebook feed than we do speaking with our spouse.

We must be intentional in our efforts to be Christlike and to acknowledge our inconsistency when we should have been fully present with our children but were instead distracted by our phones.

Our children must know that they are more important to us than our work, our social networks, and our phones.

We are not called to perfection, but to honesty and heartfelt effort.

Building a Biblical Foundation

We have a moral—and practical—responsibility to enter our teenagers’ digital worlds without being consumed by them, as Romans 12:2 exhorts us: “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”

Understanding technology and taking steps to protect our families from its risks are important. However, both are pointless if we are not maintaining close and trust-filled relationships with our children. This is the foundation on which our families can navigate the maze of cutting-edge technology.

In an authentic family environment of imperfection, honesty, and love, we can harness technology for its benefits, while protecting our families.

For more, check out our Discovery Series booklet, Help! My Child Wants More Screen Time. Read online or request a copy today.

Max and Fiona moved from England to Singapore in 2017 with their then seven-week-old son. They are now navigating the challenges of raising two small children and are acutely aware that each day is lived solely by and through God’s grace and mercy, as they slowly but surely discover God’s plans for their family.
Share This Article