In their own words! Penny and William have some things to say about children and families and technology. Most of our kids’ friends have some sort of personal electronic device and some sort of personal texting account. There’s a big spectrum—some received phones in elementary school, others have iPads or iPods, some have social media accounts, some don’t. To date, our children haven’t had any technology devices of their own. We’ve held back because we are concerned about the dangerous potential inherent within social media (which Peter sees regularly as the head of a boarding school).
Even more, though, we’ve held back because we want them to learn how to entertain themselves without screens, we want to equip them to be creators more than consumers, and we want to shape their brains through paying sustained attention to one thing rather than the constant barrage of distraction that comes with most electronic devices.
Introducing Technology to Children
Still, when we decided to take our 5-week family adventure, both of our middle schoolers, Penny and William, recoiled at the thought of being away from their friends for so long. I remember myself back in middle school, when I begged for a second phone line so I could talk to my friends after school without having to share the line with my mother. We wanted to honor our kids’ desire to stay in touch with friends, and we knew that we needed to introduce them to the world of connectivity at some point. But they are growing up in a household with both an educator and an author, so they didn’t get to just ask for it and receive.
Instead, Peter required them to read the Preface, Introduction, and first chapter of Andy Crouch’s book Tech-Wise Family (which we recommend for any parent struggling through these types of decisions, and here’s a podcast with Andy Crouch about it if you want to listen to an introduction), and I suggested they write essays in response. They dutifully read, and here’s what they wrote:
This first essay is from Penny, with editing help from William:
Technology includes, and is not limited to, phones, ipads, computers, ipods, etc.
What I know about technology
People in school’s always have a device on them. There should be some rules that help limit the uses of technology. My school has a new rule about technology. You are not allowed to bring any devices into the cafeteria. You need to put them in your locker before going to lunch. Friend’s that I know think this rule should be changed. A student in my Language Arts class made a petition stating that the new rule is unfair and it should be changed. Some people think it’s a good idea to have a rule like the new one, like me, because I don’t have a device to bring every day. People who have a device with them everyday don’t think the rule is fair.
What I think some rules and boundaries are
- Limit the amount of time you are on a screen
- People should shut your device down when getting ready for bed and do not pick it up ‘till the morning.
- You need to have some time off of a screen every day.
Safety and privacy of technology
I think that Mom’s and Dad’s should be able to see what their children are texting or emailing. I also think that parents should be able to see what their children are posting on social media.
On Instagram you might have a lot of followers but you don’t want to follow someone if you don’t know them. On Snapchat you might see some cute pics but also be aware that you may see a picture that you don’t want to see. I think that on these social media platforms kids should have a private account and they should be careful about who they are following/texting/emailing.
- Why do people have technology?
- Why do people have concerns about technology?
- What pictures and or videos you might see on social media platforms that are inappropriate and why?
- People have technology because it can promote your social status at school.
- People might have concerns about technology because they want their children not to be exposed to something bad.
- You might see people having SEX with other people. This is inappropriate because that is a picture that you may NOT WANT TO SEE.
Boundaries for me
When I get a texting account I would want to set rules and boundaries. The rules should be wait for a response before texting again. Don’t text everyday.
Boundaries should be text at your own risk. Never respond to a text if you don’t know that person. Questions I would ask Can we talk to people on facetime? MAIN QUESTION!! Why would people have to get a texting account?
If people have a texting account why can’t we get a phone?
And this essay is from William:
I think that boundaries would serve all of us well going into this process when it begins. I know that technology should not be the center of our lives and I hope that getting a texting account would not become the center of my life, but I am also feeling a little disconnected from my friends because most of the day at school is not social time. I think that making sure the device is off during dinner, and after 8:30 are very reasonable boundaries. I think that we might have to experiment with different times and limits we put on this account because I know this is a first time for the three of us.
I have learned a lot from this book and I think that I am now very ready to head into the world of texting, more so than I was before starting the book. I will try as best as humanly possible to not let myself by swallowed up by the account, as I see Dad and Mom sometimes do. I hope that you do not feel what I am asking for is unreasonable. I think that once you have read this that it would be good to talk to each other in person about this same topic.
I hope that you would not expect me to carry a device into my room at all. I think that the device I am texting on should stay downstairs or in another set place until the morning. When I wake up in the morning, I think that I should only be allowed to check it once before school. I think that setting a time limit for the amount of time I can be on it when I do check it is a good boundary as well.
I think that Sundays are family days for us, but many people do not observe Sunday in the same way. I think one of the very wise things that Andy Crouch talks about in this book is how we, and our devices, should rest on Sundays. I think that is a very good idea, but I think that checking texts once on Sunday is not at all unreasonable.
So we are venturing forth into the world of texting, which will in time become the world of technology and social media, with our not at all unreasonable children. I suspect we will continue to learn together about distraction, habit formation, and how to be present in this space and this moment while remaining connected to other people from afar. I hope we can keep technology in its proper place, which is the point of Tech-Wise Family, and use it to bring goodness into the things that matter most in our lives.
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I’m so impressed with both Penny’s and William’s responses. I suspect that years from now if either are ever asked how they walked into the world of technology they will remember their parents’ thoughtful introduction.