Nintendo, PlayStation, Kindle, Television, iPad, Laptop, Desktop, Alexa, Google Home, Innotab, Leapfrog, Smartphone…
The list is endless. Children today have access to countless forms of technology and screens to keep themselves occupied. As a stay-at-home parent, I admit how tempting it is to let my children turn to their digital babysitter so I can have a moment of peace. Yet, we have to be extremely careful about the quantity, quality, and qualifications of the technology we allow our children to spend their time with.
Every month or two, there seems to be an article on the news about children and technology. Today, the New York Times published an article that tells us what we didn’t already know: “All things in moderation is a good way to think about it.” Yes, we should “let common sense prevail” and moderate the amount of screen time our children view. Let’s consider, for a moment, that quantity and quality are less important than qualification.
What do I mean about qualification? Well, let’s go back to quantity and quality for a moment. Quantity is about the amount of time spent with technology. Yes, we should limit how often our children are being babysat by screens. Quality is about the kinds of material with which we want our children to engage. Obviously, I’d rather my three year old watch Sesame Street than Vampirina. Okay, so what about what qualifies for our children? Yes, qualification has something to do with the quantity and quality of technology, but it’s more about what the technology isn’t than what it is.
Would you rather your child ask Alexa and Google about sexuality, or yourself? Would you rather your child learn about human interactions from PBS or through their own interactions with their family and friends? Here’s perhaps a complicated one: Would you rather your child read on a Kindle alone, or on your lap? Would you rather that be a Kindle or an actual paperback or hardcover book?
I will be the first to admit that there is a lot of good in the information we can gain from sources of technology, but I believe there are sources that are better, and even best. What qualifies something or someone to teach our children? I believe it is those simple things like faith, hope, and charity (1 Corinthians 13:13) that qualify parenting. These are the attributes we want to instill in our children. While technology is good in supplementing our children’s instruction, it will never qualify as a replacement.
Moderation is good. Filtering and screening is important when considering technology allowances for our children. You, however, are irreplaceable. Whether you are a parent, grandparent, sibling, uncle or aunt, cousin, friend, teacher, companion, etc., you can instill faith, hope, and charity like nothing else. While moderating and filtering, please don’t forget to consider the importance of time away from technology. And, perhaps even more important, consider how that technology is only supplementing your love when you are sitting beside your child as he or she is watching a show, playing a video game, or reading a book. Technology is qualified only when it accompanies you.
I am not saying you can’t step away and do the dishes, cook dinner, etc., while the children watch a show or play a game. You don’t always have to be present. I am saying, however, that you should consider not only how much time they are spending with technology, but how much of that time spent with technology is also with you present.