With the growing reliance on remote work and technological devices for everything from attending church services to ordering groceries, it’s always good to reassess how your family, especially your teens, engage with technology. While technology provides opportunities for creativity and connection, it also comes with potential dangers.
Here are five ideas to help your teens develop tools and frameworks for deciding how they will engage in their increasingly digital world.
1. Make healthy technology habits a family affair
Let’s be honest: Healthy tech habits are easy to identify but can be hard to keep. For teens, it’s much easier if the whole family decides on healthy technology guidelines together. One of the most important indicators for a young person’s ability to adopt healthy habits is whether or not they see such habits modeled by their parents. Siblings can also help. Regularly encouraging and challenging each other to “stick to the rules” might be annoying in the short run, but in the long run, this is the kind of accountability that will help young adults stay the course when they are out on their own.
2. Structure when you use technology
Smartphone technology disrupts our awareness of time. We all know the feeling of realizing we’ve spent 15 minutes scrolling Instagram. For teens, this is an opportunity to practice the stewardship of time — one of their most precious resources. By helping them become more mindful about when they get on their phones and for how long, you can help your teens reap the benefits of tech while avoiding time-consuming digital distractions.
3. Regularly ask the question, “Why?”
Technology is offering new ways to explore the web, engage with content and build connections. Seemingly overnight, flashy new apps appear in the marketplace. Around the clock, our social media accounts present endless streams of content. As teens navigate this dazzling landscape, it can feel overwhelming to decide what they really need. Helping your teens ask themselves “Why?” before they get online or use an app is a simple yet effective way to help them clarify what’s essential and what’s distracting.
4. Think biblically and critically about every device, app and piece of content
In Wilson Hill classes, our students constantly practice and refine their critical thinking skills from a biblical worldview. This is an essential part of true education: learning how to think, not just what to think. When applied to new devices, social media platforms and digital content, critical thinking skills can help young adults evaluate the messages and ideas confronting them through technology. Encourage your teen to ask deeper questions like: “What does this tool suggest about what it means to be human?” “What assumptions does it make about friendships?” and “How does it suggest I spend my time?” Wrestling with questions like these from a biblical worldview can lead to greater clarity and perhaps more caution about how they engage with technology.
5. Recognize technology’s invisible costs
Like most things in life, technology comes with its fair share of costs. In addition to the obvious ones (finances and time), smart-phone technology also brings some costs that, while less obvious, may prove more detrimental. For example, heavy smartphone use makes it harder to concentrate, remember information and focus on details.
Similarly, research shows that smartphone use can also affect users emotionally, leading in some cases to higher instances of anxiety, depression and insomnia, with particularly high rates among teens. Ensuring your teens are aware of these costs and unintended consequences can help them make more informed decisions about how and when they use their devices.
Helping your teens develop healthy, biblically informed tech habits is one of the best ways you can prepare them for adulthood in an increasingly digital and connected landscape. Working together as a family to create such a framework will position them to reap the benefits of technology while limiting its unintended consequences.