Talking About Technology with Your Teen

Ultimately, we want to parent our kids in their use of technology within the biblical values we’ve set for our families. But how do we do that?

If we’re going to assess how technology shapes our families—specifically, our children—we need to think about it because most kids don’t. They live in a world where devices, content, and interaction are all experientially seamless in ways that make it nearly impossible to self-assess the effect of technology on their lives. 

 

In my last BCC blog post, I offered some thoughts on communication strategies with preteens and teens. This post applies those principles with a focus on technology.

When we talk about technology, we’re talking about three distinct but interactive things:

  • Media Devices – These are the phones, tablets, etc. that are the physical technology we use. On the surface, our devices are benign tools. But technology always shapes behavior (just think of how the automobile impacted social patterns in the 20th century). The kind of technology we’re talking about is brilliantly designed to become an essential expression of our lives.
  • Media Content – This is the stuff that comes into our lives and also goes out from us to the world through our devices.
  • Media Interaction – This is the way we use technology to communicate and interact with others, whether in a small circle of people we know or in tribes and groups and markets of people we don’t.

If we’re going to assess how technology shapes our families—specifically, our children—we need to think in these categories, because most kids don’t. They live in a world where devices, content, and interaction are all experientially seamless in ways that make it nearly impossible to self-assess the effect of technology on their lives. Ultimately, we want to parent our kids in their use of technology within the biblical values we’ve set for our families. But how do we do that?

Everyone recommends we deal with technology by talking about it. So, how do we have these conversations without devolving into conflict, rules, or ultimatums? I’ve learned a principle in my own parenting that goes something like this: “If you are always arguing about XYZ, then you’re not really arguing about XYZ.” In other words, if you’re always arguing about the phone, then you’re not really arguing about the phone. You’re arguing about what the phone represents to you and what it represents to your child.

It is helpful to think about technology conversations in terms of the different types of talking points required for different types of situations. The following is a way to think about our kids’ use of technology and the different conversations that may be necessary to help them use it wisely.  

Safety Conversations

Safety conversations are very familiar to our kids from the moment they can understand speech. Saying “no” to electrical outlets and stairways, teaching them to stay close to us near the street or in crowds, instructing them on how to deal with strangers—these are all conversations our kids are used to. In these conversations, we are imparting practices and prohibitions that our children must follow to live safely in the world.

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