I’ve witnessed a trend in my car, at school, and around town. Perhaps you have noticed it as well: kids with headphones on, staring at their phones, regardless of whether they are alone or in a group. Technology plays a helpful role in our society, but our kids need some specific guidance in what that role is. Read on for some Tech Etiquette to help you, help them!
The first guideline I want to help my kids internalize is to prioritize people, specifically, the people who are actually with them. If they are riding in a car, sitting at the dinner table, or walking down a hallway, I want them to talk to the people who are with them! Tech should wait. It seems so obvious to me, but I know they would say, “Why? We could look at memes together! We could laugh at that funny video together!” Yes, you could. But, we are losing the ability to discuss things that don’t happen online. You can always SEND the meme or vine later as a follow up.
I want my children to understand that when we interact individually on our own mobile devices while we are in the company of other people, we silently communicate with our body language and actions that the other person I’m texting/snapping/etc is more important than the person/people I’m actually with. Even worse, there may not BE another person. Instead, you’re communicating that the images or content you see as you mindlessly scroll is more important than the person you are with.
As Christians, God has sent us to communicate His love to those around us. We can best do that by making eye contact and thoughtful conversation with those who are in our midst. In our day and age, this certainly does not come naturally, and that is why we must be intentional about it.
“We are, therefore, Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.” 1 Corinthians 5:20
Another way we help prioritize people is by being considerate with when we use our technology. We need to teach our children that if we are in a checkout line, it’s not the right time to talk on the phone. If we are at a stop light and may fail to notice the light changing causing others behind us a to wait or need to honk to get our attention, we are not prioritizing the people around us. (Gottsman) It is inconsiderate to make others wait for us. It is inconsiderate to not be available to acknowledge the personhood and service store or restaurant employees are providing us by making eye contact and saying thank you. To put it bluntly, it is rude. Unfortunately, I have been rude. I bet you have at some point as well. But I’m reminded… they are watching! While it has hopefully been the exception for me, it is becoming the norm for the next generation.
Even if we are using tech at all the right times and in all the right ways, we still need to use moderation and balance. If all my work and responsibilities are done, eight hours of video games is still probably not healthy for my eyes, body, or brain. (Please sense my sarcasm here as these are real events and conversations I’ve had with teens and pre-teens in my home!) Some self-evaluation of time spent on-device and some parental-imposed balance for a healthy balance of tech use is definitely appropriate. A good question to ask ourselves for reflection, “Have I fed my spirit? Have I exercised my body? Have I stimulated my mind? Have I meaningfully connected with others around me?”
Finally, help kids to evaluate when the use of technology is appropriate. While driving? Never. During a class? Not unless directed by teacher. While sitting in church, is it ok to play a video game with sound off or headphones in if you’re bored? Well, no. (Jerpi, 2013) It is an excellent babysitter, but I would encourage other ways to engage with the surroundings. The way kids learn how to sit still longer and longer and how to listen and be involved is not by checking out with a device. Devices tend to capture our ENTIRE focus, unlike other things.
As an aside, parents are sometimes frustrated that kids can focus so well on video games but have no attention span for other activities. This is because of the high level of stimulation of light and motion. Unfortunately, kids who spend a lot of time with that rapid eye stimulation, tend to become less able to focus on normal (ie non-screen stimulation) things like listening or reading. (Dunckley, 2014)
A child who is drawing, doodling, or coloring can still easily listen to readings or a message in church or a lesson in class and recall much of what was said. However, a child playing a video game will have no recollection of anything other than what happened in their game.
A GOOD, appropriate use of technology is to create or enhance community. Being able to play games WITH friends, rather than alone, is a benefit to technology, when used in moderation. The ability to invite several people to come over for a bonfire and hangout is a blessing. When technology isolates us from true community and connection that is available, it is being used inappropriately. The appropriate use of technology is to assist us in the way we choose.
I don’t know about you, but I was feeling the conviction myself while researching and writing this article. Our kids will follow our lead. If I’m on my device while they’re trying to talk to me, I communicate to them that what I’m doing is more important than they are. That is NOT the message I EVER want to send my kids, yet I’m sure I have. (Forgive me, Lord!) What is better is to say, “I need to quickly save this appointment to the calendar before I forget, then I can give you my undivided attention…”
Practice conversing with your kids in the car. Turn off the radio and don’t call a friend. Model conversation starting. Encourage your children to start the next conversation, asking thoughtful questions and being a good listener. As we help them learn how to talk and connect face to face, we will hopefully teach them to keep technology in its place.
Alone? Go ahead, get on your phone, but use it in moderation and with intentionality.
With others? Prioritize the people you are with.
Call? If I need to communicate or ask more than basic factual information, take the time, make the call.
Lead by example. Etiquette and manners do not come naturally.
Towards a kinder, more considerate home and world,
Main Photo by Tofros.com from Pexels
Photo of teen girls by Brett Sayles from Pexels
References for Further Reading:
Dunckley, V. L., MD. (2014, February 1). Why Can My Inattentive Child Pay Attention to Video Games?! Retrieved November 27, 2018, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/mental-wealth/201402/why-can-my-inattentive-child-pay-attention-video-games
Gottsman, D. Technology Manners for Teens. Retrieved November 27, 2018, from https://dianegottsman.com/etiquette-resources/technology-manners-for-teens/
Jerpi, L. (2013, April). Tech Etiquette Rules — Using Good Manners with your Devices. Retrieved November 27, 2018, from Jerpi, L. (2013, April). Tech Etiquette Rules — Using Good Manners with your Devices. Retrieved November 27, 2018, from http://source.southuniversity.edu/tech-etiquette-rules-using-good-manners-with-your-devices-132068.aspx