(1). Don’t Fight Technology: Use it! One of the most common questions I hear from parents is this: “How do you deal with technology?” Obviously, families need to be smarter than ever when it comes to video-games, internet use, and social media. Ninety percent of kids today (ages 8 to 16 years old) have viewed porn online. 1 Even worse, following first exposure, the largest consumer group of internet pornography is boys between the ages of 12-17! (2).
Keep in mind, exposure to porn directly increases a child’s likelihood of depression, violence, sexual discontentment, eating disorders, anger, and dissatisfaction with future partners. [Heres another blog on this]. Even worse, Porn saturates far more kid-oriented social media than ever before. To make technology more complicated, research shows that the average 8-18 year old spends an average of 7 hours and 38 minutes using entertainment media on a typical day (more than 53 hours a week) (3). It’s estimated that preschoolers spend an average of at least 2.2 hours to as much as 4.6 hours per day looking at a screen.
A lot of parents try to fight it by simply forbidding it or limiting it. But unless your plan is to become Amish, at some point, your strategy is going to need a change. Technology is everywhere. Thankfully, I realized early on that a strategy of techno-denial wasn’t going to bode well with my three kids (especially when I discovered my 11-year old already had over 3000 instagram followers). So I quickly learned: If I want to be an effective parent of my three kids, I need to embrace the heck out of it.
For example, we actually created rules like: No one plays video games alone for longer than 30 minutes/day. Did I want to play every single Lego videogame ever created? No! But I had hundreds of parenting moments when I did. Did I want to learn the intricacies of Clash of Clans or Minecraft? No. But after we rebuilt our own Mindcraft model of Venice… which my son accidentally deleted… I had a sequence of Fathering moments that my kids will never forget. In the end, research ironically shows that the “social isolation” of technology causes far more negative outcomes than exposure to violence. So when parents “lean in” to their kids technological interests, you’ll actually find a world of incredible parenting moments.
Even better, there are organizations that are cleverly learning how to use technology for scripture engagement. For example, the amazing missions organization OneHope has been brilliantly studying kids for years – tirelessly creating tools like the Bible App for Kids – (which, by the way, in just 2 years, this app has surpassed over 8 million downloads in every country of the world). So be aware of stuff like this! My son has gotten hooked on the Bible App for hours! & trust me: I’m not complaining about his “time on technology” when he’s learning the Bible. But here’s a few other ways to parent our kids while birthing a deeper desire for the Bible:
(2). Create a Bedtime Ritual with Reading: For those who know Carolyn and me, we try to log at least 30-90 minutes with each of our kids every school night. I am NOT a fan of any extra-curriculars that decrease family time. So, we spend most evenings either reading with our kids (when they were younger) or simply flopping on their beds watching Youtube videos or other nonsense. In the end, it usually takes an hour of nonsense to earn 10 minutes of good parenting time.
But here’s why: Research shows that reading with our kids produces a huge number of positive child-outcomes: Beyond the common sense benefits of reading with our kids, studies show, when we read to our kids, it increases intelligence, social skills, empathy and coping skills. Besides, leaders are readers. (I realize that I’m preaching to the choir here : )
Interestingly, OneHope (who co-created the Bible App for Kids) found that, “parents still prefer print copies of the book for their children.” According to Digital Book World and literacy nonprofit Sesame Workshop, less than 10% of kids and parents alike choose ebooks over print books. So, despite the wild success of OneHope’s app: The reality is that there are no apps that can replace our laps. Kids love to interact with their parents. So make sure you’re doing it.
(3). Use Resources like “The Bible App for Kids Storybook Bible” – My nine-year old son has literally devoured the print version of this. If you don’t have a good Bible for your youngsters, just go ahead an get this. In fact, my son will even start reading it even before we get to his bedroom.
Of course, if your kids are older, mix it up with spiritual growth books that appeal to their curiosity. Our teenaged girls loved reading “Heaven is for Real.” And when they got sick of the classic “Sunday School Bible stories,” I loved reading some of the Rated R stories to them. Try reading the book of Judges with your teenagers sometime. WOW. Interesting convos!
To help make studying God’s Word together as a family awesome, our friends at OneHope also created Experience the Story. It’s a family devotional that’s a companion to the Bible App for Kids. The devotional pairs five character traits with corresponding Bible stories, and is 66 full-color pages of fun, interactive activities designed for both older and younger children!
But here’s my point: Don’t be passive about the Bible or technology with your kids. There is no school, app, or church program that could ever be a substitute for good parenting. But, if you use these tools well, your whole family will feel a deeper passion for God and his word.
Peter Haas and his wife, Carolyn are the lead pastors of Substance Church in Minneapolis, MN. Peter also speaks to church planters and pastors all over the globe as he serves on the lead team of the Association of Related Churches. He is the author of two books: Pharisectomy: how to remove your inner Pharisee and other religiously transmitted diseases, and Broken Escalators: funny & frightful lessons about moth eating and moving to the next level. Beyond family & church, his next greatest passions are music, film & comedy. Playing just about every instrument from cello to electric guitar, Peter spends most of his free time in his recording studio spinning EDM on his turntables or scoring classical film soundtracks. Peter currently resides in Minneapolis with his wife Carolyn and their three kids. Visit peterhaas.org or substancechurch.com to download books, sermons & other free resources. You may also follow him on twitter and instagram at: peterhaas1.
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1. Most of these exposures happened while doing homework – Dr. Douglass Weiss, PhD., Clean: A Proven Plan for Men Committed to Sexual Integrity: Thomas Nelson, 2013; (pg. 17).
2. Cited on http://stoppornculture.org/about/about-the-issue/facts-and-figures-2/