The mesmerizing reality of modern technology especially in the lives of our boys is I impossible to ignore. But before we rip those glowing devices out of their grasping little hands; before chucking it down the garbage disposal listening with frustrated satisfaction as it grinds its way into the plumbing, we must remember an important truth about discipleship: Problems should be viewed not as an obstacle to endure but as an opportunity to be used. A God honoring, moderated and self-controlled use of technology should drive our technology decisions. Below we have chosen what we believe to be some really helpful truths and tools to help you guide the many conversations you will undoubtedly need to have as you guide your son in his use of electronic devices.
Pray often for wisdom
Effective discipleship is saturated in prayer. The decisions that we must make on behalf of our children are rarely easy: Do I give him a device, take one away, or limit his use? How can I keep him safe and protect his purity? How do I deal with his anger if I say no? And how do I keep myself from throwing his device against the wall?! The answers to these questions always require wisdom, and that only comes from God. The good news is that when we ask for it God promises to give it to us, and in abundance. So parents must be praying, specifically for wisdom.
A question to ask: “Am I relying on God’s strength or my own wisdom?”
Tools are as good as the purpose for which we use them
A hammer can be used to repair a structure or to damage a sibling. The problem is not the tool but the wisdom of the hands wielding it. Saying “no” is often easier, and “no” is often the right answer, especially when our boys are really young. But our goal in discipleship is to build our boys into godly men. So we must teach them how to use technology as a tool for honoring God, and this will require a gradual series of “yesses” as our boys earn the right to greater access to technology.
A question to ask: “Is technology leading my son away from maturity or toward it?”
An opportunity to teach self-denial
Our culture glorifies immediate gratification, but Jesus calls us to a life that is characterized by giving up ourselves. Technology offers a really powerful opportunity to teach our sons to say no to some of their desires. This may mean simply learning to moderate their use of a phone, saying no to certain types of apps or games, or giving up their devices for a period of time as a “technology fast,” But this process of learning self-denial is something that parents must be explicitly teaching our sons. Show them patiently where they may be abusing the use of a good device or game. Show them how God considers our limited time valuable and how we need to be careful to use our time in a way that will glorify Him.
A question to ask: How can I use technology to teach self-control and self denial?”
An audience of one
Peer pressure is a reality. The tech culture our boys find themselves in is toxic but is everywhere. And because it is everywhere, our boys can start to think that it is “normal.” But God determines what is normal, not adolescent excess, no matter how pervasive it may be. It is vital that we as parent s explain gently but firmly that we live according to God’s standards not according to the world’s standards. It doesn’t matter how many of his friends are playing a game or have a phone. If those things are not going to help him grow in his love for God and others, we need to help him set those things aside. We live for an audience of one; it is God whose happiness we should crave rather than prizing the acceptance of our peers.
A question to ask: “Who am I more concerned about pleasing, God or my friends?”
“I’ll do it in a minute”
I remember saying this same thing to my mother when asked to do a chore while in the middle of what seemed a very important level of Pac Man. The sophistication of the games boys play have certainly changed, but the response “I’ll do it in a minute” is as lame as ever. There are lots of lessons to be taught here. Honoring one’s parents, work before play, not lying to get what we want, the elasticity of time (what seems like 5 minutes can actually be two hours), not procrastinating, and the fact that maturity does not accept the “but I forgot” excuse especially if we know that waiting usually produces forgetfulness. You can’t deal with all of these at one time but don’t miss the chance to disciple your son through this.
A question to ask: “Am I allowing my boy’s use of technology to simply produce frustration in me rather than seeing it as a great opportunity to disciple my son?”
The issue of pornography deserves a whole article of it’s own, so let me simply say this. It doesn’t matter how innocent you think your son is or how well you believe you have protected him, if you are not proactively setting up technology fences and discussing sex, lust, and how to guard his heart, mind, and eyes, he will find porn and he will struggle alone. As with all uses of technology, healthy conversations about sex, starting at an early age, but in an age appropriate manner, is a necessary tool for helping our sons to navigate these dangerous waters. I can’t keep track of the number of dads who have been surprised to find out that their innocent little boys had been struggling for years in secret and alone.
Some questions to ask: “Am I being naïve regarding my boy and his exposure to pornography or other unhealthy influences? Am I doing my job protecting my son?”