Why technology is the one area of our family that’s “not fair”

Kara Powell

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We try to keep things “fair” among our kids. At least sort of.

Nathan started making his own lunch in second grade. When Krista and Jessica entered second grade, we expected the same of them.

Krista got her ears pierced when she was ten. When Jessica turns ten, she will have that same opportunity.

We’re not always perfect. Far from it. But we don’t want our kids to think we play favorites.

But we’ve told all our kids that technology won’t be fair.

Just because Nathan was allowed to set up a Facebook account when he turned 13 doesn’t mean the girls will get the same social media access.

Even though Nathan got a smart phone when he turned 14 (he was one of the last kids in his grade to get one), Krista shouldn’t assume one will head her way when she hits that age. Nor should Jessica.

When it comes to technology, we’ve told our kids that they need to show us they are responsible.
 

There are two types of responsibility.

 
The first is taking care of your devices.
And for our child who left their “dumb phone” (as they call it) in their shorts and it went through our washing machine, you lost some responsibility points that day. (And yes, that child had to spend their own money to replace that phone, which luckily for them, wasn’t all that expensive).

But that’s the easier type of responsibility. It’s pretty clear-cut for everyone.

The second type of responsibility—showing us you make good choices in how you use technology and digital media—is much tougher. For our kids. And for us.

Some of the questions we’re discerning as we assess their progress in that type of responsibility are:

  • Do you obey the guidelines that our family has agreed upon in terms of when, how, and where you can use your devices?
  • Do you have a history of making good decisions when new temptations or opportunities arise that we don’t have rules about?
  • Is your technology helping or hindering your relationships with our family? I love it when my two older kids text me. I hate it when I’m trying to talk to my kids and I can tell they are distracted by the presence of their devices (even if they aren’t on their devices, if those devices are nearby, they still have a strong gravitational pull).
  • Is the way you use technology affecting your homework or chores? One of our children had been skyping with friends while doing homework. Social life benefitted, but grades suffered. So the rule with that child is now “no skyping until homework is done.” We haven’t set up that rule with the other two. They haven’t seemed to need it. So far.

Parents, be fair in other areas. But you do not need to be fair with your child’s exposure to technology and digital media. The stakes are too high. Know each child and create the best support and boundaries for them individually.

What else do you do to try to assess if your kid’s ready for the social media portal or device they are begging for?


Published Dec 01, 2015
Kara Powell

Dr. Kara Powell is the Executive Director of the Fuller Youth Institute (FYI) and a faculty member at Fuller Theological Seminary. Named by Christianity Today as one of “50 Women You Should Know,” Kara serves as a Youth and Family Strategist for Orange, and also speaks regularly at parenting and leadership conferences. Kara is the author or coauthor of a number of books, including the forthcoming Growing Young (fall 2016), The Sticky Faith Guide for Your Family, Sticky Faith Curriculum, Can I Ask That?, Deep Justice Journeys, Essential Leadership, Deep Justice in a Broken World, Deep Ministry in a Shallow World, and the Good Sex Youth Ministry Curriculum. 

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