By KRISTINE SCHROEDER
“St. Elizabeth Ann Seton prophesied in the 1800’s that evil would come into every home through a ‘black box’” (One Bread, One Body Nov-Dec 2022).
In the past three “Lessons Learned” columns, the problems resulting from technology have been acknowledged and examined. Bishop Fulton Sheen once said, “It is easy to find the truth, it is hard to face it, and harder still to follow it.” We are all aware, to some degree, that technology in all forms has created more problems than it has resolved. Now the question remains, “What are we going to do about it?”
In his book, “Detached: Put Your Phone in Its Place,” T. J. Burdick writes, “Our digital habits have a profound effect on our soul.” According to Pew Research Center, there are over 280 million iPhone addicts – and they aren’t all children. Early in his book, Burdick explains his own lightbulb moment – when he realized that he was a digital addict. That led him to examining his own addiction and outlining, in “Detached,” a 21-day plan to break that addiction.
It is time to wake up and take charge of our children’s mental, social, emotional and spiritual health. Our promise at their baptism was to do exactly that. Let’s not waste another day!
Where do we begin with our children? First, we must live the life we want our children to live. As Burdick says, “We tend to rationalize destructive behaviors, especially when they are easier to hide from others.” Are we present to our children – or on a device – when they need us? Do we half-hear conversations because we are checking texts, emails or some form of social media? Are our family evenings spent in front of screens instead of sharing our daily experiences? If we answer yes often to any of those questions, then it’s necessary to acknowledge our own need for change.
When our sons were teenagers, doing well in school and sports required much time. Jim and I discussed, and finally agreed, that turning the TV off from Sunday evening through Thursday was in everyone’s best interest (there were a few exceptions). Of course, the boys weren’t initially on board. However, after a few weeks’ adjustment, we found more time to accomplish what was demanded at work and school.
It’s a new year. Let’s make it a less-tech year by reclaiming our time! As a family, introduce a discussion on the pros and cons of technology. Allow each person to share thoughts and concerns they might have. Expect pushback from your teens, and be willing to listen.
Hebrews 12: 11 reminds us, “For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant; later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.” Changing our own habits and those of our children will be disconcerting at first, but the results are guaranteed to be worth it.
In his article “Thinking Through the Immersion Dilemma: What if My Teen’s Life Is Governed by Media and Technology?” Dr. Jim Schroeder gives recommendations concerning this dilemma. You can find the entire article at www.james-schroeder.com. Here is an excerpt:
- Be aware of and restrict your own use.
- Share ideas and information with teachers, parents and caregivers. Create solidarity with other concerned persons.
- Create family experiences not based in technology. Hike, camp, play board games and visit relatives. When traveling, have games and other non-tech ideas.
- Be the “fall guy” for your child. Tell them to blame you for their tech-limited life.
- Model moral values. Speak up when inappropriate behavior is displayed on screen. Watch videos that promote moral behavior. Teens model what adults in their lives present.
- Children’s passwords are not private. Parents must be able to access their phones anytime. Owning a phone is a privilege, not a right. That should be clear from the beginning.
- Set “time off” periods such as dinner, designated study times, after 9 PM, during family outings, etc.
- No screens of any type should be in children’s bedrooms, particularly overnight.
A particular reflection of his, from Dec. 30, 2022: “Modern-day ‘Herods’ are still searching for children to destroy. These ‘Herods’ gain entry to the home under the nose of the parents, who are paralyzed or asleep on the watch.”
Kristine Schroeder and her husband, Jim Schroeder, are members of St. Boniface Parish in Evansville. They have four grown children and 23 grandchildren.