I picked up two books at the Christian Bookstore the other day. One is called, From Tablet to Table by Leonard Sweet. The other is called Tech Savvy Parenting, Navigating Your Child's Digital Life by Brian Housman. I have three boys!! Count them. 1...2...3. I was unaware of the challenges technology would bring into our household. Whether you have girls or boys, young or old, I'm sure you can relate. Phones, iPhones, iPads, iPods, gaming systems, computers, reading tablets, etc. If you collected all these in your home, how many would you have? It was very humbling for me!
The problem is not the electronics themselves. I mean, I am typing on one of our iPads right now. The problem comes when our children don't notice the world around them because they are sucked into a world where they can create a totally different identity because no one has to "really" know them or even see their face. I mean, let's face it, they are given electronics at an age when they are struggling to shape their identity. They don't know who they are so they are easily influenced.
At this point you may feel judged because you feel you're slacking in this area....or maybe you're feeling overly confident that you have this one under control.....but we all would be kidding ourselves if we didn't acknowledge the fact that there are even grown adults handling electronics who don't know who they are and who are going through an identity crisis. When we don't know our true identity in Christ, we will allow all the other voices in our world tell us who we are.
So, this is not a post about gathering up all your electronics and locking them in a closet. It's about redirecting your children (and yourself ) to "the table," which is Jesus! He is the only One who knows them completely and has complete authority to speak into their hearts about who they are...He created them!! Leonard Sweet says in his book From Tablet to Table, "to come to the table is to learn to be our real selves - not some construct conceived by someone else, but who God made us to be. Each one of us must choose to be ourselves, but none of us dine alone. We don't sit at the table by ourselves, but are surrounded, encouraged, and sometimes propped up by parents, patrons, partners, pastors, prayers, Paraclete - those who we see when we look around."
But if we don't take the time to put our tablets down, we will miss the opportunity to speak into our children's lives at the table. Not only that, we will miss the opportunity to connect our stories to the
Bigger Story!! Jesus used the table to teach his disciples. When you see Jesus reclining at the table he's not scrolling through Facebook on his iPad. He is engaged with those around him, teaching, connecting the stories of those seated at the table to the gospel story. What if we did that with our children? With our neighbors? Those in our community? Whether at home or dining out, we can make our table a place of sharing our hearts, our stories, and encouraging one another along the journey. And we can be the voice that speaks to them about who they are and who they belong to--a God who loves them and has an amazing plan for them.
Since Tablets have invaded the Table in our society today, we need to be aware of what our children are being exposed to. Brian Housman lays out everything you need to know about understanding your child's online activities in his book Tech Savvy Parents. He has step by step guides on how to set restrictions on iPhones and iPods, Facebook privacy controls and much more. It's a must read for those wanting to be proactive in protecting their children from the dangers of having too much accessible to them too early. Housman talks about the process of helping your child make wise choices,... "The end goal is a character of integrity and responsibility that your teen takes with them to college and beyond when you are no longer there to make hard choices for him." It's not about snooping or being a joy-kill. It's about setting age appropriate boundaries until they are able to make mature decision themselves.
We don't have all this down. Believe me, we are far from perfect. Our boys still belch at the table when we're trying to have a serious conversation. Craig and I get distracted and slack and have to keep reminding ourselves of the boundaries we have set for each child on their electronics. We can tend to be reactive parents at times instead of proactive parents. But one thing is for sure...we want nothing more than to teach our boys to honor the Lord in all they do and say and to love others. Hopefully somehow that's coming out in our parenting.
I know that it is very hard to gather your family around the table. We are lucky if we get three nights together. And once we've gotten them all to sit down together, two minutes hasn't even gone by before one pops up to say, "I'm done" and they head off to their electronics (another reason for limiting electronic time). But try to start small with maybe one meal together for 15 minutes and then slowly increase. However you can gather them, gather! And then once you come to the table, "taste and see that the Lord is good!" [Psalm 34:8]