Navigating the Digital Age: Parenting in a Tech-Driven World

Over the past month, two different parents approached Carrie and I with admiration for our kids not having cell phones. They commended our unconventional approach, and praised our parenting prowess.  As the praises poured out on our parenting abilities, we eventually had to reveal the truth: our kids did have cell phones, we just have a unique approach that limits their usage.  

In an era where teenagers seem glued to their screens, it’s hard to ignore the overwhelming dominance of technology. Studies and surveys abound, highlighting the alarming statistics about teens’ constant phone usage. However, the real evidence is seen in everyday settings – church youth groups, before and after school, restaurants, and coffee shops.  Young people are consumed by their devices. It’s as though we’ve lost a generation’s ability to think without digital crutches.

The path forward is even more intriguing and perhaps unsettling. With the rise of artificial intelligence (AI), we’re on the brink of an AI generation that will be able to delegate most tasks to their AI counterparts, from homework to fashion choices. Visionaries might find it challenging to lead when decisions are increasingly driven by statistics and probabilities, rather than heartfelt inspiration.

Even the world of professional sports has succumbed to this trend. Coaches now factor in mathematical equations to assess a quarterback’s likelihood of nailing a two-point conversion versus an extra point. The influence of technology on decision-making is staggering.

Can we stop it, no?  How can I?  Even my children (ages 13-18) have transitioned from textbooks to Chromebooks in their school.  Their reading material and resources are all online, reflecting the changing educational landscape. Maybe we cannot stop it, but we can shield our kids from this technological onslaught that is fighting for their souls.  

So, do we join the tech-savvy crowd? Yes, but with careful consideration. Here’s a glimpse into the precautions we’ve taken in our home:

Setting Boundaries:

1. Controlled Browsing: Safari access on their phones is restricted. We want to prevent aimless scrolling and curious online ventures.

2. Siri Restrictions: Siri is disabled on their phones. Its ability to pull up pictures if asked and its lack of search history ensures that a user’s curiosity and queries remain private.  Privacy leads to problems.  

3. Screen Time Management: Using iPhone settings, the “screen time” feature allows me to manage each child’s phone usage. This allows me to wield control by setting boundaries on app usage, purchases, and overall screen time. Notably, during the school months, I’ve restricted access to only two apps before 7:30 am and after 10 pm—namely, the Bible app and Quizlet. Moreover, I’ve implemented a safeguard against unauthorized app purchases. For instance, if a request arises, say, “Candice wants to download the MathIQ app. Approve?” I receive a notification from the app store, putting the decision in my hands.

4. Social Curfew: Cell phones are banned after 11 pm when friends are over. All devices must be left on the kitchen counter until morning.

5. Wi-Fi Only: Their phones are restricted to Wi-Fi connections, reducing their digital reach. We do travel a lot so I have purchased a wi-fi adapter for our car so they can “connect” while we travel.  This has been one of the best investments I have made.

App and Program Choices:

1. No to TikTok and Snapchat: These platforms are off-limits due to privacy concerns and the potential for harmful interactions.  When strangers come up to my kids and ask them for their “snap” it tells me all I need to know.  It is a social media platform to “speak” without saying a thing.  A snap can be sent and then disappear.  Fortunatly, nothing ever really disappears online, but this availability is simply a recipe for disaster and it has been to many young people over the years.  

TikTok stands as an unequivocal and mindless squandering of time. Recently, Jenna Ortega, a social media sensation, was posed with a question regarding the thousands imitating her dance moves online. Her response was candid: I remain oblivious to it. Social media barely registers on my radar. “I think it’s unhealthy for everyone involved. I’d hate to be married to it.”

2. YouTube:  YouTube is monitored and not allowed on their phones. When watching YouTube in our home there must be at least two watching at the same time.  

3. Instagram Insights: Instagram is amazing. It’s astonishing how it has connected my daughter with peers even before her college journey begins.  She already “knows” so many students and she has yet to step on campus!  I allowed her to have an account when she turned sixteen.  

Reels are a weapon used to “reel” our kids in. Take time to scroll your child’s feed, you might be surprised at what comes across.

My oldest son however will not have instagram until he graduates from High School.  I see no need for him to have it at this time.  

4. Facebook’s Irrelevance: Facebook doesn’t even register as a concern anymore, as it’s seen as an “old person app.”

In this digital age, parenting feels like a full-time job. Keeping up with technology and its challenges is a constant struggle. While I can’t anticipate every new workaround or issue that might arise, I continue to strive to protect my children. Vigilance, however, isn’t enough. I rely on prayer to guide and safeguard them, trusting that God will keep them pure and convicted in their hearts.

As the saying goes, “We must parent like it all depends on us, and pray like it all depends on God.” It’s a delicate balance, navigating technology’s allure while maintaining the values that truly matter.

Treg Spicer

Treg Spicer

Treg Spicer is the Senior Pastor of Faith Baptist Church in Morgantown, West Virginia. He also serves as the President of the West Virginia Christian School Association. He is husband to Carrie and has four children.

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About Me

Treg Spicer is the Senior Pastor of Faith Baptist Church in Morgantown, West Virginia. He also hosts the Art of the Assistant Podcast. 

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