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Devices, Discipline, and Discipleship of Our Children

Everyone knows that we are facing another sort of pandemic within the last decade—that of the addiction to smartphones and other electronic devices. This pandemic is more subtle and more resistant than the physical one. With that in mind, I want to briefly summarize the challenge that we are all facing and lay out some guidelines on developing practical disciplines in using electronic devices, and discipling our students to become responsible users of them. The negative impact of the use of electronic devices in recent years, especially on children, is at its all time high. Recent studies have shown a high correlation between the frequency of digital media use and subsequent symptoms of inattention, impulsivity, anxiety, depression, and other mental problems ( Disconnected, Thomas Kersting, Ch 1). The accompanying result is that our children's brain are rewired and that they acquire attention deficit due to high screen time. Another result is that these children have low coping and emotional skills, which create a whole new cycle of low academic performance. So, how can we help our children? We can think of the task of helping our children as two kinds: discipline and discipleship. Discipline is training them with healthy habits of using electronic devices in a responsible manner.

  1. Keep all screens out of your child’s bedroom. Limit the screen time for entertainment purposes.

  2. Be a role model. Adults are spending just as much time in front of screens as kids. Practice what you preach.

  3. If your child already has a phone, send your child to school without it. For secondary students at Veritas, students may carry phone in their bags for emergency purposes and for classroom purposes only, used with staff/teacher’s permission. If phones are used for any other purposes before, during, or after school, it will be confiscated and turned into the office, upon which one of the parents need to pick it up.

  4. Keep your children away from social media until late adolescence (high school). If your child already has a device or social media access, make it clear to them that you will be checking it regularly. This is the greatest deterrent.

  5. Do not allow your teenager to use their smartphone as an alarm clock. This is just an excuse for them to go on the device in their bedroom when you are sleeping. Get your teen a real alarm clock.

  6. Never allow your children to have a smartphone anywhere near them while doing homework. Make sure your teenager’s phone is in a different room when they are doing homework. Purchase a phone lockbox if necessary.

  7. If your child uses a laptop to do homework, make sure all alerts and notifications are turned off.

  8. Do not allow your children to listen to music while doing homework.

  9. When you allow your children to play video games, make sure it is age appropriate, and have a strict time limit, which when violated, the game will be taken away.

  10. Set up an internet filtering program (e.g. Set up a smartphone contract. (e.g., click here)

While all the above measures will help the student to be safe and healthy, it is not enough. The ultimate long-term goal is to disciple the students so that they will control themselves so that they will use technology in a way that honors God and edifies them.

  1. Create a family counter-culture around conversations, reading books, board games, and activities that foster family bonding. Use these family time to develop an enjoyment of God’s truth, goodness, and beauty.

  2. In partnership with Veritas, help your children to develop a Christian worldview regarding various subjects (marriage & sexuality, culture, work, entertainment, arts & science, politics), and help them to discern worldviews behind what they watch and listen to.

  3. Have frequent discussions about the promises and dangers of internet and electronic devices, and come to an agreement about when and how it can be used. When you allow your older children to access social media, discuss with them about news bias and algorithms, so that students develop discernment.

  4. Have specific discussions about what your child watches or listens. Allow your students to watch only what you approve, and then gradually give your children more freedom to choose what they can watch that corresponds to their ability to discern.

  5. As your child grows older, help them to develop a vision of using technology to foster a Christ-centered culture. Begin with creating a controlled environment where they are safe to delight in Christ, move on to helping students to discern the promises and dangers of technology, and finally help them to creatively use technology to display the glory of God.

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