Fireside Chat (Recap)

Mike McKenna Fireside Chat

Technology and the home

During the recent Paratus “Fireside Chat,” Mike McKenna spoke to parents about Technology and the home; something most parents today wrestle with, particularly as their children enter their teen years.

To begin, Mike encouraged us to see our modern technologies in the light of two Creation principles: Good, but fallen. 

When God had finished His creative work, He said that it was all “very good.” But after Adam’s fall, He declared that “the ground is cursed because of you.” Good, but fallen.

Ever since then, whatever man fashions out of the earth has those characteristics: good, but fallen. And, according to McKenna, this describes the state of our iThings and devices today. His point was that, as we engage with our children and discuss their computers, cell phones, iPads, and all the nifty things they can do, we should keep this in mind. If all we do is focus on the “fallen,” children—particularly teenagers—may begin to tune their parents out.

While trying to admit to the positives that our technologies bring with them, Mike also talked of the downside of being so “connected,” particularly what is known as FOMO, the Fear of Missing Out. Because of Snapgram and Instachat, children can instantly know what their friends are doing down the street or around the globe. And if they find that their friends are doing something without them, they may experience a tremendous sense of being left out. Mike encouraged parents to help young people understand instead that the world goes on without our direct involvement, and there can be great joy in not having to be a part of everything: Instead of FOMO, JOMO!

McKenna also discussed the effect technology can have on the “proximate versus the distant.” Picture a family out to dinner, each of them on their devices, no one talking to each other. Each family member is paying attention to someone far away—texting a friend across town or emailing a client on the West Coast—instead of paying attention to the people who are right in front of them. In other words, our iThings allow us to treat those people far away as though they’re near, all the while ignoring the people who are near, treating them as though they were far away. The proximate versus the distant. The devices that were supposed to bring us together and foster community have now become the very things that destroy the community across the table.

When it comes to privacy and your children, McKenna said that parents should have complete access to their children’s devices. “When our children begin to drive, rarely do we say, ‘This is your car. No one else can drive it but you.’ Instead, we say, ‘This is the family’s car, and you’re allowed to use it.” Likewise, Mike suggested that we treat our devices the same way. This is the family’s cell phone, which you are allowed to use. But parents must have access to it as well. 

McKenna also noted the self-serving effect our devices can have on us. For example, with our smartphones we can go where we want, read what we want, hear what we want, buy what we want, play what we want, look at what we want, and say what we want. Notice a pattern? To quote George Harrison, “All through the day, I, me, mine.” We have to help our children see this very real tendency in unchecked access to our devices. 

Some simple things parents can do to help manage screens and iThings in the home? Practice “Digital Fasting.” Maybe putting the devices away one day in seven, or at least occasionally. Consider our living spaces and refuse to orient them around screens (don’t treat the TV as the “high altar” of the living room). Only allow screenless bedrooms and private spaces. When children must use screens, do so in the public spaces of your home, with a deliberate purpose, and do it together (no aimless browsing).

Finally, McKenna encouraged us to talk to our kids about their technologies: What appeals to you about that video game or that musical artist? Why is it interesting? By showing interest in what interests our children, perhaps we’ll find ourselves in a better position to critique their choices and influence their tastes. 

Source: Michael McKenna, Fireside Chat (Saturday, Oct. 27th, 2018)

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