Kids & Technology, Part 4

Nick Weyrens

June 05, 2024

In our last post, we talked about how time is not money for the Christian, but rather that time is formation. We also looked at the impact of smartphones and social media on our kids’ souls. In this post, we’ll begin to move towards answering the question: how can I cultivate intentional technology use in my home, setting up an environment where my kids can flourish in Christ?

The Vitality of Intentionality

In our technocratic age, the ubiquity of technology has muddied the water of convenience and necessity. And in many ways, we are stuck floating in a technological river, not going the way we intend to go, but rather going the way technology is taking us.

In many ways, we seem to still be enraptured by the magic of it all.

Our culture was seduced by the magical, otherworldly combination of a phone and an iPod combined into one magical device. But now that same device has slowly morphed into something that can deliver food to our doors, show us stupid cat videos, and help us know what that person in freshman biology is up to.

I don’t think it’s wise for us beat ourselves up about this, because it is a cultural and societal problem. However, I think we as Christians, above everybody else, should be willing to swim to the shore of the technological river, to look ahead to see where the river is taking us, and to then ask: is Snapchat, or an iPhone, or Roblox forming my kids in ways that might help them flourish in Christ?

Writing about the invention of the electric light, Ernest Freeburg notes,

Even as it created new ways of working and changed the entire rhythm of the day, it became harder to see. As one observer at the time put it, “Whatever constantly enters into the daily life soon becomes an unnoticed part of it.” (Ernest Freeburg, The Age of Edison)

When our tools become so much a part of us, we don’t have any habits to keep them corralled. Because, of course, how could we? If we forget they are there, then we cannot even consider their place in our lives. For those first stepping into the age of electric light, they were enabled to see so much more (not only in terms of visibility, but also in terms of duration); yet, as they saw the light more and more, they could see the lights less and less. The same is true of our modern tools.

When we cannot see that which is enslaving us, it’s hard to know that we are actually even enslaved to begin with. But there is no obligation to live a life consumed by technologies, a live driven by the river of technological inevitability.

One of the founding fathers of media ecology, Marshall McLuhan, once wrote, “there is no inevitability as long as there is a willingness to contemplate what is happening.” (The Medium is the Massage, McLuhan & Fiore).

Another founding father, Neil Postman said, “We need to proceed with our eyes wide open, so that we may use technology rather than be used by it” (Neil Postman, “Five Things We Need to Know About Technological Change”).

And more importantly than the concern for us to be not used by technology, we should deeply desire that our children not be used by it either, especially before they are of an age to truly understand what they are using and how they are using it.

I don’t want my children to be tossed around the rocks, rapids, and bends of the technological river.

What I want more than anything for my kids is that is that they would experience the abundant life that Jesus promises in John 10:10. I want them to live a life submitted to the one whom rivers of rushing water flow from (John 7).

And I desire the same for your kids.

But to cultivate spaces for our children to flourish in Christ in a technological age, it requires great intentionality.

If you’ve ever walked across a flowing river, even just a couple feet deep, you know that it is exhausting; the same is true to walk across the river of a technocratic culture. But its one that is worth it and that our kids deserve.

One of the primary ways that we can live intentionally is by embodying household technology habits. These are not hacks or techniques, quick fixes to optimize your children’s lives; these are habits that take time and handwork to instill and develop.

Household Habits

Cultivate counter communities

A recent study from the University of Chicago helps to elucidate the current problem with social media (and we could probably add smartphones). Social media is a “collective trap.” In short, the more people that are on social media, the more “costly” it is for an individual to not be on social media.

One source of hope and help for parents, who desire to keep their kids off social media completely (or at least at much later age), is through cultivating counter-communities. The odds of convincing one lone child to get off social media is probably pretty slim. Convincing your child to get off social media when a handful of their closest friends have done the same, much more likely.

The local church is already (in theory, at least) a counter community, one committed to a categorically different way of life as it sojourns from its earthly home to its soon coming Kingdom. The local church should be a place for parents to cultivate technological counter communities for their children. It might be weird, uncomfortable, and sacrificial, but what if you and a band of five of your closest family friends committed to keeping your kids off social media til they were 16? Might there be groans from your teenage kids? Maybe even some blow ups from the teenager who’s high school friends are all on social media? Sure. But it’s worth the headaches if it leads to flourishing.

The collective trap of social media is still a trap; it is the opposite of freedom. But flourishing in Christ means freedom in Christ. Cultivating counter communities might give your children the freedom they desire, whether they realize they want it or not.

Protect your kids’ right to sanctuary

In her work, The Age of Surveillance Capitalism, Shoshana Zuboff discusses the importance of the home as a place of sanctuary. She writes,

Home is our school intimacy, where we first learn to be human. Its corners and nooks conceal the sweetness of solitude; its rooms frame our experience of relationship. Its shelter, stability, and security work to concentrate our unique inner sense of self, an identity that imbues our day dreams and night dreams forever. Its hiding places—closets, chests, drawers, locks, and keys—satisfy our need for mystery and independence. Doors—locked, closed, half shut, wide open—trigger our sense of wonder, safety, possibility, and adventure.

The walls of our homes and the rooms of our children’s rooms once stood as a barrier from the pressures of the market, from the performativity of social relationships, and from the bombardment of noise. But those barriers are virtually non-existent in the modern household.

If children have smartphone access in their rooms, there remain no safe spaces anywhere in their world. There is no respite from the bombardment of bad news, no relief from the awkward, yet painful social dynamics of adolescence, no safety from the algorithmically-driven ad-machine that is the modern internet experience.

Children need a sanctuary. They need a safe space; a place where the pings and buzzes driven by others’ needs and agendas don’t even register because the pings and buzzes are not anywhere in sight or ear shot.

At minimum, children’s rooms should be smart-device free. They have a right to sanctuary.

Phone Home

One “upstream” way to quell smartphone use or provide sanctuary for your kids is to create a phone “home.” This is a place where your child’s (and I would say everybody in the house) phone lives. Perhaps on the mantle in the living room, or plugged in on the counter in the kitchen, but have a place where your phones live.

Why might this be helpful?

Well, one of the goals of technology is to create a frictionless experience. The less friction there is, the more you’ll engage with the tool. So, as users, who desire to help our children (and ourselves) use our tools in ways that help us flourish in Christ, oftentimes that means we need to add friction back into our user experience.

If I can illustrate this, let’s look at another product that is the result of technological innovation: Cool Ranch Doritos.

If there are Cool Ranch Doritos within arm’s reach, I will eat them. And I will eat a lot of them. That is especially true if I’m sitting on the couch in a heavy post-up. The best thing for my health is for Doritos to not be next to me. The even better thing that all health experts say is that they shouldn’t even be in the house. If you don’t buy it, you can’t eat it. Pretty flawless logic.

The reality is that our willpower is actually incredibly lower than many of us think.

It also is very much like a muscle. The more it’s used, the the more fatigued it becomes. So it’s much better to put ourselves in situations where we’re not solely dependent on will power.

Your child (or you) having their smart device on their person, or in their bag, or on the table next to them at all times is equivalent to leaving a bag of Doritos next to them. If it’s within arm’s reach it will be used, and most likely be used for a long time.

Find a home for your phones to live, a place for them to stay (at least most of the time).

Share screens

Screens simply are a part of the modern world. Our watches, our cars, and our coffee makers are all plastered with screens. They’re inescapable.

And let’s be honest, the odds of your kids living a screen-free life are not very good.

Until smartphones came about, screens were a gathering place. Though the TV has its own issues, it was at least a place where families could come together, and for much of television history, society to have shared experiences and talking points. With the creation of individualized, algorithmically delivered content, not only are screens not shared, but content is not shared (in a sense).

Sharing screens with children is a great way to push past the individualization and to enter into the worlds your children are engaging. Watch movies together on a big, old-fashioned TV, watch some TikToks with them, play a video game with them.

And if you don’t have time or space to share the screens with them, engage with them about what they are watching on their screens. Ask questions like: “what was the funniest thing you saw on a screen today? Did you see anything true, beautiful or good today on your screens? Was there anything bad or sad that you saw on a screen today? Why did it make you feel like that?” Not only are these questions ways for your to enter into the screen-lives of your children, but it’s also a way to connect what they’re viewing to the gospel and life in the Kingdom.

Embrace single-purpose technology

One amazing benefits of our smart devices is that they are capable of a multiplicity of functions. However, this proves to be an immense drawback for the user when it comes to asking the question: how does this technology cultivate my child’s life towards flourishing in Christ?

Why so? Because a device that is capable of multiple ends, makes it near impossible to evaluate how it might be used for our ends.

Single purpose technology is simply technology that can only do one thing (or at least has one end). A record player has the created end of playing albums; a book has the created end of inviting a reader to another world into the lives of others; a sketch pad has the created end of being drawn upon. Sure these things can be used for different things—a book as a paper weight, a record player for serving pizzas, a sketch pad for kindling—but by and large, these things have one purpose.

Using single-purpose technology allows us as parents to much more easily evaluate whether or not a certain piece of technology helps our children to flourish in Christ.

Use one screen (or medium) at a time

I have a habit that I’m sure you have as well. I’m also certain many of your children have this habit too. What is it? It’s using more than one screen (or medium) at a time.

What do I mean? We may put on Black-ish on the TV “in the background” while we scroll the app formerly called Twitter. Or maybe we watch a YouTube video in the little picture-in-picture screen on the phone while we scroll Instagram on the same screen. Or for our kids, maybe they play Fortnite on one screen, and watch TikTok while they wait in the lobby for the next round to start.

This habit is a lot like the habit of snacking—nibbling on some peanuts here, some M&Ms there, some potato chips a little later. Though these snacks offer momentary satisfaction, they never help the snacker reach a point of satiation—of feeling full—and certainly don’t provide the necessary nutrients for a healthy body. A recent study shows that Americans now consume an extra meal every day through snacking too much.

I would argue that “screen-snacking” yields the same result. Perhaps you might think using two screens at one time kills two birds with one stone, thereby reducing your overall screen time. But I would argue it actually has the opposite effect.

Just as mindless munching adds calories throughout the day, screen snacking adds screen time throughout the day. As we flit and float between apps, or steal glances at the score of the game on the TV while the ads play on our seventeenth YouTube video, we never reach the point of satiation with either screen, thus requiring more and more content to “fill us up.”

This is just one of the many downsides of multiple screens at a time. Using multiple screens at a time can actually rewire our children’s brains for distraction, molding their minds to require novelty and dopaminergic hits. Using multiple screens at a time can also lower our children’s tolerance for boredom.

For our children (as well as us), using one screen at time can train our brains to focus, allow us to feel and experience boredom, and allow us to more quickly reach a point of satiation, hopefully thereby squashing the urge for the other screen snacks.

Screen limits for all

Seasoned drivers know guardrails are in place for the safety of all on the road. Anybody who’s driven through the Smoky Mountains, even if they’ve never bumped the guardrails, can agree that we are thankful that they are there. Should something as small as a blown tire cause you to veer into the guardrail, it can be the difference between a few scratches down the passenger side of the van, or a cinematic explosion at the bottom of a ravine. Guardrails are the last resort, but they are still much needed.

The hope with some of these household habits is that they could begin to reduce some of the everyday screen time without every having to impose limits. But let’s be honest, we know that in our current technological age a limitless device is much like a mountain pass without a guardrail.

Even we, adults, with mature frontal cortexes (the important part of our brains that says, “Okay, two hours of Facebook is just too much”) have days when we get stuck in a Reels rabbit hole and need somebody to come grab us by the foot and pull us out.

The same is true with our children.

We all need guardrails with our screen use. There may be differing levels for you and your 16-year-old, or your 16-year-old and your 6-year-old, but we all need guardrails.

Now What?

As parents, seeking to cultivate environments for our children to flourish in Christ, how then can we move forward in a technological age?


First things first: you have to have a vision for your household.

Don’t overcomplicate it.

You don’t need to take a weekend retreat with a leadership consultant to craft a nicely tailored vision statement for you family.

Scripture gives us a vision for ourselves and for our children.

Perhaps your family vision is cultivating an environment for your children to flourish in Christ. Or maybe it is being a household that lives in a way that exhibits the fruit of the Spirit. Or even further maybe it’s as simple as being a household that lives Kingdom lives.

But, you must have some vision for your family to even be able to begin to ask the question: what tools (or technologies) do we use, and how do we use them?

L.M. Sacasas argues that this is best way to help us have a philosophy of technology. He writes,

It’s better to let your choice flow from what you are for than what you are against…It’s better to imagine yourself working toward particular goods you would like to see materialize in your child’s life than simply proscribing the use of smartphones out of some justifiable murky apprehension (Children and Technology, L.M. Sacasas).

A household philosophy of technology will never get you anywhere if it is based on fear and negation.

Only a philosophy animated by a vision for the true, beautiful, and good will be useful and long-lasting.


Once you have a vision—any semblance of a direction for your household—you can then use Spirit-given wisdom and discernment to actually ask the question what tools do we use and how do we use them?

As we talked about in the first post, we must avoid a philosophy of technology that is still technocratic by rejecting the “one-right-way” mentality of parenting. There will be nuance for different families, and even for different children, based on their family story, their family interests, and even their family vision.

You need to do the work of discernment for your family.

That said, inviting those in your community into this discernment process would likely help you to have a vision and a philosophy of technology that would challenge you and your household for the better. Scripture says, “in an abundance of counselors there is safety” (Proverbs 11:14 ESV).


Like most things in parenting, when you are leading change in your household, it’s best to start with a conversation rather than an edict of a new dispensation of rules.

A recent Pew Research survey reported that almost 40% of teens feel “they spend too much time” on social media. That means there’s a 40% chance that your kids may welcome some familial structures around how everybody in the house engages with technology.

What might it look like to get the conversations started? Simply start with asking where your kids are. “Hey Mo, tell me how you feel about your social media use? What do your friends think? Is there anybody that’s on their phone too much? How much is too much? How does that make you feel when Smitty is on his phone too much?”

As you find out where your kids are, you can then wisely tailor conversations about what you are learning and thinking. “I have a desire for all of us to flourish, and because technology is such a daily part of our lives, I would love for us as a family to think about using technology in this way. What do you think about that?”

Perhaps part of these conversations is asking your kids how they feel about your technology use. What things do they notice about how you relate to your phone? Netflix? Social media? Maybe you don’t realize that you habitually pull out your phone unless Jimmy is up to bat and that bothers him. Or maybe Naomi gets frustrated that every day when you get home, the first thing you do is check social media.

Conversations help us move from intention to action in a healthy way. Moving from intention to action without conversation usually feels autocratic; it’s rules without relationships. And the older your kids are, the more important conversation is.

Baby Steps

When you’ve done the hard work of establishing a vision, discerning some of the desires you have for what and how your family will use technology, had the hard and awkward conversations, you can then move forward.

The best thing you can do as you move forward is start small. Don’t try to incorporate 8 new tech habits into your family norms in one day. Pick one, and even then start small. If you want to develop a phone home—a place where your phones always live—start with two nights a week; every Wednesday (CG night) and Saturday (family move night) our phones stay plugged in to the charging station on the kitchen counter. That’s a great start! And you know what, even that will be hard. Behavior change is hard in itself. Behavior change related to devices perfectly crafted to entice you, even harder.

When the baby steps are hard—Nathan is screaming at you because he wants to check Snapchat, Anna is lambasting you for not letting her play one more hour of Roblox—you have to go back to the vision God is inviting you into, cause it is the animating vision of cultivating a flourishing life in Christ that will allow you to persevere.


L.M. Sacasas, “Children and Technology

L.M. Sacasas, “Care, Not Control

Andy Crouch, Tech-Wise Family

Andy Crouch, The Life We’re Looking For

Cal Newport, Digital Minimalism

Cal Newport, “Cal Newport On Kids And Smartphones” (What Age Is Safest to Get a Device?)

Jean Twenge & Jonathan Haidt, “Social Media & Mental Health” (Ongoing database of studies)

Nick Weyrens

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Sojourn Midtown is a part of the Sojourn family of churches. Our mission is to reach people with the gospel, build them up as the church, and send them into the world.

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