On Jan. 11, the eighth annual G3: Gigs, Geeks and God Conference on technology, sponsored by the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, was held at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish. The keynote speaker was Matt Weber, Director of Digital Communications Strategy and Preceptor on Education at Harvard Graduate School of Education and there were three rounds of workshops with more than 20 technology topics to choose from.
One of the workshops was Families and Technology: Finding the Balance. It was presented by Dave Baudry, Child and Youth Minister at St. Joseph Congregation, Wauwatosa, and Ben Rogalla, Youth Minister at St. Francis Borgia Catholic Church, Cedarburg.
The workshop started out with a question. What was it like when you were growing up? Family vacations? Meals together? Family time on Sunday? As most of us know, several of these things still happen, but not as much or as often. Technology has become a center of communication with each other, and has definitely impacted family life.
Next, the workshop looked at what our Holy Father, Pope Francis, has to stay about technology and family life. Pope Francis is famous for how much technology and social media he uses and has said that the web is a “gift from God.” However, he has also warned, especially young people, about the impact it can have on our lives. He says one aspect of our lives that we should strive to uphold is the family. At the World Meeting of Families, Pope Francis spoke about unity, faith, love, and holiness. Pope Francis also talks about the family as the domestic church, and the right place for faith to become life and life to become faith. If a culture is built around this, then technology can be integrated into family life and create that balance we should be striving for.
As a part of the Workshop, we discussed a resource called Common Sense Media. Common Sense Media shares statistics on current trends, as well as a powerful video that shared the impact of technology from the perspective of a parent. The video was viewed with workshop participants, and afterward, they discussed how they have seen their families including themselves, impacted by screen time. Many indicated they could relate to the statistic that said adults, on average, spend nine hours a day on screens. The video also showed children telling their parents that they were spending too much time on their devices. Workshop participants agreed that having family members hold each other accountable would be a good practice in striving for balance.
Does technology cause conflict? Common Sense reports 66 percent of parents feel their teens spend too much time on their mobile devices, and 52 percent of teens agree. Are we addicted? Fifty-nine percent of parents feel their teens are addicted to their mobile devices, and 29 percent feel they are addicted to their mobile devices. Fifty percent of teens agree they are addicted to their mobile devices and 28 percent feel their parents are addicted as well. Sixty-nine percent of parents check their phones hourly; 78 percent of teens check them hourly. Seventy-two percent of teens feel the need to immediately respond to texts, social-networking messages and other notifications.
Does technology affect our relationships? Thirty-six percent of parents say they argue daily about device use; 32 percent of teens; 43 percent of parents and 38 percent of teens less than daily; and 21 percent of parents and 30 percent of teens say never. Eighty-five percent of parents feel their teens’ use of their mobile device has made no difference in or has helped their relationship; 89 percent of teens. Sixty-six percent of parents and teens say mobile devices are not allowed at the dinner table. But when the rule gets broken, who is more prone to break it? Thirty-six percent of teens say they are more likely to break the rule; 32 percent of teens say their parents are; 16 percent say parents and teens are equal in breaking the rule; and 17 percent do not know.
At least a few times each week: 77 percent of parents feel their teens get distracted by their devices and don’t pay attention when they are together; 41 percent of teens feel their parents get distracted by their devices and don’t pay attention when they are together.
The next section of the workshop focused on some practical applications to create a balance in the home. Five strategies shared by Adrienne Wichards-Edds, a Washington Post author who writes about parenting issues, includes: Check your kid’s phone; Be app-savvy; Help kids understand their “why;” Set clear ground rules; and Create opportunities for digital detox.
The author shares that it is especially important to help your child understand the “why.” Why are they checking or picking up their phone at that moment, and is it really necessary to do so? This can afford them an opportunity to learn about decision making, especially later in life.
Lastly, five ways to create a healthy balance was stressed. They include: Be a role model; Start good habits early; Use media together; Keep distractions limited; and Turn off work.
We know that technology is ever-changing and impacting our lives. Children and youth today are looking to their parents more than any other generation, and if parents walk with them in the process of creating balance and keeping themselves accountable, it can and will go a long way.
Let us continue to build a culture of love and unity among families, integrating technology as it evolves, and creating that healthy balance.