Technology Use and Families of Faith

What is the ultimate truth we can cull from these statistics and studies? We believe it is this: Technology can do a great deal of good, and overreacting to media use can rupture the parent-child relationship, especially if a boy is deeply invested in media. But technology can also negatively affect our sons, so it must come under our scrutiny in the same way we would monitor other important elements of life that help shape a son’s character and spiritual development. We must ask, “What constitutes overuse of technology in our home, school, and community?”

Every family needs to establish its own standards for media use, and both science and Scripture can help us craft an approach with and for our son that fits his design.

Isaiah and the Possibility of Idolatry

I (Gregg) find the word idol helpful in discerning where to draw boundaries. I ask myself, “Does technology have the capacity to become an idol in competition with God for my son’s heart?” The late Steve Jobs and other technological innovators have, metaphorically, created a high-tech forbidden fruit that tempts us to taste of the tree of knowledge. Technology, with its promise of easy access to power, information, and influence, can easily become a culturally acceptable idol.

Let’s explore Isaiah 44:12–20 for a moment, a passage I believe offers an almost uncanny foreshadowing of the temptation of technology. As you read, notice its devastating indictment of our propensity to create our own gods, and notice how chillingly technology can, if overused, fit the idol worship this passage warns against.

The blacksmith takes a tool
and works with it in the coals;
he shapes an idol with hammers,
he forges it with the might of his arm.
He gets hungry and loses his strength;
he drinks no water and grows faint.
(verse 12)

If a child is not feeding himself as he should, nor receiving the needed refreshment of family and love, but instead is growing overtired and overstimulated by hours in front of screens, he may be forging an idol from technology. As you conduct a study of media use in your home, watch your son and journal or discuss with your spouse how hungry, thirsty, and faint your son is and when. Ask yourself,

  • What is the impact of technology on my son’s sleep patterns? Screen use before bedtime can negatively impact teen sleep. That sleep deprivation can create a “faint,” tired son the next day.
  • Is technology making my son hungry and thirsty? Is screen use affecting mealtime, healthy eating practices? Is my son feeding on technology to the point that he is not getting healthy exercise and not nourishing his brain with more substantive things?

The prophet continues in verse 13,

The carpenter measures with a line
and makes an outline with a marker;
he roughs it out with chisels
and marks it with compasses.
He shapes it in human form,
human form in all its glory,
that it may dwell in a shrine.

With this verse in mind, ask yourself,

  • Is my son using media and technology to replace human interaction? If so, take note of to what extent, when, and with whom.
  • Has my son made media and technology use into his shrine? Is technology the soul of his life?
  • Is it mainly to technology he wants to go when he wants to feel joy, attachment, love, high impact thinking and doing?
  • If so, when did this start, how long ago, and regarding which technologies in particular?
  • What bold step will I now take to redirect my son to family, school, work, and faith?

Verses 14–17 depict the logistics of how the idol is created, discussing how the man cuts a tree down, uses some of the tree for burning fuel, some for a fire over which he cooks bread as well as meat to eat. In verses 16–17, the prophet says, He also warms himself and says,