Tech-Wise Family Habits

Written by Ryan Evans on December 14th, 2023

Thank you to all the parents who joined us at one or both of our Providence Foundations events this year. Keith McCurdy encouraged us to require our children to be sturdy, faithful, and responsible. He addressed the issues of technology and the strong correlation between social media and phone usage with rising rates of depression, anxiety, and suicide. In October, two Providence families – Erik and Kathy Day and Jeremy and Kim Knudsen – shared strategies to encourage faithful tech usage, particularly as it relates to Andy Crouch’s book, The Tech-Wise Family. As promised, below are some additional thoughts and wisdom for parents to consider from the Days and Knudsens. What age would you recommend for a teen to have a smart phone and why?Day Family: I’m don’t think there’s a specific good age as the key requirements are attitude and maturity.  They need to show consistent self-discipline, desire to do what’s right, and respect for authority.  Our teenage girls received basic iPhones at age 13 with parental controls and no social media. Knudsen Family: We suggest 15-16 years old for a smart phone, but it varies by child, because we’ve found that it’s at this age range they are at a level of maturity and discipline where they can start to handle “the pull” that a screen can have. Before that, between ages 12-14, we have a shared basic family phone with only call and text features they use for safety and communication, which is helpful for when kids start to babysit or participate in events and activities. When they’re older, a smart phone can help them with maps and communication for driving and working, but parents can still monitor app usage and internet access. How have you navigated differences between boys and girls as it pertains to technology and screens?Day Family: Our son is still a pre-teen so doesn’t have his own device and is not allowed to use screens without permission.  We aren’t super restrictive, but he needs to ask and respect what we say.  When possible, we explain the reason to help him gain some wisdom.  One thing we’ve coached him on is how to avoid engaging if another kid tries to show him something inappropriate.  For our teenage girls, we watch out for them wasting time on content consumption.  Even though they don’t have social media, sites like YouTube and Pinterest can be problematic.  Using such sites sparingly and only in common areas is a great rule.Knudsen Family: We restricted internet search for boys until they were older and allowed web sites on a permission basis. This helped them avoid distractions and temptations in their early teens. We found that girls tended to just spend too much time on sites like Pinterest, so we set time limits and guidance for them. We also delay social media use until after high school. What is a helpful tip that you as parents have tried to adopt and adhere to in modeling wise tech habit for your children?Day Family: Talk to your kids a lot, being open and honest about what you are learning about tech use in your own life.  Things are changing fast and we’re constantly adapting.  Rules are great for safeguards but be sure to impart wisdom and instill principles whenever possible.  Teach kids to consider the impact of tech on themselves, others around them, and whether it is helpful. What advice do you have for parents before they give their child a device?Knudsen Family: Be aware of the technology and the risks it poses, not because your kids are looking for trouble, but because they may encounter harmful content without intending to. Keep open lines of communication with them to ask them about their usage and follow up on anything you might see that is a potential concern. For any device or app you allow your kids, know all that it offers and what you may want to limit. We see it as our duty as parents to be informed and to educate our children too. Stay ahead of them, talk to them, and let them help you set boundaries based on their needs. What filter resources have you used that have been helpful for establishing accountability for your teens? Knudsen Family:  Many options exist, including:

  • Open DNS: you can set up your modem/router to use this service that intercepts unwanted content from ever entering into your home and network
  • Google Family Link: a parental controls app on the Google Play Store for Android phones. Pro-tip: set up the app with a younger age than your kid’s actual age to further help filter out content.
  • Apple Family Sharing: manage Screen Time settings on your child’s device
  • Microsoft Family Safety: a parental controls app for Microsoft PC’s and Xbox
  • Qustodio and Net Nanny are other filter options that require a paid subscription.

Contact Jeremy Knudsen if you have further questions about the above. Note that parents have a host of challenging questions to consider, and no set of answers will be the same for every family. Sound and intentional principles, along with prayerful interaction with your children is a prerequisite for developing healthy practices.