The mobile phone is a relatively new device in society and we are still sifting through the impacts of this technology on our lives. We are all learning how to manage it, and not be controlled by it. We need to not only learn these things ourselves, but teach them to our kids as well.
The thing is, the mobile phone is often more than a phone these days. Initially the biggest issue that we faced, by taking on a mobile phone, was etiquette: when we should or shouldn’t take a call and how loud we spoke. But these days the mobile phone is so much more.
I don’t believe that the etiquettes and boundaries that we constructed to manage being available by phone regardless of where we were are the only issues that we need to talk about today.
My phone is used for notes, appointments, reminders. I keep in touch with my kids. I can take photos, read a book or my Bible, maintain my shopping list, keep secret gift lists, listen to audios or music, and use it for a map to help me not get lost. And I know that other people have far more apps and uses for their phone than I do.
We can get cynical about all these apps – but I know that my handbag is lighter these days. It is much easier carrying around a phone than a home-managment binder, Bible, notebook, mp3 player, and a wad of maps!
I found myself in an awkward moment once – I had listened to a guest speaker at a conference and gathered around informally at the end to discuss the issues further. He made a statement that I wanted to note so I pulled out my phone to write down his quote. I suddenly felt awkward thinking that he maybe thought I was texting friends when I had this opportunity to speak to him. How rude!! I quickly explained that I wasn’t texting, but rather taking notes!!
My kids went to a youth group where mobile phones were not allowed. I understand this rule, as it encourages the kids to be with the people they are with for the weekend, but… as our kids get more technologically involved, they will use their phones for reading the Bible, taking notes, dictionaries, phones etc. (And to give the youth camp organisers their due – they did recognise this and tweaked their rules).
I want to teach my kids to use their mobile device – not just their mobile phone. They need to know
- when it is appropriate to take a call (and how to graciously excuse yourself while you do so)
- what to do when they need to make a call
- when it is and when it isn’t right to be on social networks other than phonecalls – facebook, instagram, snapchat etc (and how to enjoy being with the people you are with – even if they are not your best friends)
- when it is appropriate to put headphones on and listen to music/audios (and how loud is loud enough)
- how to enjoy the moment without taking a selfy, but at the same time, enjoy taking photographs (and that not every moment needs to be photographically documented!)
- how to use apps to help them, but also know that maybe there isn’t an app for everything
- how to throw themselves into social situations and not withdraw to play a game or read a book (if it isn’t appropriate to read a book, then it isn’t appropriate to be on a screen)
- that we don’t always need the information right now, and that they can do a Google search later (but at the same time, sometimes more information would be helpful)
- that using some apps cost – they may be free to download, but not necessarily free to use (that apps are using your download data etc and therefore costing)
- how to turn it off (and yet, sometimes you need it on)
There are no hard and fast rules here. We are talking about a tool in our life. Yes, we can see that people are becoming dependent on it – but we are better to deal with the heart issues, not ditch the tool. The heart issues are
- Consider the feelings of the people you are with
- Be a blessing to the people you are with
- Be content with where you are – not always looking to be somewhere else, with someone else, doing something else
The thing that blurs these lines is that once we have made a digital connection with someone we consider ourselves ‘with them’. The beauty of digital technology is that we can be with someone digitally any time, but the opportunity to be with someone IRL doesn’t have the same flexibility, and therefore needs to be prioritised. I think time will teach us that our face to face relationships will be more significant in our lives, than our online ones, over the long term. We need to teach our kids, and maybe even remind ourselves, that being with someone face to face, comes first. I think this is the new rule that we need to establish. Everything else comes out of this one idea.