CCE Corner – Controlling Technology (So It Doesn’t Control You)

October 29th, 2019

In the last CCE Corner, we talked about the need for a strong and wise imagination and the importance of feeding our souls with what is true and good and beautiful. For Lesson 3, we turn our attention to technology, a topic none of us can ignore as we think about educational and spiritual growth.

Lesson 3. The medium is the message: controlling technology (so it doesn’t control you)

When we started Trinitas in 2006, Facebook was only three years old. Twitter was launched that same summer. And can you believe the first iPhone had not yet been introduced? Times have changed. Dramatically. And quickly. We could devote this entire year of CCEC posts to the pros and cons of modern technology, but let us simply say this: Do not underestimate the adverse effect it can have on your children’s imagination and their education (not to mention their emotional health).

There seems to be daily coverage of the adverse effects of technology: decreased attention spans and diminishing capacity to delay gratification; addiction (intentionally designed into the programs); increased anxiety, depression, aggression, and loneliness. Many of these reports are based on scientific findings of real effects on the brain. There seems to be something about how we interact with the digital medium itself that ought to raise red flags.

We don’t have classroom computers at Trinitas. We don’t share the common belief that they’re an educational panacea. While we were swimming against a tide 14 years ago, we feel somewhat vindicated now as we continue to hear about the growing number of tech giant founders sending their own children to no-tech schools and increasing numbers of schools banning phones.

We at Trinitas hold many core beliefs in common, including the desire to give our children an education that is Scripturally grounded, academically rigorous, and joyfully presented. But we might not all hold the same views on technology for our kids. Phone or no phone? At what age? We might not all agree on how to engage this digital world that holds the potential for both expansion of knowledge and exploitation of youth. Can we all agree, however, that screen time has an opportunity cost? When your child (or you) is in front of a screen, it’s time away from other things like books and the outdoors and full engagement with other people.

Here is our advice, based on recommendations from various advocacy groups and personal experience:
1. Spend less time on screens. We’d recommend keeping it to an hour per day–some days it may be more (e.g., family movie time), but plenty of days there could be none at all.
2. Build a tech sabbath into your month or your week, or build a tech-free time into each day.
3. Don’t give your child a smart phone (or any phone?) until he or she is in 8th grade or, better yet, high school.
4. Consider having no social media accounts.

These recommendations may seem extreme, but we believe the issues surrounding technology use are important enough for our youth and for society that they require some counter-cultural thinking and behavior. Many of our Trinitas families have made these choices. We encourage you to explore the many and varied alternatives to screen time. We think you’ll find your children’s imaginations, their education, and your lives will be richer.