Yes, you read the title correctly. For those of you who may not be familiar with the term frienemy, Urban Dictionary defines it as “someone who is a friend, but at times becomes your enemy.” If you have teenagers, use it in front of them and you will be guaranteed to impress them with how cool you are. Also, tell them you are Team Jacob…
As strange as it may sound, I’m so glad teenagers invented this word. It perfectly describes the relationship between parents and technology. Technology is our friend. It has connected us to the rest of the world in a way unimaginable 100 years ago. It enables us to stay in touch with family, even see them through things like Skype or FaceTime. Technology has opened up doors for sharing the gospel, developing believers, and strengthening church community. Technology is our friend.
But, at times, it’s also our enemy, especially when it comes to our kids. The Internet is an incredible research tool, but it is also easy access to hundreds of thousands of pornographic websites. Computers and cell phones are a great way for our children to connect with friends and family members, but they can also foster cyber bullying. When used in moderation, video games can be a lot of fun, but in excess can become addictions that breed laziness in our children.
The question is: What should we do with our frienemy? Technology is our friend, but it can also be our enemy. What is the best way to handle technology in our home?
- Ban it – Technology is dangerous, but it is not going anywhere. Banning technology in our homes would be like banning weapons in Boot Camp. It may make Boot Camp a bit safer, but it doesn’t prepare you for war. The home is the perfect place for your children to learn the friendly side of technology and how it can help them thrive in the technological world around them. The Internet is not going away. Banning technology is only going to make kids more susceptible to its danger once they’re out of the home and on their own.
- Do Nothing – Technology is incredibly helpful, but it is also dangerous. It would be wrong to give soldiers in boot camp a bunch of guns without any oversight, instruction, or restrictions. In the same way, giving our children unlimited access to technology without any oversight is a recipe for disaster. This stuff is dangerous if not used properly. To do nothing when it comes to technology in our homes is tantamount to inviting Satan into our living room and saying, “Make yourself comfortable.” We cannot afford to be naive.
What to do:
- Set Age Appropriate Boundaries. So much of the “enemy” side of technology can be avoided by well-thought through boundaries. If we are worried about our younger kids getting addicted to TV, then set aside a time during the day when they can watch it, and then turn it off the rest of the time. If we are worried how Internet access might tempt our teenager, then keep the computer in the living room instead of his bedroom. Boundaries will help children develop a healthy attitude towards technology while guarding against the traps of their immaturity.
- Model Appropriate Use. One of the best ways to handle the “frienemy” that is technology in our homes is by showing our kids appropriate ways to use it. Our children are watching us and how we use our cell phones, TV, and computers, so we have the opportunity to teach them by showing.
- Talk About the Potential Dangers. A conversation can go a long way. Ask your kids about temptations? Talk with them about what they think they can handle and be willing to point out blind spots they might have. Our children may be more natural with technology, but we still have them beat in experience and wisdom.
Technology doesn’t need to be a frienemy in our homes. By setting appropriate boundaries, modeling appropriate use, and talking about potential dangers, technology can become a huge asset in building strengthening our families in a postmodern world.
For more information about Technology and your Children see Dr. Kimmel’s post – Kids and Technology. Be sure to also read a recent newsletter article and Little House on the Freeway (available in book and audio form).