With summer coming and idle time high for many students, I thought it might be a good time to post this series originally posted in April of last year.  Raising Kids in the Digital Age was a parent seminar we did on our student’s relationship with technology!  No one is immune to this topic…so, as you read, I’m going to go break up the fight between my kids (5 & under) who are arguing over who gets to hold the iPad.

Recently, I was part of a parent workshop on “Raising Kids in the Digital Age”.   Here is recap of that seminar in three parts.

Social media, smartphones, and tablets are a part of the fabric of everyday life for a majority of folks. We  conducted a survey of 70 middle and high school students in our community in regards to their usage.  Here’s a few highlights:

  • 90% of students have a smartphone (93% HS, 86% MS)
  • Use of Social Media grows exponentially from MS to HS
  • 71% of our MS students check Social Media less than 5x a day
  • 70% of our HS students check Social Media more than 5x a day, 50% say they more than 10x a day.
  • Instagram and Snapchat are most popular among our students
  • 35% of students say Facebook is “not so cool anymore”

When asked if they were “addicted” (no definition of ‘addicted’ was given)

  • 54% addicted to cell phone
  • 32% addicted to a social media site
  • 34% addicted to laptop/tablet/computer

When asked if their parents were “addicted”

  • 42% said parents addicted to cell phone
  • 21% said parents addicted to social media
  • 40% said parents addicted to laptop/tablet/computer

This is all best illustrated with this ad:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k0-wD0AoIAY


Now, before we go any further, let’s frame the conversation.  Take a moment to look in the future and imagine the end.  Imagine where your child is going to end up.  In the future, your child is now 18/19 and is no longer under your roof.  They are mostly on their own (though not financially most likely).

How have you prepared them for this moment?
What matters most at this point?
In regards to technology, are their elements of their current behavior that could affect their future?

To get our kids to a healthy place by the time they leave the nest we need a goal.  Might I suggest a simple goal that most of us will agree is worthwhile?

Our goal for our kids is that they become mature, Jesus-following adults. 

We want our kids to grow in wisdom and in relationships.  We want them to live lives that honor Christ, not just simply follow a set of rules or behaviors.

Here’s a great quote to help us think about this:

“Don’t forget the end game:  As parents of teenagers, we are trying to raise adults.  We’re more interested in wisdom than compliance, more interested in responsibility than in high walls of protection, and more interested in healthy parent/teen communication than maintaining a veneer of good appearances.”  – Mark Oestreicher and Adam McLane

So as we start to think about how to deal with the new realities of the digital age, let’s take a quick look at the process of adolescence.  This is where kids are developmentally and has some significant insight into how we regulate or approach this topic.


This is very simplistic, but I’m going to pull out 3 developmental tasks of adolescence that developmental psychology identifies.  In order to become an adult you must work through these 3 tasks:

Identity – Who am I?
Autonomy – What is my power?  Self-sufficiency/self-governing
Belonging – Where do I fit?
(You may have an idea that this process of adolescence ends around 18, but you may surprised to know that many psychologists and developmental experts say that adolescence now extends into the mid-twenties!) 

Think about this process for a minute.  You are trying to answer these questions, which is an isolating task because it’s up to the individual.  At the same time, you are taking in input constantly from family, friends, and authority figures about who you are and/or who you should be.  It’s an interesting dynamic.  Social Media only intensifies this dynamic.  

Again, your child is navigating the teen years trying to answer the above 3 questions.  They are searching Instagram and other forms of social media for validation and answers to these questions.  They are testing the waters of identity by trying on different selves – possibly different selves in different settings.  Many times the online version is different than the real life version as a part of this process.

So, before we move on to pro’s and con’s of technology and how to regulate it’s usage – because I think the above has significant implications on how we consider this whole topic –  think about the following questions:

As you imagine your son or daughter sitting in their college dorm for the first time, what things in regards to the 3 tasks of adolescence do you hope to have communicated?

How do you see usage of technology and social media interacting with these questions?  Is a positive contribution or a negative one?

Consider again the quote by Mark and Adam above, how do we teach wisdom over compliance?  How do we fight the urge to build high walls of protection and instead figure out ways to come alongside our adolescences to give them what they need to become adults?

In the next 2 posts, we will look at the pro’s and con’s of technology and we will also discuss how parents can regulate their kids usage of technology.



Mark and Adam wrote a great book that was a companion for us as we put this presentation together.  You can check it out here:

Here’s a link to the video of part 1 of the session.  It’s broken into 2 parts:
Raising Kids in the Digital Age Part 1 (a)

Raising Kids in the Digital Age Part 1 (b)