For generations, parents have told their kids, “Shut off the TV and go outside!” And in the last decade or so, we can add iPods, the Internet, cell phones and video games to the “Turn it off!” list as well.
But a recent study from The Barna Group (a Christian research and polling firm) suggests that kids aren’t the only ones who might need to unplug. Barna’s researchers found that parents actually spend as much time consuming entertainment media and surfing the Internet as their children do. In addition, parents spend more time emailing and talking on their phone than their kids. Considering that the 2010 Kaiser Family Foundation study found youth ages 8 to 18 spend about seven-and-a-half hours a day engaged with media (and a couple more hours total when multitasking is included), that’s a lot of time for both groups to be enmeshed in entertainment options of varying sorts—and probably not engaging with each other.
I wouldn’t have guessed parents had become so dependent on technology. Nor would I have predicted another finding of this study, titled “The Family & Technology Report.” A significant percentage of family members would welcome the church’s help when it comes to integrating family time with media, entertainment and technology. Forty-two percent of adults and 33% of youth say they would accept coaching in this area.
And all this made me wonder if David Kinnaman, Barna’s president doesn’t have an excellent point:
“Perhaps technology should be added to discussions about [Christian] stewardship. Technology is as old as craftmans’ tools. But today’s digital and emerging technologies are in a different class than hundreds of other hobbies or interests because they have come to significantly define the use of time, the development of talent, and the allocation of money. Technology is shaping family interactions in unprecedented ways, but we seem to lack a strategic commitment to the stewardship of technology. The Christian community needs a better, more holistic understanding of how to manage existing and coming technological advances. Parents, tweens and teens need more coaching and input in order to face the countless choices they make regarding how technology affects their attention, interests, talents and resources.”