Rhett Smith 101: Parenting in the Age of Smart Phones and Social Media

One of the most prevalent topics that I come across in my counseling and when I’m speaking, is the topic of technology and relationships. Specifically, the technology of the smart phone/iPad/computer…but usually the smart phone. And along with this technology there is typically a conversation around the online tools that are used with it…mostly, social media (i.e. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, etc.).

And the reason these topics come up so often is because so many people find themselves with an unhealthy relationship to their technological devices which often impact their relationships. I spend a lot of time helping couples navigate their technological devices and how it’s impacted their relationships, and talking through how to put proper boundaries on it. But one area of life that I think can be the most challenging for people is trying to know how to parent kids in an age of the smart phone and social media. Not a week passes where I’m not working with a teenager who is struggling with pornography (and it’s not just boys who are dealing with this), or a teenager who has sexted or shared some nude image via text to a person or a group of people. This is a huge issue and I think most parents believe this will never be a challenge they have to face…and then inevitably they are sitting across from me in my office with this challenge.

I really feel for not only parents, but kids growing up in a world with instant access to not only some amazing things, but some of the darkest things on the internet. And so knowing how to parent in these times can be confusing and overwhelming.

I have spent the last 22 years working with kids and their families in both the church and clinical setting, and from about 2003-2013 I would often do workshops and seminars, and speak at conferences on the role of technology in our lives. In fact, my first time to have something published in a book was in 2008 when I wrote a chapter on Facebook and Youth Ministry for the book, The New Media Frontier: Blogging, Vlogging, and Podcasting for Christ. But probably my deepest understanding of the role of technology in our lives came when I met my good friend John Dyer. John is one of the most brilliant thinkers I know on technology, and especially from a theological/psychological/philosophical perspective, and we had the opportunity to team up and do some workshops together. So I owe a great debt to him, and you will hear about that in this episode.

In this episode:

  • I discuss how technology is neutral (neither good nor bad), but how it shapes us regardless of it’s use.
  • I discuss how to think through how technology will impact you when you bring it into your house (i.e. giving your kid a smart phone, using social media, etc.)
  • I discuss the various ways parents have tried to parent when it comes to technology.
  • I discuss the various tools parents have used in parenting with regard to technology.
  • I discuss what some potential steps might look like when you are thinking about allowing your kids to have a technological device (i.e. smart phone, iPad, computer), and to use social media.

Link to Episode 101

Resources and People Mentioned in this Episode

John Dyer
Adam McClane
From the Garden to the City: The Redeeming and Corrupting Power of Technology by John Dyer
A Parent’s Guide to Understanding Social Media by Adam McClane
It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens by Danah Boyd
Right Click: Parenting Your Teenager in a Digital Media World by Art Bamford and Kara Powell
Disconnected: Parenting Teens in a MySpace World by Chap Clark
HURT: Inside the World of Today’s Teenagers by Chap Clark
Covenant Eyes
Safe Eyes (no longer available)
Life360
Open DNS

You can also check out Episode 24 of my podcast where I talk about, How Technology Shapes Us, Informs our Identity, and Some Boundaries We Can Implement As We Use It (also check out all the links in the show notes)

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