In my last post, I wrote briefly on the importance of the development of virtue and concluded that post by saying that it would have implications for the iPad. Our use of technology and the development of virtue can be at odds with one another. I have read a few books on the impact technology is having on us as humans and there is ample reason for us to be concerned. This post is an amalgamation of what I have learned from these authors into 10 principles for the wise use of technology in our home.
First, let me try to summarize the top tech books I have read in the past couple of years into one brief sentence each.
Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business by Neil Postman. Here's my one sentence takeaway (OST), the more absorbed in Tech (constant flow of images) a person becomes, the less words (logic, meaning, truth) begin to matter and the less able they become to reasonably interact with things of substance.
Everything Bad is Good for You: How Today's Popular Culture is Actually Making Us Smarter by Steven Johnson. My OST, some technology, including some video games, are actually making our kids better problem solvers and more apt in dealing with complexity. The popular game Minecraft is an example.
The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains by Nicholas Carr. My OST, Mediums for gaining knowledge inherently shape us into their image. Books require sustained effort and creative thought while the internet encourages "the rapid, distracted sampling of small bits of information from many sources." The more tech we use the more prone we are to scanning and skimming, thereby losing our capacity for concentration, contemplation, and reflection.
Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age by Sherry Turkle. My OST, Technology is inhibiting true human connection and conversation "at work, at home, in politics, and in love, we find ways around conversation, tempted by the possibilities of a text or an email in which we don’t have to look, listen, or reveal ourselves."
The Tech-Wise Family: Everyday Steps for Putting Technology in Its Proper Place by Andy Crouch. My OST, 10 practical chapters on how to use/limit tech in a healthy, human way while living out a Christian worldview.
Everything I have read thus far has emphasized how damaging the extended use of technology is upon children, especially in their early developmental years. This is tough for parents to hear because we know how easy and tempting it is to give a kid an iPad or turn on Netflix so that we can get some things done around the house without them clinging to our legs. But if we want to raise virtuous kids, who have the ability for substantive sustained thought, we must not hamstring them by hijacking their brains with a constant flow of entertaining images for hours a day. Thus, moderating our kids tech use can actually help us develop virtue as well. So without further ado, here are my families 10 principles for the wise use of technology in our home.
What do you think? Have we missed something?
First off, let me begin by saying that I think that God wants us to be happy. In fact, I preached a whole sermon series on this topic last year and you can find that here. God is happy and He created us to glorify Him and enjoy Him (Find Him Happifying) forever. That means chasing happiness is a large part of what it means to be human. But our immediate personal happiness isn't everything. In fact, there's a lot more to life that just seeking happiness. Don't we also want to be people of virtue? Now, I realize that the word virtue is not used very much today. But I think it needs to be.
Virtue (n.) 1. Moral excellence; right living; goodness. 2. A particular type of moral excellence. 3. A good quality or feature. 4. Purity, chastity. 5. Effectiveness.
Plato and the Greek Philosophers formulated the four virtues of Justice, Wisdom, Courage, and Self-Control/Temperance into what they called the "cardinal" virtues from the Latin word for "hinge." Meaning all other virtues hinge on these four. These virtues are extolled throughout the New Testament as righteous and embodied in the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus was more than happy, He was righteous and good. Catholic Philosopher Peter Kreeft says, "Virtue is simply health of soul."
This leads me to ask, can a person be happy in a unjust, foolish, apathetic, and materialstic culture? If you didn't catch that, those were the antithesis to the four cardinal virtues also known as vices. Honestly, I think the answer to this question is yes, for a little while. But eventually the failure to develop virtue will destroy our own happiness and the happiness of others. As Proverbs 18:6 says, "A fool's lips walk into a fight, and his mouth invites a beating." Foolishness is fun, until it isn't.
Therefore, We want to be more than happy, we want to be virtuous. Now I want to apply this observation to one specific area of our lives, Parenting. Our kids will be ruling the world some day. They will be leading our government, businesses, academic and religious institutions, and of course their own families. Will they have the virtue necessary for such tasks? My contention is this, if we base our parenting around the unilateral goal of their happiness they will not be prepared, virtue will go undeveloped, and in fact our children will eventually be desperately unhappy. As a Father of four, this thought is leading me to reevaluate some of our family practices. I want to raise more than happy kids. My wife and I want to raise virtuous kids. The question is, Are we creating an environment in our home that values the development of virtue over personal immediate happiness?
And yes, this will have implications upon the iPad.