The family can do a lot to cultivate the proper use of internet devices. Yes, we can and should use filters to protect ourselves and our loved ones from inappropriate and offensive sites, but the family culture is even more powerful and effective to avoid letting these devices take over and dominate our lives.
Parents need to set the time and place for using electronics, and then give a good example but living it themselves.
For example, have a common charging area and have everyone put their devices on the charger when they come home. If a child needs to use a device for homework, he will ask mom or dad (or inform them when they are older) before taking a device off the charger and over to the kitchen or dining room table, or a set place of using it for homework.
Decide (and you can do this as a family) where are inappropriate places to use electronics. For example, don’t bring electronics into the bathroom. The bathroom is a private place and we need not let others into our private place, even if only “electronically.” This will avoid a lot of occasions of sin. If we want to read something while doing our private “business,” then use a book or magazine, no screens or cameras.
Also, don’t bring electronics into the bedroom, since the bedroom is meant to be a sacred space where you are alone with God. A married couple also shares their space with each other and with God as the place of their sacrament of love. When brothers share a bedroom, or sisters share a bedroom, God needs to be at the center of their shared sacred space. Bringing electronics into the bedroom distracts us from our conversations and interactions with God and with our loved ones. In a sense, electronic devices can easily become our god when we bring them into our sacred space or take too prominent a place in our lives.
Certainly, the family rule of no phones and electronic devices while sharing a meal with others is good. Yet we need other time where there is play and relaxation with others that is not dominated by electronics.
Have a schedule for use of our electronic devices. In years past, some parents did not allow television during school or workdays, beginning Sunday evening and ending on Friday. Later, parents put such restrictions on computer games and then on other devices. A good rule of thumb is no games or social media in the morning, as it sets the tone for the day; and no electronics at night (after 8pm, for example) as it impacts our sleep.
Have family time planned. Perhaps it is a family movie night when the family watches a movie together. No other electronic devices may be used at that time since this is shared entertainment for all. Perhaps there is time on the weekend to watch a sporting event together, again with no escaping into other electronics.
Some families set up a Ping-Pong or pool table so they can play something with others, challenge each other, play as teams, and have fun interacting with the others. Board games or card games can also be fun to play as a family. If electronic games are used, find ones that require more than one person to play at the same time, or have a competition with a single player game, alternating users (every 5 or 10 minutes) to see who can get the higher score.
In all of this, it is the example of the parents that sets the tone for the whole family. So if you set a rule, make sure you work to exemplify it.
Some Suggestions to Discuss as a Family (or to Set for Oneself)
Where do we put our electronics when we come home? Where can we use electronics? What locations are electronics off-limits?
What schedule do we set for electronics: for work/study; for play and entertainment?
What activities can we do as a family that can create more interactions and joint fun?
By Father John Waiss, pastor of St. Mary of the Angels – 1810 N Hermitage Ave, Chicago, IL