Moderating Our Use of Technology: Part 4

Connected with the Open-Door approach to the Internet and electronics is transparency, which really is the virtue of sincerity.

Transparency is key in marriage and in other family relationships. It shows that we are not afraid that our spouse, parent, or sibling sees us as we really are because we trust that they love us and will remain with us, in good times and in bad, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health until death do us part.”

The Holy Trinity exemplifies this, as Pope Benedict XVI writes: The Trinity is absolute unity insofar as the three divine Persons are pure relationality. The reciprocal transparency among the divine Persons is total and the bond between each of them is complete, since they constitute a unique and absolute unity… Relationships between human beings throughout history cannot but be enriched by reference to this divine model (Caritas in Veritate54).

That kind of total unity and transparency goes with the total intimate union of persons we see among spouses in marriage. Similar transparency or sincerity (although not total) should be found in other family relationships, friendships, as well as school, work, and business relationships, yet the degree of transparency will vary depending on the nature and scope of each relationship.

As part of transparency, spouses should have each other’s phone passcodes, computer and social media account login passwords, etc. This shows that each knows that the other is not hiding anything from the other. Likewise, parents should have that information for each child. As you know, children often discover the information of the parents’ devices so as to unlock and use them.

“Oh, but you don’t trust me,” a child may say to the parent (or one spouse to another), “if you must have my passcode, etc. Do you want to spy on me as you would an enemy?”

The parent can reply, “Oh, but it is you who doesn’t trust me by sharing your passcode, etc. If you did then you would not be afraid to share what you see on your device, and you would know that I wouldn’t overreact to anything I see. Your father/mother and I have always been here for you, supporting and caring for you because we love you. We will continue doing so even if we see something that may disappoint us… and perhaps God too. If you don’t trust me, then you are just using me—and the rest of the family—for your own selfish existence. Is that how you wish to live? If so, then perhaps you need to go off on your own… like the Prodigal Son.”

The virtue of transparency helps each one of us to act in such a way that we are an open book and truly part of each other’s lives. For example, as we are trying to grow as a family in the virtuous use of the Internet, it would be great that every member of the family shares their screen-time settings and usage with everyone else, not just the total usage of the devices but the app usages as well. Someone may be afraid to share that information because that person may feel constrained to change, yet such transparency deepens trust and helps us learn to live for others. It can be especially helpful for children to see how mom and dad are transparent with them and that each one can grow and learn how better live for the others.

Transparency and Monitoring: No one likes to be told what he can and cannot do, especially children. Yet parents and teachers have the vocation to protect their children and guide them to put up safe boundaries and limits that help them develop in virtues, social aptitude, and good work habits. Parents should be included in all communication between the youth-serving adults (such as teachers, coaches, youth ministers, etc.) in a minor child’s life, whether by phone, text, video calls, or other electronic or social media communication. Parents have a right and duty to monitor such communication.

Some Suggestions to Discuss as a Family (or to Set for Oneself): How can we be more transparent with those we love? Am I hiding something from my spouse or from my parents? Am I afraid to admit any addiction or how much time I waste on electronics? Does it benefit my relationships? Is it harmful to my relationships? What should we do if we are ashamed of something we saw or posted? What would show the greatest trust in the relationship we fear losing?

Father John Waiss is the pastor of St. Mary of the Angels Church in Chicago, Illinois. He is also a member of Opus Dei, the prelature founded by St. Josemaria Escriva.