Technology and Teens: How to Be a Resource Parents
by Amy Diller

A number of years ago, our church invited Brian Housman, author of Tech Savvy Parenting and creator of Screen Smarts, to speak at a family conference. We were blown away by the number of parents, grandparents, and volunteers who came to hear what he had to say. But we shouldn’t have been surprised.

One of the biggest issues in raising kids today is setting healthy boundaries around screen time. Parents love their kids and want to do what’s best for them. They know having rules in this area is very important, but they don’t always know the why, the when, and the how. For this reason, your godly support in these areas is invaluable.

Following are some things to consider as you assist parents in navigating the world of technology with their kids.


Share the Why

Information regarding screen time and kids abounds. We’ve all heard that rules need to be in place once kids begin using devices, but it’s really easy for parents (and us as leaders) just to wing it instead of being proactive about it. It’s important for parents to know why a detailed plan is good and necessary. Technology is a wondrous tool used wisely, but it affects kids negatively in the absence of boundaries. Important reasons for having rules are that they encourage healthy brain development that can be hindered when screen use is left unchecked, they help reduce the amount of exposure to dangerous and inappropriate content, and they lower the chance of kids being targeted by bullies or predators. The best approach is one that addresses safety rules and teaches positive ways for kids (and their adults) to interact with screens.


Share the When

It is never too early for parents to create boundaries for screen time. Before the time a child is a preschooler, it’s extremely likely that they’ve already interacted with devices. Videos and learning games are often used to keep very young children entertained and distracted. Parents need to know that establishing boundaries starts even at this early age. Limiting screen time for wee ones is crucial. As children get older, the rules should be revisited often and revised to address increased time and exposure to screens. Encourage parents to think about ages/developmental stages for considering giving kids their own devices ahead of time. It’s easier to set some guidelines now to affect decision-making later. 


Share the How

The area where parents struggle the most is how to create a technology plan. They want to have rules for their family but often don’t know where to begin with the process. This is where your assistance is most practical. Making examples of plans and templates readily available to guide them through the process offers a framework for parents to follow. Ministry to Parents has a Toolbox resource called “Family Technology Plan At-Home Kit” you can give out to your families. Use your own resources as well, like websites, blog articles, and books you discover as you look into this issue more carefully. Find families with kids of different ages who have technology plans in place and who are willing to connect with those who want guidance.

As you work with moms and dads in this area of need, remember to also have policies in place in your spaces to address the use of technology and to model a thoughtful approach. It’s important for there to be guidelines for yourself and volunteers, too. Adults who are modeling devices used thoughtfully and with boundaries communicate to kids far more through actions.

Devices in infants through preschoolers and younger elementary classrooms are not at all necessary. Interaction with other children and adult leaders is time well spent as it encourages healthy development. With older elementary kids, it becomes a bit of a different issue. Parents have differing rules for their kids, so it’s always best to err on the side of caution. Consider instituting device-free zones for children while they’re in your care. Another option is to designate a spot to ‘park’ devices during class time. A positive example to establish is by using your tech with limits in place. It’s healthy for us to have boundaries, too, and is always a great way to model appropriate behavior and reinforce why rules are important for all ages. Make sure you keep your parents well-informed about your technology plans for kids while at church. 

I’ll admit that earlier in my role as a children’s director at our church, I wasn’t very thorough when it came to rules for technology. If a problem came up, I dealt with that incident, but I didn’t have widespread rules in place. Then, something happened that prompted me to institute definitive boundaries. One of our fourth-grade girls usually brought her cell phone with her to class. I decided to address the issue by asking her to park her phone by our computer during lesson and small group time, but I made the mistake of allowing her to use it during free time. One day, I noticed her and a few friends getting ready to record a TikTok video. I was able to intervene, and after that situation, I didn’t waste any time deciding on a definitive plan in the spaces I oversaw.

If tackling technology is something you’ve already worked through and created a plan for, I applaud you. If you, like me, haven’t been as proactive as you could be, I encourage you to start where you are, even if that means you have to do some backtracking to implement stricter rules. Share the same sentiments with the parents you influence. Keep cheering them on and challenging them in loving ways. 

Parents (and church leaders, too) want to do the best they can for the children entrusted to them. Becoming a trusted support person is a vital role for anyone who serves families. As technology morphs and advances, the parents in our ministries will appreciate any help we can give to keep them informed, as well as encouragement to keep following through with their rules at home.