Boundaries are a good thing! In their proper perspective, they are freeing, not binding. In the following article, Rhett Smith shares some practical boundaries concerning technology that can be wise and useful tools in how we approach technology personally and in our families.
After personally having a “Tech Sabbath” yesterday, I feel very refreshed and ready to move on into the coming week. Read more about a technology sabbath below.
The following article is re-posted, with permission, from Rhett Smith, MDIV, MSMFT, LMFT who is a counselor, speaker, and author. You can check out Rhett’s website here. His latest book is called “The Anxious Christian”. It is available at major booksellers.
5 Simple Boundaries for the Technology in Your Life
Technology is probably the one topic that I have been asked to speak on more times in the last 7 years than any other topic. We live in a technological saturated culture, and it’s hard to find people whose lives haven’t been impacted by the prevalence of social media. I would estimate that approximately 70% of the couples who come in to see me for counseling have had an issue with the use of technology and social media in their marriage. Whether it was an affair that started on Facebook, secretive texting with another person, or an addiction to pornography, technology is an issue that we are having to think through more thoroughly than ever before. There are lots of things we could discuss, but let me just communicate 5 simple boundary ideas that you could experiment with, and possibly employ in your life and household.
- Time Limits: Set a time limit for the amount of time you spend online on your computer, the amount of time you play with your phone, etc. If you don’t have time limits in place, you can easily get consumed by the technology. Placing time limits on technology allows you to be in control, and not the other way around. There are various tools (web apps – such as Rescue Time) that can help you do this. Plus you can control time limits from your computer server. Setting limits can also signal to your spouse that they, rather than the technology, are more important to you.
- Physical (Basket, Car, Closet, etc.): Find some physical thing such as a basket, your car, or a closet to put all of your technological items in at some point in the day. The physical place is a reminder to set your stuff aside. It not only reminds you, but it reminds your family as well. It also serves as a symbol to you, your family, etc, that they are more important than the technology that so often gets in the way of relationships. They can look over at the basket and be reminded of the family’s priorities. Have you ever looked over at your spouse while they were on Facebook and wondered, I wish they would get off that thing and connect with me? You can set physical boundaries in a variety of ways, but what works well for me is that we have a tray that I put my phone and computer and other tech items in every night when I walk in the door. Those items remain in that tray unless I may need them for some reason, but it has to be a good reason…not just browsing or killing time. (Check out this video of me talking about the tech basekt — 60 Second Solutions: The Tech Basket ). More recently I’ve been leaving my phone and computer in my car in the garage when I come home. One family I know has everyone put their laptops and phones in their basket every night at 9pm, and no one can access the basket till 8am the next morning. Author John Dyer has a good post about this, Why You Need A Technology Basket At Home.
- Tech Sabbath (Various Rhythms): I am always reminded that God created the earth in six days and then rested on the seventh day. There was a rhythm of work and rest in his life, yet we seldom feel the need to model this example, instead working or being plugged in all seven days. I think that an important boundary people can set in relation to their technology is a sabbath. One day a week…Five to six days a month…Two to three weeks a year…where you are unplugged. A sabbath is a reminder to us that our life is not dictated by work or technology, but that it is a life given unto God, rather than the tools we use. I believe everyone should have at least one day a week where they don’t get online, check email, Twitter, FB, blog, etc. Most people can do this. It’s rare that you have to/must check email everyday. Experiment with different rhythms, but setting time aside to be unplugged is not only restorative for you, but a great model to your family.
- Ask Others (Galatians 5:22-23): My favorite professor in seminary said to our class one day, “If you really want to know if I’m someone who lives out the fruit of the spirit that Paul talks about in Galatians, then ask my family who lives with me everyday…don’t take my word for it.” We often have a false sense of reality. I may think that I’m good with establishing boundaries with my technology, but that may not really be the case. The people who would really know would be my wife, my friends, my children, my co-workers, etc. Go to your spouse, friend, etc. and ask them, “Give me an honest assessment about my use of technology. Do I have healthy boundaries? Am I on my phone too much? Does my use of technology get in the way of our relationship?” Don’t take your word for it. Ask others.
- Strive for Face to Face: When at all possible, strive to meet, talk with your spouse face to face. If you can talk face to face, rather than text…do that. If you can sit down over coffee, rather than email, then do that. Anytime you have the opportunity to meet face to face, take the opportunity.
I hope these 5 simple ideas are ones that can help you begin to think more thoughtfully on the use of technology in your life and the life of your family. If you have other ideas that work for you or your family, please let me know.
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