A number of parishes and schools in the archdiocese have been screening a movie called LIKE to parents and students. It documents the problems created by excessive social media use and asks the question “Are you using technology, or is technology using you?” Though this movie raises more questions than it answers, our faith can show the way for those of us who don’t want to be used by technology.
From the Book of Genesis forward, our faith teaches that we need to set aside certain times to make space for God in our lives. With television, computer and phone screens confronting us everywhere we go, and the brightest minds in Silicon Valley and Hollywood devising new ways to catch and hold our attention, we can’t leave our relationship with God or with our families to chance.
The season of Lent provides all of us (parents especially) a golden opportunity to dedicate certain times and spaces in our homes to our relationship with God and one another. Here’s the plan:
Model good behavior
All of us struggle with the distractions presented by technology. We need to model what we are going to ask of our children and our spouse for a few days before we ask them to change their behavior. This helps assure our family that we are not asking them to become Amish.
Make dinnertime sacred
Harvard’s Graduate School of Education finds family dinners reduce the likelihood of depression in children, and numerous studies over the past 20 years document how dinners together strengthen family relationships. However, we only get these benefits if we create the space for conversation at dinner. That means keeping smartphones and tablets away from the table. (You can download and print a foldable table tent with great conversation starters for each week of Lent at NWCatholic.org/tabletent.)
Create a buffer before bedtime
A study by Charles Czeisler of Harvard Medical School found that using electronic devices within the hour before bedtime inhibits healthy sleep patterns, and Dr. Guy Meadows, insomnia specialist at The Sleep School in London, found that we sleep better when smartphones are charged outside of the bedroom. Providing a tech-free buffer around bedtime doesn’t just lead to better sleep. It gives us time to reflect on our day and close it with prayer. A vastly superior alternative to scrolling through social media before bedtime is the rosary. If you don’t know how to pray it, visit NWCatholic.org/rosary for a guide.
Lean into Sunday Mass
Ultimately, problems with social media and other technology stem from unmet needs for relationship. Jesus gave us the Mass to help shape our hearts so we better relate to God and other people. Not only should we go to Mass, we need to approach it with a firm conviction to let the Eucharist transform our intellect, will, imagination and memory. The space we have created at dinnertime and before bedtime affords us more time to talk and time to listen to the voices of our family and the voice of God.
Read the Spanish version of this column.
Northwest Catholic - March 2020
Deacon Eric Paige is the Archdiocese of Seattle's executive director for evangelization, formation and discipleship. Contact him at email@example.com.
El Diácono Eric Paige es el Director para el Matrimonio, la Vida familiar y Formación en la Arquidiócesis de Seattle. Pueden contactarle en: firstname.lastname@example.org.