Yesterday, Aidan and I were reading about the tobacco trade in the Virginia Colony in the 1700’s. Most Virginians sent their tobacco across the ocean to be sold in England, and most Virginians also continued to do their own shopping in England. They shipped tobacco there, and goods were shipped back to them – things like furniture, fabrics, and even fancy carriages.
Aidan asked, “Mom, how did they know which carriage they wanted? Because they couldn’t just get online and shop for one.” I chuckled to myself as I explained to him that the Virginians had agents back in England to do the shopping for them!
I also started thinking about how different my children’s lives are from my own. I remember my elementary school getting a computer lab – I was in 2nd or 3rd grade, and we had these fancy new Apple IIe’s to use for Word Munchers and basic typing. They used huge floppy disks, and the mouse had not yet been developed. My parents bought our first computer when I was in 7th grade. We used it for games and for typing school assignments. If we wanted to use a different font for a word processing document, we chose the font by pushing a button on our dot-matrix printer (I think it had something like 4 choices!). No one I knew had internet access until my senior year of high school. I went to college pre-facebook and pre-blogging.
Right now I am in the middle of reading Tim Challies’ book The Next Story: Life and Faith after the Digital Explosion. I highly recommend this book to all parents, and really to anyone who uses digital technology! Challies begins the book by explaining that when God commanded Adam and Eve to have dominion over the earth, He was introducing technology. Throughout human history, there has been a quest to create tools to make our task of having dominion over the earth easier – things that help us farm, cook, clean, exchange information, etc. There are many benefits to technology, but each new technology also changes our lives in ways that we might not have anticipated.
For example, the chapter I just finished dealt with distraction. Challies brings up some important points. He fears that our constantly texting/facebooking/blogging/etc. culture has forgotten how to focus on one thing for an extended period of time or how to think deeply. Shallow thinking leads to shallow living. Digital socializing is in general more shallow than face-to-face relationships. Constant bombardment with digital media has led to many of us becoming “skimmers” rather than “readers.” This is fine when it comes to fluff on the internet, but do we skim our Bibles as well?
I haven’t finished the book yet, and I think that some of the best chapters are still to come – information, truth and authority, and visibility and privacy. However, my husband and I have already talked about several implications when it comes to raising kids. Although digital media is a useful tool, we want to keep our boys out of the texting and facebook world until they have learned to read well and analyze what they are reading. We want them to be strong writers before they become strong texters. We don’t want them living a life of constant bombardment by digital media, especially not at the expense of being filled with God’s word.
The bottom line is that technology is not inherently bad or wrong. In many ways, our lives and helped because of it. However, not all of its effects are positive. What are you doing to raise godly children in a digital age? What problem areas do you see? What do you allow/not allow?