Articles on the challenges of technology used to start with a long list of statistics proving the seriousness of the moral, spiritual, relational, and cognitive problems resulting from the digital revolution. I hardly need to waste ink or space on such matters now. Everyone knows by personal experience and observation how many and how massive the problems are. And the vast majority of Christians are concerned enough to want to do something about it. But what can we do?
There are probably a few people left who are still trying the “no technology” approach. They say: “The dangers are too great; the consequences are too awful. Therefore, we’ll keep separate from the world by rejecting technology. We won’t buy it, and we will ban our children from using it, too.”
This approach is admirable and understandable, but impossible. Digital technology is so pervasive that trying to avoid it is like trying to avoid breathing. And even if we succeed in avoiding contamination, our children certainly won’t. They will find it, or it will find them. They will then be using it without our knowledge and without any training and teaching—probably the worst of all worlds.
Other people try the “more technology” strategy. That’s what I used to focus on most, the idea being that we use good technology to defeat bad technology. So, we use blockers on cable TV channels, we set up passwords and time limits on home computers, we add tracking apps to our children’s cell phones, we install accountability software on our laptops, and so on. All of these things are good and can certainly be helpful parts of an overall package of caring for ourselves and our children. There are some problems, though, if we are relying on the “more technology” approach alone. The first is that we can never get enough good technology to beat bad technology. Teens are especially adept at circumventing controls and finding loopholes in the most secure systems. Sure, we can slow them down, we can make it more difficult by putting some obstacles in the way, but if they are determined enough, they are going to beat us. They can always find more technology to beat our “more technology” battle plan.
Also, even if we succeed in securing their devices, as soon as they walk out the door, they can access anything they want on friends’ devices. Or, they can simply get another device and hide it from us. This approach also tends toward legalism and undermines relationships by creating a sort of “cat and mouse” scenario, resulting in suspicion on the one side and hiding on the other. We need more than “more technology.”
(to be continued)
Dr. David Murray is professor of Old Testament and practical theology at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary, pastor of Grand Rapids Free Reformed Church, and author of Christians get Depressed too.
First published in Tabletalk Magazine 01 October 2016, an outreach of Ligonier. https://www.ligonier.org. © Tabletalk magazine. Used with permission