We had just reached Sunset Rock, an uphill hike of less than a mile, with a lovely view. As we gazed down at Highlands, looking like “a fairy village” nestled in the trees, I took out my iPhone and snapped a picture.
Immediately, Kate and Lexi wanted me to take a picture of them, walking sticks in hand. “Is it cute?” “Email it to my teacher!” “And then email it to MY teacher!” “Wait, just put it on facebook so everyone can see it.” From the mouth of a six-year-old. And it’s not the first time. “Just text and ask her.” “Are you going to tweet that?” “Did ____ like that picture of me?” and “Can you just pull it up on youtube?” are all things our girls have said more than once.
I wonder sometimes what all of this will mean for them. Even though they have limited screen time with no computers or iPod touches of their own, and certainly no social media accounts, they are so aware of them that whenever that day comes, they will start using them seamlessly.
How can we cultivate humble virtue in a world measured in likes and comments and retweets? How will they learn that doing justice and loving mercy requires more than a link or a mention?
Intentional parenting, particularly being thoughtful about what tools they have access to, and how they use them, is vitally important. I think different families can develop different strategies and boundaries that work, from firm limits to constant monitoring to sending their kids to camp for a month every summer where they are completely unplugged so they are reminded that life goes on (and can be very exciting) far away from little screens.
More than that, I need to set a good example by putting down my phone and focusing on them more throughout the day. Being present in their moments will teach them the value of being present as well. I hope they will learn how to be fully alive in a world that seems to be losing its grip on what is true and good and beautiful and real. I am praying for the wisdom to help them get there.