Christian tablets and cultural engagement

Specialty retailer Family Christian bills the newly released Edifi as the “world’s first Christian tablet." During a recent segment on his satirical news show, Stephen Colbert gave Family Christian a tip of the hat for the tablet. Colbert said he even prefers his electrical outlets to take the shape of a cross, stating that, as a good Christian, “I don’t want AC/DC, only JC."

The Edifi is yet another attempt to add a little bit of Jesus into a sellable product, repackaging it for a niche market desperate to stay protected from the evils of culture. Here, as is often the case, worried parents are a prime demographic.

I am the mom of four kids, ages 14 to 21. I’m well-acquainted with that anxious demographic. Few decisions for our kids - or ourselves - require more discernment than the decisions we make about media. If I’m understanding the Edifi’s features and benefits - especially its "Safe Search Wi-Fi web browsing" - thanks to Family Christian we no longer need to deal with the business of discerning between good and evil because they’ve done the work of guarding our eyes for us. 

Fear is a powerful motivator for marketing. Fear fuels the anxiety we parents share when it comes to raising our kids in a complex culture. It’s tempting to let someone else do the discernment work for us, but this is not what we are called to as parents. We are called to shepherd our children within the culture rather than close them off from the culture in which we live.

This is scary, unpredictable work. And the outcome is not guaranteed. We may give our kids media guidelines and they end up seeing harmful material anyway. Sometimes it feels like the only solution is to restrict all media use, shut out the world and hope for the best. This is what makes Edifi’s safeguards so appealing. 

The story goes that young circus elephants are trained by linking a chain from their rear leg to a stake in the ground. The elephant will walk around that stake in circles trying, but unable, to escape. Eventually the elephant is so conditioned to walk in that rutted circle, he’ll stay there even when the chain is removed and replaced with twine.

This story serves as a cautionary metaphor for the way we train our children. We may set heavy restrictions throughout their childhood, hoping to keep them protected from running outside the boundaries. Our good intentions are to train them to stay in that safe, predictable track after they are no longer under our supervision.

However, unlike sure-fire training methods for circus animals, there are several possible outcomes to this restrictive parenting style for our children. None of them train our families to think, respond, confess, mature or forgive like a Christian. 

In other words, it’s not Edifi’s job to train our kids to use media as a Christian. It’s ours.

And we need all the help we can get. In the past 21 years, my husband and I have learned a few guidelines to protect our children: limiting screen time on weekdays, making sure the whole house is media free a few hours each day, not allowing computers or televisions in the kids’ bedrooms, having shared passwords for all online accounts. The best life lessons we’ve learned, though, have come from the cracks in our guidelines, the opportunities we’ve had to both give and receive grace within the walls of our home.  

The difficult job of shepherding our children to be like Christ is what makes our families, not our technology, Christian.

What Do You Think?

  • Do you see advantages to a product like Edifi or does it shelter Christians in harmful ways?
  • What guidelines for media consumption do you follow, whether for your children or yourself?
  • What are ways to live faithfully as a Christian within the culture at large?

 

Comments (3)

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Great article! I am already trying to frame my thinking on this with my preschoolers. There is so much media coming at them even now. So far my tactics include talking talking talking about everything I see them "ingest." I'd love to see an article with more information on your journey through this parenting quagmire!
Lael, that's a great question. I think talking with them is great, asking questions also great (lets them talk back). As important (if not moreso), modeling discernment in the way that you interact with media. ALSO, surround your kids with other people you respect (even if you don't have the same exact standards/criteria) so they can observe a variety of healthy options. This doesn't mean you have to change your guidelines -- it just broadens everyone's perspective and, over the years, adds fodder to the conversations.
I think the larger framework for this entire conversation about shepherding kids in media (and probably any other area) is community. Any other thoughts?
Tamara, this is great! I love this: "None of them train our families to think, respond, confess, mature or forgive like a Christian."

Oh, Lord help us! As we raise our 3.5 year old and 1 year old, the fear can easily overtake me, wondering all that they'll have to face. We sure need Him.

 

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