Technology Vs The Spiritual Life …

Comment: 

Some parents try to put off the day when their offspring are allowed smartphones and thus unsupervised access to the internet. This, however, can cause bad feeling and cultivate rebellious attitudes in the young towards their concerned parents. And once they reach the older teenage years, it really isn’t possible to ban things, not when the youngster has a job or unthinking relatives who buy them technological presents for birthdays and Christmas.   

Having established a routine of family prayer and spiritual reading, some parents have witnessed a weakening of their children’s faith, which, rightly or wrongly, they blame on the technological craze.  If a teenager prefers YouTube to spiritual reading, that’s a problem, they argue.  

What’s the answer?  

21 responses

  1. I find it strange that some parents want to keep their children from using smartphones etc when they use them themselves. Whatever happened to good example?

    Some people seem to think that technology is a good thing that can be used for good or it is a bad thing that shouldn’t be used at all, whereas it is a neutral thing that can be used either for good or bad.

    Surely, if children are taught how to use technology properly, it should not take away from their prayer time or spiritual reading time? It would have to be a very stupid person, young or old, who spends all their time on technology and thinks they can dispense with prayer and spiritual reading as a result of their misuse of technology. It’s no use blaming technology – an intelligent person will use technology judiciously, carefully, not let it rule their lives.

    If they do let it rule their lives and they don’t pray or read to nurture their spiritual lives, then that is a serious sin, no doubt about it.

    • Michaela,

      I know of a parent who doesn’t want her children having smartphones but needs one herself – e.g. her children belong to sports clubs where the system is to contact parents by text when there is a change of plans, sometimes caused by unforeseen circumstances. So, that’s hardly “bad example”. Indeed, in order to set her children good example she initially said that she wouldn’t buy a smartphone, but then one of her siblings gave her one (at upgrade stage!) and so, with a view to using it only for real need situations, she accepted it.

      In theory, yes, of course, if children are teachable and agree to use the technology sparingly, that’s fine, but human nature (and age-immaturity) being what it is, and with more “challenging” children – which is the current euphemism in education for children who can be disobedient/difficult! – then it’s not quite so easy.

      My own gut feeling is …

      I’ll finish that sentence when I read the responses of others 😀

  2. My boys came of age before the era of smartphones, but I made the mistake of allowing them to play video games (Nintendo, then computer games), which became a substitute for childhood, an addiction, and a lack of preparation for adulthood. As for spiritual pursuits, I was missing in action, and so they were as well.

    I think the problem is the misuse of technology in general, not just phones, and I think technology is misused by adults even more than by children. Even something you might not suspect contributes to excessive preoccupation with worldliness and spiritual amnesia: keeping up with the crisis in the Church, and politics.

    Following up on that recent realization, I decided to cut way back on my internet reading: during the week I restrict myself to Lifesite News, CT, our local newspaper, and a conservative website called The American Thinker. Lo and behold, I find myself in a much calmer frame of mind, which is a much better platform from which to pray and read spiritual books.

    In other words, for adults, the misuse of technology stokes anger – from both sides of the aisle – and clouds the intellect. And for those not already trapped in vice, anger opens the door to other vices. I would address this problem by heavily restricting technology on all fronts: both for adults as a self-discipline, and for children as a parental discipline.

    • RCA Victor,

      I’ve heard parents bemoan the computer games as well – they really seem to be addictive.

      I’m honoured that you kept CT on your reduced list of internet sites to keep up with Church news – that’ll help to keep me on my toes and make sure I’m keeping this blog up to date!

      I must say, though, that we shouldn’t allow the Church crisis to make us angry (except in the “cold” sense – justifiable anger, not temper anger) because, in fact, we are really privileged to be able to see the truth of what is going on and that is a grace from God. I’m sure you know that, but in case others are less sure, I’m throwing that in for good measure.

  3. It is a difficult situation for parents especially as their children become teenagers. My grandsons (5 and 6 years old) would love to spend all their free time in front of screens but their parents enforce a ‘no screens after 5’pm’ rule so mealtimes, prayer time and bedtime are not interrupted. I live in a small village where there are a good number of children and it is rare to see them playing out on the green or on the playing fields. I guess they are in front of screens. Doing what?
    It really is down to making and keeping sensible rules. The internet can be a great force for good if carefully used ( we could not have this blog without it) but also a site for great evil with trolling and stalking etc. I am glad it was not an issue when my sons were teenagers!
    With the exception of the blog I would not see the internet as a useful spiritual aide, much more likely to turn to books for that, but I suppose there are good things there if one looks carefully.

    As an other matter, please can I ask your prayers for the repose of the soul of a beloved cousin of mine? She left the Church many years ago through an irregular marriage situation. Her sister, who is a devout Anglican, brought in her vicar to anoint her, and my cousin, on her deathbed, got great peace from that and died with a cross in her hand. We must trust in the mercy of God and pray for her soul.

    • Elizabeth,

      You make a very important point about the lack of children out playing in the fresh air. Of course, that won’t just be due to “screens” but the fear that has grown up around all the reported cases of child abduction/paedophiles etc. I think parents tend to be too protective these days. Having said that, when I’m out with my 6 year Great Niece, as I was today, I all but keep her chained to me, calling her to my side the minute I realise she’s moved away. It’s really a shame but just the thought of her being grabbed and taken away, like little Jamie Bulger, is terrifying and I think that is one reason why parents are perhaps allowing so much screen activity for younger children.

      I totally agree with you about the importance of “making and keeping sensible rules.” Absolutely. It’s just a pity that all the parents in a particular circle of friends can’t agree those rules – it would make disciplining teenagers much easier. I recall a colleague of mine, some years ago, making us all laugh with stories of her rebellious teenage daughter. One day, when I asked her for an update, she sighed and said “to sum up, the two people I hate most in this world are Everybody and Nobody … Everybody else gets to do X… Nobody else has to do Y … Priceless!

  4. I do sympathise with parents over this issue – and I agree that applying sensible rules is all that any parent can really do.

    I like the idea of keeping the evening free from screens but wonder if it would work with teenagers. Still, I agree with the principle and it’s something to think about.

    • MM,

      I think if such rules as keeping evenings free are applied early enough in the teen years, it could work – perhaps older would require some negotiating.

      In which case, we’d need to get the UK Brexit team on the job (sarcasm being the lowest form of whit… at least SOME of the time 😀 )

  5. I’m thinking I should have added this prayer to the martyr whose feast is today (St Oliver Plunkett) for young people who are in danger of being addicted to the internet (or anything else).

    PRAYER TO ST OLIVER PLUNKETT

    Glorious martyr, Saint Oliver Plunkett,
    who willingly gave your life for the faith,
    help us also to be strong in our faith.

    By your intercession and example
    may all hatred and bitterness be banished
    from the hearts of men and women.
    May the peace of Christ reign in our hearts
    as it did in your heart, even at the moment of your death.
    Amen

  6. I don’t think technology is harmful for young people per se, rather I think the problem is that parents are to willing to give their children technology but are too lazy to supervise them when they use it. It’s a bit like giving a child a knife to play with and leaving them unsupervised.

    • Miles Immaculatae,

      I don’t know if you have children or not, but I suspect not because people without children generally think that it’s a dawdle to “supervise” their use of technology. It’s not. Young people are not naturally obedient, and they sometimes very wilfully go against their parents’ instructions.

      My own major concern is Facebook which I really do not like. Some parents have come to know things about their own children from other Facebook users, not directly from their child because everything in their lives goes on that site as soon as it happens, almost. Not everyone wants to be on Facebook and the parents I know who are not on Facebook feel like second rate citizens because other people, relatives and friends, are telling them information from Facebook about their kids.

      Facebook is known to have broken up marriages and, as I say, I know of parents whose kids are not only addicted to it, but have become so detached from their home life that they post news about themselves on Facebook that their parents don’t even know.
      https://www.letstalkrelations.com/why-facebook-damaged-many-relationships.html

      I understand there’s very little that anyone can do about it these days, as technology has taken a hold on everyone, especially the young, but I think it is very damaging indeed. Phones used to be only for contacting other people, business or social calls – now it’s a ruling force in nearly everyone’s life. I can’t see how that will help the spiritual life of young Catholics.

  7. Excellent comment from Nicky. Smartphones are made to be addictive, there is reported to be over 80% of people in the U/K own or have access to a smartphone,where is this leading?
    A “smart” lady in Canada has the answer but few people would be able or have the willpower to do.
    Fidelis.
    Thanks for posting the above video.

    • John,

      That video is chilling but I doubt very much if everyone will do away with their smartphones. As you say, few people would have the willpower to do so. I do agree with her about the sinister agenda behind enslaving us to smartphones. It is very frightening.

    • John,

      I agree with Anonymous – that video is chilling but should come as no surprise to any of us.

      I’m very glad that I made a firm decision years ago never to have a smartphone. I don’t have one and I will never buy one. I have a mobile phone so that I can make and receive calls and text (if forced to do so – hate texting!) but never a smartphone.

      I feel the same way about Facebook and Twitter- I think in the years to come we’ll see how all of this technology has been, and is being, used to control us, in one way or another.

  8. Anonymous & editor

    How many times have we we all walked into a cafe and most of the customers are on their smartphones.
    Young ladies especially, On one occasion recently all four ladies at the same table were not talking to each other and we’re all just staring at their phones.

    As you say it does not come as a surprise to any of us which is a tiny minority, but if you ask any of your friends and acquaintances who are probably ” clued up” if they would be willing to give up their smartphones I would be amazed if more than one agreed. 📞 💡 🙆

  9. For all the rubbish on TV, social media, youtube etc,there is worthwhile content too – educational, Christian etc.

    I love listening to Gregorian Chant / Catholic Hymns on youtube for example, which is an excellent resource and for free.

    My kids are too young for high-tech stuff, but I think the answer probably lies more in equipping young people to use discretion and seek out only that which is wholesome, more than it does trying to keep them away from modern technology.

    Of course, parents must always be vigilant and while properly forming a young persons own conscience is key, there are additional helps such as various parental controls to avoid certain content, or adult themes more generally. (Though this can backfire, as I learned when my TV once refused to let me watch an episode of a WW2 submarine based drama, because I could not remember a 4 digit pin number). But it’s a small price to pay!

    Having clear rules and managing expectations is also helpful, in terms of having limited access per day to play video games, or browse online, or skype friends or whatever. Young people are apt to become addicted to these things which can have serious effects of their life. For example, South Korea says it has 680,000 youths aged between 10 and 19, who are addicted to video gaming. People can become recluses if their life revolves around video games, and health and relationships can suffer.

    And of course, limiting technology means more time for other pursuits – prayer, study, spending time with family and friends, sports, reading, etc.

    It also pays to consider *where* young people can use technology. It should be in family rooms, not hidden away. I have heard a priest talking about how having a PC based in a family room – instead of say, a bedroom – can be of help to its users in avoiding temptation to use it for bad purposes (such as internet pornography for example).

    And although I had a portable TV in my bedroom as a teenager, (as did, I think, my wife), we are both firmly against the same for our children. That is not to be hypocritical, but to recognise both how ill advised it is (having been over the course personally) and also how a lot of TV output continues to degenerate (even since my own youth) and promote all kinds of rubbish.

    • Gabriel Syme,

      I take it from your post here that you haven’t watched the video posted by John.

      I suggest you do – asap. Well before you introduce your lovely girls to smartphones.

      I’ve had a gut reaction against them from the start and I’m very pleased that I have not been tempted to buy one. I have a mobile which allows me to make and take calls and texts, but that’s it. Having watched the video “I know how we can hurt them” my determination never to have a smartphone is now renewed.

      I hope you can find time to view the video because I’d love to read your thoughts on it.

      As for your post in general – while it always sounds reasonable to not want to “ban” anything but to encourage moderation in young people, I’ve witnessed for myself how difficult it is for the conscientious parent to do that. Once they are introduced to laptops and the rest, it’s extremely difficult to get young people to switch them off, and I’ve heard the “experts” say in news reports/discussions that so much of technology is causing family friction. I’m glad I’m not a parent. Being a friend and relative respectively of parents struggling with this problem, has been an eye-opener.

  10. I pray the 91st Psalm over my children daily. The strongest prayer is saying back to God what he has already said in His Word regarding our lives. “So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth; it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.” Isaiah 55:11 (KJV)*

    Editor: from Douay Rheims – “So shall my word be, which shall go forth from my mouth. It shall not return to me void, but shall do whatsoever I please and shall prosper in the things for which I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:11 Douay Rheims)

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