First Third Conversations

Stewarding the Other "T"

A blog post by Tim Coltvet

Image Credit: iPad and iPhone by Sean MacEntee on Flickr

Time, talents, treasures, and...Technology?

How my fifth grade son has become so adept at typing may not surprise you. Playing Minecraft and a host of other online games has him punching the keyboard like a rag-time piano player. Building fictitious worlds and kingdoms, communicating with other gamers, fingers flying on the keyboard…quite frankly, I am impressed!

That being said, I do have moments of pause when I think of how my time allotment to a first generation Nintendo gaming system (as a child) is worlds away from the 24/7 technology-wrapped culture that we live in now. Pew research has struck fear into today’s parents with the overwhelming number of hours (not minutes) per day that our children engage a screen or media of some sort.

No doubt, there is a lot of time spent engaging technology in today’s world, and parents are navigating new frontiers without a manual, like so many aspects to parenting. There are great resources like the book Digital Habitats: Stewarding Technology for Communities (http://technologyforcommunities.com) that begin to map out the emerging world with helpful language and metaphors for our experiences.

One of the traps of the overwhelming information about technology is polar thinking. Sometimes, with the full-time press of parenting issues coming one’s way, we fall into unhelpful paradigms of good and evil, bad and good. Depending on the day, technology can get the thumbs up (helpful on a research project for school, great stimulus for a bored child and worn out parent) or thumbs down (turns my kid into a zombie, brings out the worst in all of us, it’s evil).

Technology and technological advances, like everything else, represents a dialectical tension. Finding the bright side to this gift can be easily overlooked, as the dark side often is dehumanizing and destructive in nature. As we venture into lifting up the redeeming qualities, we quickly find that there are substantial and commendable ways that the human family is fostering healthy community and generous hearts as we enter holiday seasons of giving and giving thanks!

There are countless apps that are emerging that are actually oriented towards being good stewards in the world. Earlier this year, I discovered Charity Miles (www.charitymiles.org), an app created that helps one support selected charities every time one walks, runs, or bikes. Another app is Instead (www.instead.com). As they say on the app, “micro donations macro impact.” This can happen by making small changes in your everyday routines and redirecting the money you may have spent mindlessly (believe me, I do it often) to something that you truly believe in.

So, for all the challenges parents and families may face regarding technology, there are clearly stewardship opportunities before us. As we wonder how young people will be catching the spirit of giving and making the world a better place,  we may want to leverage the gifts of technology for the good of the whole!

So, in milieu of a busy and crowded holiday season, how do we navigate this world as parents who are stewards of technology? Here’s a few suggestions:

  • As mentioned from the outset, kids (and adults) are spending more time in front of screens than ever before. Set limits. Perhaps, have a media box or tray to store devices when having meals or a much needed cyber-break. Ultimately, each family/household has to find a sense of balance for adults and kids!
  • Just as importantly, have fun watching what your kid(s) are so adeptly doing and enter their world and perceptions. Discover why particular media draws them in and colors their imagination and curiosity. Part of your role is to come alongside and discover where they are making meaning in their lives.
  • Explore technology together. Rather than always following your child to the next technological wave, invite your child into discovering helpful habits in the digital habitat. Download the apps mentioned above or start on a journey of exploration in giving in your own way. Giving can and will go viral, so invite others into the conversation!

Making a difference in the world requires us to share all of our gifts. May we be surprised by the generous hearts and souls that pass along blessings through the ever-evolving gift of technology!

Author Bio:
Rev. Tim Coltvet is the Coordinator of Contextual Learning and Coaching for the Children, Youth, and Family Ministry Master's degree at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, MN. He is a pastor who loves his call to walk alongside seminary students as they are learning in context. He has served at two vibrant ELCA parishes in the Twin Cities and enjoys helping congregations shape Children, Youth, and Family Ministries.

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