Category Archives: Thoughts from the Office

Winning the iPad War: Parenting Tips for Kids’ Technology Use this Summer

Summer is upon us! Baseball and bike rides. Swimming and scooters. Shooting hoops and hide and seek with neighbors. Ice cream, sun tea and watermelon! IPads and videos games! Wait…WHAT??

Some parents are singing praises and hallelujahs due to freedom from homework and school responsibilities. Other parents are lamenting the lack of schedule and routine those very things bring. But one thing nearly all parents seem to agree on is the challenge and difficulty managing their children’s technology use presents. Let’s be honest. Trying to set and maintain boundaries around use of technology can set off World War 3 in some homes. And the battle only intensifies when there is more free time for a young one to manage. The dangers of too much tech are bigger and go beyond an inactive child laying about the house. Too much tech negatively impacts mood, brain development, and social skill development just to name a few. (For more information on how technology impacts children and teenagers, click here. And to watch my talk on Discipleship in the Digital World, click here.)

So before summer begins to slip away, here are some tips and tricks for setting up success in managing technology in the home with  children.

First of all, it is right and reasonable to set limits. Technology is a privilege. It is not abusive to take it away or to limit it in any way. I’ve frequently had parents express sadness and dismay at the constant battles they have with children over technology. Parents grow weary of always being the “bad guy” who says no to requests to play video games or watch videos on the iPad.

But fighting the constant battles and being willing to continue to say no may be the most loving thing you do as a parent.


So don’t be afraid to set limits (even with teenagers) and to stick to them! Keeping the wireless router in a locked room and frequently changing wireless and device passwords are two ways to make managing tech usage more manageable.

Second, make screen time something that must be earned each day instead of an expectation of every day. Although the relaxed schedule of summer is often a welcomed relief from the rigidity of the school year, children still need routine. Develop a daily schedule that must be followed and expectations that must be met before any technology time is earned. Below is an example:

Daily Routine Before Tech:

  1. Get dressed and ready for the day.
  2. Make bed, eat breakfast, and complete your daily chore.
  3. Be creative for 20 minutes (draw, build with legos, play pretend).
  4. Read or practice math facts for 20 minutes.
  5. Play outside for an hour.

Completing the routine does not need to guarantee tech time. Remember, it is still a privilege and not a right! It is also possible to allow children to earn additional screen time by being completing additional chores or being helpful or kind to a family member. For teenagers, I recommend their daily routine (which may also include getting dressed, completing a chore, and being active in some way) be completed before they earn their cell phone for the day.

Third, only allow technology to be utilized for 30-40 minutes at a time before switching to a non-tech activity. Even if a child has earned 60 minutes of screen time, break it up to prevent addictive tendencies. This is obviously not possible with teenagers who have their own cellphone, but their use can still be monitored and managed based on when they are allowed to have access to their phone.  Most children are on screens much more than what is recommended. Research has shown the average screen time per day for 5 year olds is approximately 4.5 hours and the average for children 6-18 years old is over 8 hours. Below are the American Pediatric Association daily recommendations for screen time, which are well below those averages.

  • 0-2 years old – no screen time
  • 3-5 years old – 1 hour per day
  • 6-12 years old – 90 minutes per day
  • 13-18 years old – 2 hours per day

Fourth, invite children into high interest non-tech activities. While I do not want parents to feel any unnecessary pressure to be an activities director (kids really should be encouraged to find their own fun whenever they complain of boredom), it is often helpful to create several fun family activities per week that pique a child’s interest. Don’t overthink this! A family bike ride to go get ice cream treats.

Inviting the children to help make dinner. Turning on the sprinkler and running through it with them.

Joining them in a special craft project. Taking the time to teach them a new age-appropriate skill such as sewing or learning how to care for the garden or help with a household project. More often than not, children long to have their parents’ attention and will take it in any form.

Fifth, establish “tech free times and zones” in your home. Growing up my family had a “no tv” day each week and although I HATED it, I knew it was good for me. For one thing, it introduced me to the concept of fasting and I once heard the saying, “Anything you cannot fast from owns and controls you.” We need to exercise self-control and practice fasting from anything that has the potential to own and control us, and that certainly includes our various technologies! So while I strongly recommend instituting a tech free day per week, at minimum there should be places and times within your family’s daily and weekly rhythm that are restricted from technology.

For example, meal times should be free of all technology. It is also recommended that any screen time ends at least one hour before bed and not begin until at least one hour after waking in the morning. Sometimes meal times are not as regular during the summer and so explore what will work best for your family. Perhaps “tech free time” consists of the hour immediately following all family members returning home at the end of the day. Perhaps Sunday morning, including church through Sunday lunch is tech free. Children’s bedrooms should always be tech free zones, especially for teenagers. Cellphones, laptops, and tablets should be turned over to parents prior to going to bed and should not be in a teen’s room at night.

Finally, be prepared to model the relationship with technology you are wanting to foster in your children. Remind your children (and yourself) that the rules are not because you are “anti-technology” but because you love them, value relationship with them, and want what is best for them. This is especially important when developing boundaries with teenage children. They want and deserve to know the why behind all of the rules. If the dinner table is a “tech free zone” be sure you abide by this rule as well!

What other tips and tricks have you discovered work for limiting screentime in the summer? The most important thing parents and adults can do regarding technology use and children is simply share with and support one another!

Lessons from Losing Megan

A little over a week ago I learned of the death of a former student. I never expected to lose a student before losing a client. These types of things aren’t supposed to happen. Megan was only 24 and had her whole life ahead of her. Which means she wasn’t supposed to die and especially not in a tragic and unexpected way. Not to someone so full of life and possibility. It’s not supposed to happen to someone so intelligent and driven and talented. Not to someone who so clearly loved Jesus and loved others so intentionally. She was so kind, so humble, so joyful, and so compassionate. Tragedy was supposed to leave her alone. This wasn’t supposed to happen to her. Yet these things do happen, every day. But to someone else right…until it happens to you.


And when it happens, it simply takes your breath away. And you can’t think clearly. Or sleep soundly. And you find yourself weeping uncontrollably at your desk or in the arms of a friend. And the “why” questions begin to flood your mind…Why her? Why did God allow this to happen? Why…?

But great pain brings opportunity for great growth so the appropriate questions are not “why” questions but “what” and “how” questions…what can we learn and how shall we live in light of Megan’s life and death?

You see, answers to the “why” questions always seem to leave us unsatisfied. While the “what” and “how” questions can comfort and help us find a new normal. So what have I learned? I’ve learned how important true friendship is in the wake of tragedy. Friends showed up and sat with me every night last week. Those who lived far away texted  and called and emailed. My neighbor brought my trash cans in from the curb. Friends hugged, and asked, and genuinely cared to listen. They didn’t try to fix. They simply showed up. They didn’t leave it up to me to tell them what I needed. They simply did what they felt called to do. I hope you have people around you like this and if you do not, my prayer is that you will begin to reach out and foster these kinds of relationship. And if you know someone who is grieving, reach out, show up, and just do.

What does tragedy teach us? That though it is awfully easy to blame God or accuse Him of evil (which He is no stranger to – see Job, the prophets, and even Christ on the cross), that in the midst of the pain, He is ultimately our greatest source of comfort. God does not abandon us in the darkest of moments. In fact, that is when God shows up most tangibly. The power of death is destroyed by the immense love of the cross and the greater power of the empty tomb.

How then should we live? At the risk of sounding cliche, like Megan did. We should send birthday texts and hand written notes. We should grab coffee and enjoy slow, deep conversation. We should take genuine interest in the other and treat all with great kindness and respect. We should choose joy, unexplainable joy. We should ask questions, passionately seek answers, and be inquisitive lifelong learners. We should have fun. We should laugh.

How shall we live? Unashamed of our faith but humble and full of grace. One of my favorite comments about Megan came from a graduate school classmate of hers who identified as an atheist. She wrote, “Megan was truly one of the most beautiful and gentle people I have ever been lucky enough to know…Megan lived so gracefully in her strong faith. She was never in your face about it, but was influenced by it in all she said. She was so smart and would bring up very compelling points in classes that challenged my own belief system without ever making me feel shamed or condemned. I told her once that her faith was a beautiful example of what a Christian should be, that her actions made me want to be a better person. She responded with something along the lines of ‘thank you, its always nice to be able to discuss difference of opinion without anger’. She not only believed in her faith, but she lived it, and that is something I will never forget.” I’m afraid this can rarely be said of me, but this is what I aspire to and hope one day it will be true of me as well.

I will never forget Megan. I’ll always remember her challenging questions, fired from the back row after consulting with her buddy Blair. I’ll remember how embarrassed and fake angry she was with me for playing “God Save the Queen” as she walked into class after being crowned Central’s homecoming queen.


I’ll remember watching her counseling skills develop right before my eyes. She was a natural, but she also worked so hard to improve. And of course, I’ll never forget the way she and her group members decorated the observation room to look more like an actual counselor’s office.  I’ll never forget conversations about her future goals and dreams and what she felt was God’s calling on her life. We all took Megan for granted when she was alive. She is not taken for granted in her death and may her death remind us not to take our own lives or others for granted either.


“3 All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. For the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with his comfort through Christ. Even when we are weighed down with troubles, it is for your comfort and salvation! For when we ourselves are comforted, we will certainly comfort you. Then you can patiently endure the same things we suffer. We are confident that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in the comfort God gives us.” 1 Corinthians 1:3-7 NLT


Choice versus Decision: Why Resolutions Fail

We are not even two weeks into the new year and most of our resolutions are likely already a distant memory. Why is it that the desire to change is so strong on January 1 and has already faded by the following week? Time and time again I’ve resolved to make some specific positive change in my life only to find myself right back where I started, sick with regret and self-loathing at my apparent lack of self-control, will power, and discipline. Why can’t I leave the Oreos alone? Why is it so difficult to wake up just thirty minutes earlier to spend time with Jesus? Why does the drive to the gym seem so far despite being just blocks away? What goes wrong?!


In my personal and professional experience, it comes down to the difference between a decision and a choice. Wait…aren’t those the same thing? No, not really.

A choice is defined as the act of picking. It is the process that happens in line at a fast food restaurant – do I want a number 2 or a number 5? Fries or tots (always tots)? Do I want chocolate or vanilla (both, the answer is always both)? Do I like the red one or the blue one? It is an instant selection made with very little thought.


A decision is much bigger than a choice. A decision is defined as a conclusion reached after consideration. A decision is marked by greater thought and deeper determination than given to a simple choice. A decision reflects values and goals. A decision eliminates the need for choice. If I decide to go to the gym everyday after work, I no longer have to make a daily choice because the decision has already been made. If I decide to spend time with Jesus every morning, I no longer have to make a choice because the decision has already been made. If I decide to eat more vegetables and less junk food, I no longer have to make a choice between fries and tots because the decision is side salad.

Choices maintain status quo. Decisions create paths for change.

Choices are an individual and independent process. They must be made alone. Decisions allow for community support, help, and encouragement from others.

choices person

Choices isolate you. Decisions invite others to join in your journey.

Choices can create confusion and complications. Decisions simplify and clarify the change process and pave the way for personal growth.

God longs to guide and strengthen us in our desires to grow. He’s the one longing for us to look more and more like Jesus and like the person He designed us to be. The Bible uses the word steadfast frequently, and though not a perfect synonym to decision, I believe they are in the same vain. Steadfast is defined as resolute and unwavering.


Look at some of the verses where the word “steadfast” appears:

“My heart, O God, is steadfast, my heart is steadfast; I will sing and make music.” Psalm 57:7

“Oh that my ways were steadfast in obeying your decrees!” Psalm 119:5

“Jotham grew powerful because he walked steadfastly before the Lord his God.” 2 Chronicles 27:6

“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” Psalm 51:10

“They will have no fear of bad news; their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the Lord.” Psalm 112:7

psalm steadfast

“Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways.” Proverbs 4:26

“You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.” Isaiah 26:3

“And the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.” 1 Peter 5:10

I love that last verse! It promises that making decisions and sticking with them is difficult and that we will have to suffer through the process. But it also promises that God will provide the strength we need. We do not need to rely on our own will power, we can tap into God’s supernatural power! Amen!