Digital Relationships

Brad Howell | Jul 10, 2013
There is a battle that plays itself out many nights in many homes, probably across many countries.
It's late at night, you are on the way to bed and you notice a soft glow emanating from under your child's bedroom door.
Instinctively, you know it can't be aliens, or some's your kid disobeying you. Reading in bed when they are supposed to be asleep. If you're a parent like me, you secretly are not angry about this.
Yet the battle must be played out. You have given your instruction and your child has thrown down the gauntlet. As you sneak up to their glowing door, your diabolical side almost hopes they are reading something scary...this helps make the door opening moment more dramatic, searing your parental authority into their adrenaline-ravaged minds.
The first time that night it's fun. The second a little more annoying. By the fourth you find yourself hiding books and removing lightbulbs from your kid's room.
Yet, despite these kinds of ongoing battles, we don't think twice about turning on a light to have a conversation with our kids.
Lights allow us to extend our relationship with our kids past the time when the sun would allow us to. In other words, lights augment our relationship. Without them we would be a family sitting in a dark room.
That's only fun for a while.
Social media has become even more of a battle ground for many families. Kids texting in their rooms until ungodly hours of the night. Parents checking emails at the dinner table or family vacations. Acronyms we can't interpret.
Lights augment reality, but we would have a problem if we mistook them for the sun.
Social media augments our relationships, extending them beyond space and time, but we have a problem when equate our connection with a device to our connection with people.
Still, when we fight the bedtime battles, we stop short of ripping the wires out of the walls.
Digital relationships, like everything else, require boundaries to be fully effective. Without them chaos and pain ensue. Yet, let's not avoid technology altogether. The day that connecting with your kids digitally is as natural as flipping a light switch has already begun to dawn.
What do you find helpful as you navigate the digital age together?
Click here for more on how parents can turn social media into a tool for strenthening family bonds.
Brad Howell

Brad Howell is the parent of two high school students, the associate director for Fuller Seminary’s Northern California campuses and an adjunct instructor in Fuller’s Youth, Family and Culture department. This coming fall he will be teaching a new online class, Youth and Family Ministry in a Culture of Digital Relationships. He anticipates graduating Fall 2013 with his Doctor of Ministry from Fuller Theological Seminary. You can connect with Brad at

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