Activist Faith

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We’ve all seen it…the kid begging for her parent’s attention while the mom or dad is too focused on a tiny screen to acknowledge their child. We internally scold the parent, realizing the missed moment in the young person’s life.

Yet if we are honest, too many times we are the guilty party at the hands of those around us. Whether our children, a spouse, friend, parent, or even someone in our community, our gadgets can turn us from being present to being ignorant of the needs of those around us.

As I’ve considered this trend, I’ve had to evaluate my own tech habits. Yes, work and life often requires communicating via texts, emails, and apps. Our problems tends to be that there is no “game over” or off buttons to tell us when it ends. Instead, we are challenged to created our own end points to focus on the lives aound us.

This Christmas season, I want to share five brief tips I’m discovered (and continue to learn how to use) to focus on “being there” rather than missing out on the lives of those around me.

Tip 1: Off for Prayers and Meals

Don’t be “that person” whose phone is blaring during dinner or a Christmas prayer. This obviously interrupts the focus of the time together and marks you as the “bad guy” who caused the interruption.

Tip 2: Finish a Goal Before Looking at Your Phone

Most of us are highly motivated to check messages or the other aspects of our phones we enjoy. What if we forced ourselves to complete one goal before allowing ourselves to pick up our phone?

For some, a morning prayer or devotional time could be a good option. For others, setting the agenda for the day might be best. Still others might be best helped by the goal of time with a son or daughter for the holidays before even touching or looking at a screen.

Tip 3: Screen-Free Time

As an individual or family, set a block of time when phone usage is off-limits. This can be great for a family game time, movie time, or personal time to read or rest.

For me, I love leaving my phone on silent and spending time playing games with my youngest daughter Audrey. At nine years old, she is excited to beat me at Monopoly, Life, or anything else involving time together.

Tip 4: Set to Stun (By Which I Mean Silent)

While in conversation with someone else, casually switch your phone to silent. You can then focus on interacting with the other person without beeps, vibrations, or other distractions.

Think this doesn’t matter? Test me on this and see. The quality of conversations are usually much better when your child, spouse, parent, or friend isn’t wondering if you are going to take the next call or message.

Tip 5: Turn It Off

If you have a home phone (I still do), turn your smart phone to silent shortly before bed. You are not the president of the United States. If it’s really important, your mom has your home number. Your boss probably does too. If you don’t have a home phone, you can at least set you phone to “calls only” at night to limit interruptions late in the night.

There is a certain peace of mind in knowing the stream of messages is over for one day. You can then focus on something positive and encouraging to end the day. For me, it’s usually tucking in the kids, reading my print Bible, or simply praying before I fall asleep.

Managing our personal technology isn’t easy, but it’s important. Make the effort to be present and “be there” in the lives or those around you this Christmas.


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Dr. Dillon Burroughs is one of America’s top communicators on today’s Christian issues. He serves as senior writer of The John Ankerberg Show and is author or coauthor of nearly 40 books. You can follow him on Facebook and Twitter. He lives with his wife and three children in Tennessee.

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