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START HERE, How Do We Know If Our Tech Is Healthy?

Want to know whether your tech is healthy, but don’t know where to start? Look no further! The START HERE series is designed to get you into these tech conversations quickly so that you are empowered to talk about healthy tech, communicate the Gospel, and connect the hope of the Gospel to your everyday tech life.

Understanding healthy tech requires that we:

  1. Know the two types of tech
  2. Assess our own tech health
  3. Discern whether tech is a pebble or a blister
Today we’ll cover all three and give you everything you need to begin these critical tech conversations in your own life and home.

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Hello everyone and welcome to the Gospel Tech podcast. My name is Nathan Sutherland and this podcast is dedicated to helping families love God and use tech. Today we are beginning our start here series. This is the six week series that I’m putting together to help people one, get a really quick crash course in kind of what is gospel tech, what are some of the really applicable functional tools you can use for your family to raise up healthy youth in a tech world and to help people when they go and tell other people about this that they have a really quick accessible way to get into this podcast series and into this content. I want it to be super, super useful. So that’s what we’re doing, again, six weeks barring me, adding a bunch more. But today we’re talking about tech health and this idea, what we’re trying to look at is just what do we mean by tech? How do we know if it’s healthy? How can we think about it in sub 20 minutes? So I’m saying that up front and try to verbally commit to it, but I’m excited you’re here. If you do need more resources, check out gospel or any number of these other podcast episodes we’re here, or reach out to me directly, [email protected]. Thank you for being here and with no further ado, let’s get this conversation started.


 Welcome to the Gospel Tech Podcast, a resource for parents who feel overwhelmed and outpaced as they raise healthy youth in a tech world. As an educator, parent and tech user, I want to equip parents with the tools, resources, and confidence they need to raise kids who love God and use tech.


Thank you to everyone who’s helped make this podcast possible. We are on episode 155 right now, which means there’s literally days of content that I have spoken and that’s only possible because you guys are listening and you’re passing it on to others and we’re seeing that growth. Today in Georgia, we have seen a massive growth in listeners over the past week. That’s super cool and not because tons of people are listening, but because that means this resource is going out and it’s helping more parents as they process these conversations of what does it look like to talk about healthy tech? What does it look like to communicate the gospel clearly and how do we take the hope of the gospel, this idea that we are new creations and then use that to empower and use tech out of a place of hope. So we’re not out there trying to parent kids away from bad tech.


Certainly we address bad tech, but that’s not how we live our lives. We live our lives focused on the best things, the purpose that God has for us, and then using all the tech that helps us get there and simply avoiding then by default all the things that don’t. And when bad stuff raises up, then we address it again in hope. We’re not scared of it. We’re saying, Hey, that’s, that’s bad cuz I know what good looks like and therefore we can live very intentionally in a tech world without maybe having all the answers up front, but we know how to process those answers and then we raise up our kids to do that. So that’s what we are doing here today. Thank you for being on that journey, for sharing with others, for liking and for reviewing. And then today’s conversation, I said we’re starting out with tech health.


So to do that if you’ve heard any of these podcasts before, I hope this sounds like review. If you’ve listened to a live workshop or a presentation, I hope this sounds like review because we need to first understand what does tech or what do we mean? Excuse me, when we say tech, what does that mean? So technology we need to know that there’s actually two kinds. There’s tool tech and there’s drool tech. When you talk about technology with your kids, when you read articles, when you read those newspaper blips, when you watch that documentary, that really scares you spitless about the digital age and raising our kids in this place. We need to understand that there are two kinds of technology and the reason that’s so important is because tool tech is designed differently from drool tech. Tool Tech helps us create Drool Tech helps us consume.


Now that doesn’t mean necessarily one is good and one is bad, but it does mean they have a different goal. By that I mean when it helps us create first you can tell if it does this just I guess on its face, but let’s talk a little more detailed. Tool Tech is going to help you do whatever you want to do. So Microsoft Word or Mac Pages, Apple Pages would be an example of these where they are designed as a tool for writing. They help you save things digitally. You can put it on the cloud, you can edit it across the internet, you can send it and save it. And it is very robust as a writing program and that’s all it does. At no point does Microsoft Word send you a notification at 11:00 PM while you’re laying in bed and going, Hey, haven’t seen you in a while.


Just thinking about you. Right? Doesn’t do that. It doesn’t send you a notification that Johnny down the street has already started his book and its way better than yours and here’s a little excerpt just to make sure you feel really bad about yourself. It does not happen because, it’s a tool, it only does what you ask it to do. And if you walk away for a day, for a week, for a year, it’s not going to follow you and try to regain your attention. It’s simply waits. It’s like a really fancy writing shovel. So that’s tool tech. It operates at the pace of real life meaning you can’t get overstimulated while typing because you’re typing. It only moves as fast as your brain moves and it’s driven by the user. It’s intended to leverage your abilities and to make the outcomes easier to arrive at.


It might have something like spell check, it might have something like a grammar check. It may have really neat editing tools where you can send it out to multiple people and then see their edits either in real time as they type in stuff or afterwards it’ll say, Hey, you can, anyway, there’s two different versions where they can actually correct things or they can add thoughts in a note and that’s super great. So that’s the tool tech side of things is it’s leveraging your ability to create. Drool Tech, however, has a goal of its own. So yes, you come to it and you say, ah man, I wanna watch this show, I wanna play this game. I wanna participate in this activity on social media or connect with others. And those are all great things to do cuz that is your goal and these programs, apps and devices will help you do that.


However, they come with a little bit of an extra goal of their own meaning they’re designed to take your time, your focus and your money. Now this isn’t like a conspiracy theory, this is how they function. And this is really important for us to know, especially when we’re talking healthy tech because many, not all but many, a vast majority <laugh> of unhealthy tech situations are coming because that program or that device or that app is designed to take your time, you’re focus and your money and it’s fighting healthy choices in that way, these things are actually designed to be unhealthy because that’s when they’re the most profitable for the company. So by this I mean Drool Tech is designed to take your time focusing money. So it’s going to have things like followers it’s going to have things like social feedback like likes <laugh>. It is going to have algorithm driven information.


So that can be everything from a news app to a video game, to your social media platform, to the shows that you watch your streaming service. All of these are, in fact, I apologize for the noise. All of these are in fact drool tech design and just think of it in terms of YouTube. So if YouTube who has two and a half billion users in a given year, if in a year YouTube could just get 1% of their users to increase their viewership by 30 seconds, it just for one time a year, they could get you to come back for 30 seconds longer than you intended, or they could get you to stay 30 seconds longer than you intended their only goal 1% 30 seconds. They would increase the amount of viewership, something around the lines of 4,500 years worth of viewing if they could just do just that simple goal.


Now you need to know this about YouTube. More than half of their viewing comes from suggested videos. What that means is you went to YouTube to watch something, a do-it-yourself video and entertaining video and then they gave you a suggestion and you’ve watched what you wanted to watch and now you are going to watch just that one more. Maybe it’s a 90 second video, maybe it’s a four minute video. But if they can get 1% to do a four minute video <laugh> or 5% to do a four, it’s exponential growth for them. They are fully incentivized to take your time, you’re focus and your money because that is how they’re going to make a profit. Yes, you want to click it, you click it on purpose, it’s all driven by you, yet it is a goal that you didn’t show up for. It’s a suggested video. And that is important for us to recognize because when it gets unhealthy and we start about, man, why am I even making these choices?


This isn’t lining up with my goals of who I want to be. This isn’t helping me be more hopeful or more peaceful or more intentional, then we look generally to drool tech. Can you misuse tool tech? Absolutely. But when we’re talking to our kids, our spouses, our own tech use know that there are two kinds of tech. There’s tech that is designed to help you do what you want and there’s tech that’s help that’s designed to help you get a goal that you never asked for. And generally it’s trying to convince you need it even though you never wanted it. So that is an important point to remember as well with tool tech, tool tech and drool tech. So if we were to run through this and I were to say something like a nail gun, you would be like, well that’s, that’s tool tech cuz I build with a nail gun.


If I walk away, it does nothing. If I said radio well depends, I guess for most of us, we listen to the radio not to inform our decisions, but to just confirm what we already believe. Very few of us listen to a wide variety of podcasts and radio stations in order to gain a diverse informed background and subset of information so that then we can make the next decision. Most of us already know what we like and what we believe and we listen to stuff that confirms that. So for us, in that case, if it’s not informing and developing us, if it’s just arming us and we’re not applying it anywhere, then it’s really just infotainment, right? It’s very informative, but it’s not actually doing what information should do, which is change and alter the way we act and live. So in that way it becomes Drool Tech, it becomes infotainment and it’s just about consuming what is fun for us.


This is how I handle the documentary Supersize Me. When I go and watch that, sure, I recognize that fast food is bad and I share it at the water cooler and tell people like, man, have you seen that documentary? It’s really interesting. And I no longer eat at McDonald’s, but I still eat at Wendy’s and Burger King, right? It didn’t actually change the way I live, it just distorted my views of McDonald’s and I moved on with my happy fast food eating life. So it is important for us to recognize that even the radio, depending on how we’re using it, the technology can become Drool Tech because it’s consumptive focused, especially when we enter podcasts, right? I’m doing this podcast to be informative and many of you are using this to equip you to raise healthy youth in a tech world. Cool. It’s tool tech for you because I don’t need you to come back more often than you need this information and encouragement.


Use this as a tool. However, there will be algorithms and there will be information. And the algorithm is not designed to better you as a human. The algorithm is to get you to stay. And I hope the Lord uses that to equip and encourage you. If you found us because of an algorithm, super cool. But just know that that is probably Drool Tech and its goal isn’t always your betterment, sometimes it’s just to keep you distracted. So we do need to be aware of that. And the last one I’d share is something like a smartphone or a laptop a personal computer. It’s how we use it. Yes, games are on there that can be distracting, doesn’t make ’em bad, but they can be used in the wrong time and they can become more important in our feelings than things we actually need, like our work and our relationships and walking away and getting fresh air.


So we have tool tech and drool tech, which brings us to the second part, but how do I know if it’s actually a problem? Because using tech is not a problem. Let’s just be very clear about this. I watch shows, I use social media even just through work. We’re using a podcast right now. You’re listening to it and that’s amazing. Well, I’m talking to people all over the planet right now, which is super cool. And we get to share the gospel and connect with people and share hope and give practical tools. So how do I know if it matters? If it’s tool tech or drool tech? And this is where we have an acronym called reset. And this means that we look at our relationships and responsibilities, our emotions, our sleep, our enjoyment, and our time. And we simply ask this question, does this technology improve or impede each of these five areas?


Look at your children and ask this question. Look at your spouse, look at yourself. When we talk about technology, what this is not intended to do when we talk about technology, this is not intended to help you win a fight. This is instead intended to give you the words to say because there’s a lot of Spidey scent stuff that goes into parenting and you probably know, Hey, I just feel uncomfortable when you use that app, when you watch that show, when you play that game, when you listen to that music, you come away off and I don’t know what it is. And it can be very sensitive. Talk to your kid or especially a spouse about this. My prayer is that this gives you the words to say. So you’re going to go to your spouse or you’re going to reference yourself. Please do this yourself first.


This is the spec out of or log out of your own eye before you address the spec in someone else’s`, you use your reset and you go, all right, does tech improve or impede my relationships and responsibilities? So when I use my phone, use my computer, am I on social media stream shows, play games, listen to music, read news apps? Am I more present at family dinner? Am I more present with my children, with my coworkers, with my commitments to church, with my commitment to my family and leadership and serving my neighbors, my relationships and my responsibilities both as a human being and as a Christian? Am I more present? Because these apps, there are absolutely things that help us do that. I do my job better because I get to do a podcast. That tech helps me be more present and reach more people intentionally in relationship and conversation on an ongoing weekly basis.


It is a wonderful part of what I get to do. Cool. However, social media, I don’t have it on my phone anymore because it was no reason on the work side of things to have it on my phone. I check it from a desktop during a certain window on certain days and then I walk away. So if you message me and I don’t get back the same day or the same moment, it’s cuz I’m not on there that day. <laugh> like I’ll get to it. You are important to me. And there are boundaries around it because I recognize my proclivity to be distracted or use it as a bad stress outlet. So that’s what we’re talking about is relationships and responsibilities. Does it improve or impede? Then we look at, all right, my relationships, my enjoyment. When I talk about enjoyment, I’m saying not just do you like this form of technology, but does it cause the other things you enjoy to wither?


And the best thing I could use to explain this is my three kiddos Owen, Henry, and Had ley are all wired differently. Owen loves structure and details and order. He told me the other day, dad, I love organization, I wanna be president. And I was like, I think you mean you wanna be dictator, but I love that you love organization and you’re going to be very good. And God’s wired him that way. Henry loves meeting new people and just he’s never met a stranger, stranger. He’s just a future friend. He does not have any form of trepidation around people he does not know. He just loves being around them, being kind and gracious and happily loves public presentation. She will try to get everyone in the room’s attention. She doesn’t have anything to say necessarily. She just wants you to be looking at her and she will get your attention and perform some form of antic in order to get it.


Now those are things that God’s wired them into and they take that they could all do the same task, but they’re going to do it in different ways. And I recognize that if they use a certain form of technology and one of those attributes that just makes them who they are starts to wilt, and it no longer is Hadley expressing her joy and her energy around people, but instead it’s all of her passion going into this form of technology, well then that that’s concerning to me. And I look and say, Hey daughter of mine, I love you. And when you watch this show or when you do this particular form of technology, I see that your enjoyment droops the things that you used to have a passion for you no longer have a passion for. Not because you’ve expanded into a new area, you don’t like Legos anymore because you’re using AutoCAD.


No, you don’t like Legos anymore. And all you do is sit in your room alone on the social media app or watching this show you’ve isolated, you’ve shrunk, its wilted. And I wanna see this blossom. We hear the gospel all the time talking about how it bears fruit, that it should look like life, that we’re a vine plugged or we’re a branch plugged into the vine of Christ, John 15:5. And that should then bear good fruit like Galatians 5:22 tells us. So we need fruit, we need life. We need more of what God is calling out on us. If we see that in enjoyment, cool. If it’s not, that’s what we’re saying. Hey, that concerns me. Let’s now have a conversation on this. The third part of a reset is your sleep basically saying if there’s Drool Tech in the bedroom, sleep is being impeded.


Lots of research saying that that’s a bad idea, not a ton saying it’s a good idea. By not a ton, I mean there’s zero research saying Drool Tech in the bedroom is better than not. I understand emergencies, I understand family stuff. Prayerfully address that conversation. Get your phone outta your room. You don’t need a thousand dollars alarm clock, you need a $35 alarm clock you can buy on Amazon. It could be to your home tonight if you’re in the United States. So we just need to be intentional about that. Turn your ringer on loud and leave it somewhere. You can hear it ring if someone needs you in the middle of the night. I understand those things, but it’s anyway, we can all find a way to prayerfully reach a spot of peace where we can have our sleep and we can be intentional with the safety of those around us.


All right the fourth one then is so we did enjoyment and this one is our emotions. So we’re not saying that you just like it and you’re disappointed when things go wrong. We’re saying that things are only good when this tech is around and things get real, real bad when the tech isn’t. This can be our kids just absolutely not being able to handle, not constantly having contact to their social media for example. A real simple way to do, it’d be like, great, you can use social media on a public device at set times. <laugh>, right? You can’t have it on your phone, but you can use it on my phone or on our computer. And you can keep touch with your friends for this amount of time on these days. Great. You’ll still be able to hang out with them. You’ll still be up on the dances that are most popular like you, but you can’t check it three minutes out of every hour or three minutes out of every 10 minutes.


It’s just not going to work. So how do we put boundaries around this for your emotional wellbeing to let you develop as a young person and blossom and grow. And the last one is time really looking here just for can you be content? Can you set a time limit and be okay with that? Adults we need this too. I have shared frequently and I’ll share again, it’s news apps. Often for me I do have I diverse range of news apps. I enjoy reading different opinions on the same subject. It’s something that really helps me just think through the world. And I love smart people from varied groups talking about the same subject, but it can suck me in. And I find it so engaging that I can do that instead of, and I’ll find myself checking them on my way like walking someplace because it tickles the back of my brain and I need to put that down.


And that has been an intentional step. I’m prayerfully taking this year. So to review, when we talk about tech, there’s two kinds. It’s tool tech and drool tech. As we talk about that, we need to recognize that it’s not good and bad tech. The next step is, alright, is it healthy though? How do I know if my child actually they play video games? Is that a problem? Not necessarily sure. Make sure the games line up with your family expectations. That’s a future conversation. But if your child has those five parts of reset and their video games are helping the relationships and responsibilities and it’s improving their enjoyment and their sleep is great and their emotions are even keeled and they can process when they get angry in a game and they can process their disappointment when the game goes away because of family things or their sibling has a baseball game or a swim meet or whatever, they can process that.


It’s okay to get frustrated, but they can come back and they can kind of work through what they’re experiencing and then they can be content with a certain amount of time and they can put down the controller and walk away. Cool. And with social media and with whatever other device or app or program that you’re talking about, that’s great. That’s wonderful. If however, one of those five isn’t helpful, then you have your spot to start talking again. This isn’t, now you’re going and go, ha, you’re not healthy with your time. I’m throwing it out the window. No, no. We’re going to begin the opportunity now for a parenting win. This is raising your children up in the way they should go. Tech is not the goal. The Bible does not say and make sure your children a hundred percent of the time always do the right thing because it’s a reflection of you as a parent.


That’s not it saying make sure you raise your children up in the way they should go. You’re going to model this for them and you are going to enter into their brokenness just like Christ did into yours because Romans 5:8 says, while you were still a sinner, Christ died for you. And John 3:16 says that God so loved the world that he gave his only son, that whoever believes in him will not die but will have eternal life. So we are, 2 Corinthians five tells us we are new creations. So we are going to, as new creations step into the brokenness of our children, we see our reset problem and we’re going to say, son or daughter of mine, I see that when you play that game, use that app, watch that show, listen to that music, invest in those apps, that news, whatever it is that your sleep seems to be a little hampered, that your relationships seem to be impeded, that your enjoyment or your emotions, they’re just, they’re not where they should be or they’re not where I’ve seen them be.


Could you talk me through that? And the reason this is so important is because there’s really two ways that this tech could go and it’s the pebble or the blister. So tech could be the pebble in the shoe. And by that I have this visual where my last summer, my then two and a half year old daughter ran up to me, daddy foot hurt, pull off her shoe, and that beautiful little two and a half year old foot had a pebble just like jammed in the chubbiness, <laugh> right up her foot. So it wasn’t breaking skin, it was just kind of jammed lodged up there. I pulled the pebble out, put the shoe back on, she runs off a few minutes later five and a half year old son runs up, dad foot hurt pull off his shoe, and he had been running through the sprinkler’s barefoot and then sprinting around the cul-de-sac and he had a silver dollar size blister.


Now it’s the same problem. Foot pain caused by a similar issue but not the same solution. I can’t simply peel off the blister. Well, I can. It won’t end well right? That is not the solution that’s going to be best fit. And the reason I use that example with tech health is sometimes tech is the problem. You just have to remove that show or that game or alter the time or just make some healthy boundaries and make it kind of harder to make bad choices. Sometimes that’s right, but sometimes the tech is being misused because something else is wrong in life. They’re getting bullied, they’re experiencing mental health, duress and distress. They have had traumas in their life that you may or may not be aware of. They’ve made poor choices on the internet or in real life. They’re participating in substances that are making it harder for them to make good choices and they’re simply stuck in any of these situations.


It might be symptomatic of a bigger problem and you then might need to intervene as a parent or you might need to bring professional aid on the scene. And that is really important for us to know because if we just blame tech and say, well, tech is the problem, so I’m throwing it away. Certainly there’s a way to do that. And I strongly encourage delaying smartphones and delaying video games because let’s be serious, smartphones have very few net gains for a young person. And video games are really easy fun. Your child should learn how to have fun and then video games will be fun on top of that. So I’m not saying go do all the tech because there’s never a downside. I’m saying if you have in trust, given your child access to technology, again, a conversation we’ll have in the future, but I’m assuming you gave it to them on purpose.


Having done that, when a problem shows up in a reset, you don’t have to just drop the hammer in judgment. You come lovingly alongside your child, recognize where in the reset you can begin and you start that conversation and you listen because maybe it is technology is the problem and maybe removing it begins that reset process and you are rewiring the brain to healthy habits and how to enjoy real life. Cool, that does happen. Sometimes it’s just overstimulated and too much for this age or this kid or this season. Sometimes, however something else is going on. And you need to know that. And you will only find out by lovingly entering into their situation, setting up some healthy boundaries and helping them gain the opportunity to see what does healthy life look like. So I hope that this was encouraging to you. I hope that this has made sense, that there’s two kinds of tech, that there’s a quick and simple way to look at whether a tech is healthy and then we can understand that sometimes unhealthy tech is the problem.


Sometimes it’s symptomatic of something else. And that’s where the real nuts and bolts parenting come in. You don’t have to have all the answers. You simply prayerfully walk into that situation with your child, walk with them on that journey, and lovingly set a standard and a boundary based on biblical standards of hope that we are trying to see our children raised up to all they can be in Christ to walk that path of wisdom and discernment and righteousness that God has laid out for them and calls them to. And in doing so, we’re going to lovingly make good decisions, easy and bad decisions, hard to make and we’re going to experience all the joys and the heartache that goes with it. So I hope this is encouraging to you. I hope this is helpful and I hope you’ll join me next week. We’re going to continue this conversation in how we can love God and use tech. I will say if you have any questions, reach out [email protected] or you can reach out to me on social media, Facebook and Instagram. We’re @loveGodusetech. So thank you for being here, and please join us next week as we continue this conversation about how we can love God and use tech.

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