A few weekends ago, The Heights opened its doors to some 120 parents—many parents of current Heights students, some friends of the school, and still other prospective Heights parents. Following on the success of last spring’s Fatherhood Conference, which similarly saw well over a hundred fathers in attendance, last Saturday’s event featured a blend of lectures, Q&A, and breakout sessions. The topic was technology and freedom; or, in other words, how to raise children who have the ability to master technology and not to be mastered by it.
In many ways, the topic was timely. As Rich Moss pointed out in his talk, there is a growing amount of data and social science correlating screen use and the mental health difficulties an increasing number of adolescents face today.
The conference focused on both the internal guides children and parents should foster and the external guardrails that provide the right environment for developing these internal dispositions. Moreover, many of the conversations centered around discerning the proper “prudential on-ramp” for each child. Recognizing the uniqueness of each child and each situation, all of these conversations, while offering some universal principles, were merely starting points for further discussion among the parents about how they would put these principles into practice for their specific situation. All of the talks underscored the importance of modeling healthy technology use as parents. Besides resolutions for guiding their children, many parents left with resolutions for how they would better guide their own use of technology.
One parent remarked, “Smartphones and social media have become among the toughest issues to navigate as parents. The conference was deeply informative and thought-provoking. The guidance and encouragement offered at the conference prompted my husband and me to make several resolutions pertaining to specific guardrails for our kids, collaboration with the parents of our kids’ friends, and also with regard to our own screen use and the example it sets.”
In the seventeenth century, the French philosopher Blaise Pascal wrote that “all of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” In the twenty-first century, this inability has only grown, in no small part, due to the omnipresence of screens. As parents seek to raise children capable of being contemplatives in the middle of the world, helping them grow in self-mastery in the arena of technology is a sine qua non.
Missed the conference, but don’t want to miss out on the content? Check out the Freedom and Technology Collection.