keeping devices in their place

In one small way it was kind of a sad Christmas. This year we made the tough choice to get my son a phone for Christmas. Leading up to Christmas, I felt like virtually every parent in The Christmas Story telling Ralphie that he’s not ready for that Red Ryder BB gun. “You’ll become a mindless drone of a teenager” doesn’t have quite the same ring to it as “You’ll shoot your eye out.” But still, I was apprehensive. Cell phones are dangerous things. They are thieves. They steal time, creativity, and social skills. And innocence. Getting a phone is a right of passage for a child in our modern world. I’m just not sure if he’s ready. I’m just not sure if I’m ready. But without a home phone and with him getting involved in all sorts of activities the time was right. I guess.

We bought him one of the cheapest and oldest phones available. The saleskid (he couldn’t have been older than 18) kept trying to up-sell me. Little did he know he was dealing with a Ragsdale.

“This is your son’s first phone? That’s awesome. I’ve sold a bunch of iPhone X to parents this Christmas.”


“You sure? It’s really not that much more per month.”

“Here’s the thing. This is not a good day in the history of our family. I feel like if I’m gonna buy my son a pair of handcuffs, they don’t need to be the most up-to-date, state-of-the-art handcuffs that every other parent is buying for their kids.”

Okay, that was a paraphrase, but I was definitely not feeling at all jolly about buying this Christmas gift.

The only way I could feel good about buying my son this phone was if it came with some limits and rules. If I bought my kid a gun for Christmas, I wouldn’t let him use it without any guidance, training, and safety instructions. Why would I let him use a phone without the same?

So we came up with a list. But it’s not really a list of rules. It’s a list of principles to guide us (the us is going to be the hard part since I have some pretty bad habits myself) in the proper and healthy use of devices.

Ragsdale House Principles:

  1. Mom and dad own your devices.
  2. Devices don’t sleep or eat with us.
  3. We will take regular and intentional Sabbaths from our devices weekly and yearly.
  4. Devices are a privilege, not a right or a necessity.
  5. People are more important than devices and should be treated that way.
  6. Value creativity over passivity. Don’t just consume other people’s creativity.
  7. Technology is to be a servant, not a master.
  8. Don’t substitute “looking up” for learning or documenting for living.
  9. Living wisely will sometimes mean doing things differently than everybody else.
  10. Above all guard your heart.

This isn’t a principle, but we have decided that no kids are allowed on social media until they are 15. Fortunately, none of them are really asking for it yet. We’ve also instituted the rule that mom and dad will pay for the phone as long as all grades stay north of C.

Each one of these principles could be explained further, but I’ve decided to keep it brief and flexible. Does your family have any principles for keeping devices in their place? Is there anything that you would add to this list? Let me know.


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