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Ask Zoe is Aleteia’s weekly advice column. If you have a dilemma, question, or need some general advice for your life, email Zoe. All questions are given consideration and names are withheld.
My husband and I are Catholic and want our children to grow up into mature adults who fulfill their baptismal commitments to share the Gospel. How important is it—if at all—for our children to be "culturally relevant?" As parents, how do we steer our children to be "in" the culture and not "of" it, knowing they’ll be faced with ridicule and potentially ostracized if they’re not up on the latest movies, apps, video games, and gadgets?
A book could be written addressing this topic—and a few have been. The digital media and tech age we live in can make parenting tough as we try to navigate what, and how much, to let our kids participate in. I know this all too well as a parent myself.
Like it or not, our children have been born in the digital age, a time of ongoing technological advancement, globalization, and mass communication. This is their time, with its challenges—and its benefits. While some people may think heading to the woods is the answer, there certainly won’t be a lot of people to share the Gospel with there. Our children need to know how to navigate the waters of the age they’re living in if they’re going to fulfill their missions.
There are two key things we need to be doing as parents: First, we need to teach our kids how to assess and critique what they see and hear around them. And second, we need to help our children learn self-control, as well as self-awareness, so they’ll grow up with the ability to use technology as a tool, and not be mastered by it.
How do we do this? First, we have to stop being afraid of the culture ourselves. There is plenty of beauty and goodness out there—people telling fabulous stories, writing great music, designing beautiful things—and we need to find it and point it out to our kids.
We also have to find a balance, which is an ongoing process. Your child’s age, maturity level, personality, and the various circumstances of your family, can help determine what’s appropriate when it comes to what and how much media should be consumed and how much time should be spent with tech gadgets. I recommend setting boundaries around screen time as well as smart phone use, but we have to apply knowledge and wisdom as we go.
If you’re helping your children to build good habits and cultivate virtue, you’re doing the most important thing. Also, focus on moderation and encouraging a heathy lifestyle—making sure your kids are getting outdoor time and exercise, time for hobbies, sit-down dinners with the family, and that their friends are positive influences. All of this will help them with moderation and allow them to find their way in the digital world we live in.
If you have a dilemma or question for Zoe, please send it to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Zoe Romanowsky is the Lifestyle Editor and Video Curator for Aleteia. A freelance writer, blogger, and consultant, she’s been published in many national publications including Real Simple, Catholic Digest, Baltimore Eats, and TruthAtlas. Zoe holds a Masters degree in Counseling from Franciscan University, and a certification in life coaching from the Coaches Training Institute (CTI). She’s an urban homeschooling mother of twins with a weakness for dark chocolate, Instagram, vintage Harleys, and vodka martinis — not necessarily in that order.