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The Tech Talk, Strategies for Families in a Digital World.

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Families who wish to nurture their children to be healthy consumers of technology can benefit from the information and strategies in Michael Horne’s new book The Tech Talk, Strategies for Families in a Digital World.


For a complete media consumption overhaul, ‘take a hard look at current technology use, talk about what (you)would like to see instead and then take a two-week fast from the screens.’ Michael Horne, director of clinical services for Catholic Charities

“My interest in digital technology and the impact of media on families grew from a unique career path in which I studied radio, television and film before beginning work in public television,” said Horne, director of clinical services for Catholic Charities. “Over time, my desire to contribute, not just to entertain people, but helping them find healing, led me to pursue studies in clinical psychology, where I had the opportunity to integrate my faith with the insights of the field.”


According to Horne, the field of technology is changing constantly and it can be a challenge for families to keep up with the latest app cravings of their children. His book examines the current digital landscape, while also looking at its effect on child development. He has worked with many young people who have been affected severely by the misuse of technology.


He tells the story of a young man who had 2,000 “friends” on Facebook, but had developed a skewed social-media-dependent view of friendship. Another teen started viewing pornography online after transferring to a new school. His computer was in his bedroom and his parents assumed he was doing homework.


“As I worked with Steve, I did not directly address the pornography. The pornography, in this case, was a symptom,” said Horne. “Instead, we went right after the root issue — the loneliness. We worked to get Steve plugged in with kids in his parish youth group, some of whom went to Steve’s new school. Within a few months, Steve had a handful of solid friends and was feeling better about himself and his life in general.”


Children are not the only ones affected by technology’s digital distractions. It can be a challenge for parents to disconnect from the screens and the constant stream of email and information. Horne also explains how many marriages have dissolved because of media abuse, especially when it involves pornography.


For families who want a complete overhaul of their media consumption, he suggests they take a hard look at their current technology use, talk about what they would like to see instead and then take a two-week fast from the screens. 


According to Horne, many people take media-fasts during Lent, but if not approached the right way, they tend to fall back into their old habits. He encourages families to implement new rules and regulations to facilitate happy, healthy and holy media consumption immediately after the fast and stick to them. He suggests that phones be exiled from the dinner table and that all access to the internet should be in public places.


“The influence of technology on our relationships can be significant, and as parents we want to be aware of that impact,” said Horne. “We want to examine the strengths and challenges within our families and prayerfully consider what changes we want to make in order to bring ourselves, as well as our children, closer to Christ.”


At the end of each chapter are three questions for reflection to encourage readers to put the suggestions into action. Horne also ends the book with a prayer that families can say before or after having the “tech talk.”


© Arlington Catholic Herald 2018