Hendey calls wise use of technology important part of ‘Sacred Balancing Act’

Someone uses a cellphone inside a Catholic chapel. The use of technology was part of Lisa Hendey's presentation to parents at St. Mary of Lourdes in Germantown Hills Feb. 8. (CNS file photo)

GERMANTOWN HILLS — Lisa Hendey is the first one to say that she’s an advocate for the positive uses of technology by children of all ages. The key word here is “positive.”

“With anything to do with technology, my main line of defense is always to try to form their consciences, so that when I can’t be around them they make choices that will make our family proud and that will eventually earn them the greatest hope I have for then, which is an eternity in heaven,” said Hendey, a nationally known author, blogger and founder of CatholicMom.com.

Based in California, Hendey was in central Illinois earlier this month to talk with the students at St. Mary School in Metamora and St. Patrick School in Washington, and give a retreat at St. Patrick Church. She also talked to parents about “The Sacred Balancing Act: Busy Lives and Family Spirituality” at St. Mary of Lourdes in Germantown Hills on Feb. 8.

The wise use of technology is part of that balancing act, she said, noting that Pope Francis, in one of his messages for World Communications Day, called technology a help and a hindrance to communication.

ENCOUNTERS WITH GOD

Lisa Hendey has started leaving her cellphone home when heading out for Mass. “We have to be brutally honest about what our own habits are and how our kids are learning by what we’re doing,” she said.

Technology can hinder communication when it creates obstacles to people listening to one another, causing family members to avoid physical contact, she explained, adding that it becomes an issue when people start filling every moment of silence, too.

Receiving a sticker of a decade of the rosary that she could put on the back of her cellphone helped her adjust her own mindset, Hendey told those gathered in the parish hall at St. Mary of Lourdes.

“Now when I grab for my phone I can feel the bumps on that sticker and it encourages me to take that moment to pray,” she said. In line at the airport, for example, she counts the heads of the people ahead of her and prays for whatever each is traveling for that day.

“That has been revolutionary for me in terms of my ability to equate a moment of needing to be patient with the divine. And that’s what this is all about — balancing a busy life and figuring out a way, no matter where we are or what we’re encountering, to find God in our days,” Hendey said.

And while social media makes it possible to connect with loved ones who live far away and opens the door to new encounters, it can also open the door to addictive behavior, cyber bullying, lurking behavior, or checking in on “friends” without saying anything, and pornography.

SETTING THE TONE

Hendey said fostering a good attitude toward social media begins with parents and other adults in a child’s life.

“What are my kids seeing me doing? How does my behavior set the tone for my family? We have to be brutally honest about what our own habits are and how our kids are learning by what we’re doing,” she said.

Acknowledging that we live in a “selfie society,” Hendey said something special happens when we share a side of ourselves with others. But she challenges young people to consider what they’re sharing and how they’re expressing themselves.

“We’re raising kids who are called to be missionaries, evangelists, and this is part of what they can do to show their faith to the world around them,” she said.

Some of the tips she offered for using technology in a positive way are:

  •  Don’t say anything online that you wouldn’t say in person.
  • Use the “Three Hail Mary Rule”: Say three Hail Marys and then read out loud what you want to post. “There’s something about hearing (those words) come out of your mouth that’s a wake-up call that all of us need sometimes.”
  • No screens in the bedrooms and bathroom.
  • Have a common charging station where all the cellphones are left at night.
  • Set “smart” limits. For Hendey, that meant her sons didn’t having text privileges until they were in college, so there would be no temptation to text and drive. “They’re still speaking to me,” she quipped.
  • Pray. “The important thing is that we constantly be talking to our kids and praying for ourselves about our own use of technology,” Hendey said.

For more information about Lisa Hendey, visit CatholicMom.com.

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