Your digital device could be sending a tsunami of distractions at this very moment. News updates, social media feeds, texts, DMs... They all seem to be on one mission: Distraction. The average teen spends seven hours and twenty-two minutes on their phone.1 But are we using our phones as tools, or are WE being used as tools? Even though digital addiction wasn't a problem at the time the Bible was written, time management has always been a human problem. Let's use a biblical perspective to help us create healthier time usage habits with our digital devices.
A habit is defined as "a settled tendency or usual manner of behavior."2 Examine your digital use habits and why you might engage in those particular habits. Habits don’t just "happen"—there's always a routine that gets established (unconsciously or subconsciously) before a habit is fully formed.
Oftentimes, we engage in digital habits that put a temporary band-aid on a gaping emotional or spiritual wound that we cannot or do not want to face. For instance:
No matter how "innocent" our digital habits may seem, if we run to them for comfort rather than to the loving arms of our Heavenly Father, we have some reexamining to do—reexamining our relationship with our digital devices and, more importantly, our relationship with Christ.
Are the habits you have developed helping you or hurting you? Are they healthy ways to fulfill your needs or are they temporary fixes? If you find that your digital device habits are fulfilling needs that can only be fulfilled by God, then take time to meditate on Scripture that defines God's character, like Matthew 11:28-30. Jesus is our greatest comforter, and He is ready and willing bear our burdens. Not only that, but He has greater power to enact change in our lives than any short video has (Colossians 1:16).
If you've decided you want to change your digital habits, then examine WHY you want to change. Write down your reasons and put them where you can refer to them regularly. They can help inspire you to change, remind you of your goals when you're tempted to revert to old habits, and give you a clear path forward.Here are some examples of why you might want to change your digital habits:
People are 42% more likely to reach their goals if they write them down.3 Don’t underestimate the power of this step! Maybe you only have one or two reasons why you want to change or maybe you have many—either way, it's well worth it to make a note for future reference.
The Apostle Paul charges believers to be careful in how they walk, not as unwise people but as wise, making the most of their time "because the days are evil" (Ephesians 5:15-16). The message is clear: those who are wise will use their time well, and those who are unwise will not.
We all have days when we are wise and days when we can't seem to make good decisions; that's how life goes sometimes. So we must be vigilant about using our time to glorify God rather than contribute to the evil in the world.
One way to help us choose wisely when it comes to time management is creating time boundaries for ourselves. Here are a few ideas to get started:
If you're unsure what boundaries are best for you, talk to a trusted friend or family member. They can help you brainstorm and strategize what might work best for you personally (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12).
Your boundaries serve two purposes: to guard what is yours and to treat what is yours well. Metaphorically speaking, we can think of all our resources, including our time, as our "house." To successfully guard the resource of our time, we must build "fences" to protect it from unhealthy, time-wasting activities.4
In addition to setting boundaries, developing a plan of action ahead of time helps us combat the temptation to return to unhealthy activities. What steps would be helpful to have in place for you when temptations to waste time arise? Here are a few ideas:
Once you have taken your escape route from temptations, celebrate that decision! It can be hard to say no in the face of temptations, but, with God's power, YOU DID IT. Then take moment to ask God to examine your heart and reveal the underlying reasons for these temptations coming up. Take note and be honest with yourself about what needs to happen in the future to protect yourself.
Whether your plan of action involves personal accountability between only you and God, or if it also involves the help of a loved one, do not attempt to resist temptation alone. You are not going to be strong enough every single time. Lean on God for strength. Turn to Him in your frustrations. Call your partner in accountability. There's no shame in asking for help.
"The Lord is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him." —Psalm 28:7
Jesus taught that "things" do not make us spiritually clean or unclean. Rather, it is what comes OUT of us—our words and actions—that prove what’s in our hearts (Matthew 15:17-20). Likewise, it’s not the digital devices that are sinful but rather the ungodly choices we can so easily make with them. Every minute we spend wasting time on our digital devices is a minute we have lost doing literally anything else that could have been a benefit to our lives or the lives of those around us.
Our digital devices are tools, and they can be used wisely or unwisely. We could be using our online presence to influence others in ways that bring them closer to the love of Jesus Christ (Matthew 28:19-20). Maybe share your thoughts from a Christian perspective on your social media feeds or start making videos that talk about God, Jesus, and the Bible. What gifts has God has given you and how can you share those gifts to glorify Him?
It's easy to say, "I’ll do it later," but do we even know how much "later" we have left? There's nothing that says we are entitled to or required to waste our time just because we're young either. James 4:14 reminds us that "you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes." Make the best use of your time NOW. An excellent way to start is by wisely managing your time on your digital devices.
REFERENCES: 1. ABC News: "Teens spend more than 7 hours on screens for entertainment a day: Report" (https://abcnews.go.com/US/teens-spend-hours-screens-entertainment-day-report/story?id=66607555); 2. Merriam Webster Dictionary, definition of "habit" (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/habit); 3. "The Power of Writing Your Goals - 42% More Likely to Achieve Success" (https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/power-writing-down-goals-42-more-likely-achieve-success-banu-akgul); 4. "When You Need to Set Boundaries: Dr. John Townsend" (https://www.jennieallen.com/blog/when-you-need-to-set-boundaries-with-dr-john-townsend"
Digital devices are constantly vying for our attention. To develop healthier time-usage habits, we must define our poor habits and why they exist, examine WHY we want to change poor habits, create personal boundaries to protect our time, and develop a plan of action for future temptations. Don't go it alone; bring in a trusted accountability partner to help you (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12). Lean on God's strength and look for the "exits" that He will provide (1 Corinthians 10:13). With the little time we have on earth, we must make sure we manage our time wisely (Ephesians 5:16).
Grace is a passionate writer and musician who desires to radiate Christ's light in a generation of teens and young adults navigating their life in a world of spiritual darkness. Recent founder of Christian rock band Lighthouse Saints, she desires to spread the message of God’s truth and love through her songwriting and voice! Grace is also an aspiring freelancer who has worked professionally in writing, editing, and social media content creation. In her free time, Grace enjoys meeting new people, reading lots of books, jamming out with her friends, and writing (sometimes overly dramatic) poetry.