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An Open Letter to My Boys regarding Technology (and their use of it)

Charles Martin
An Open Letter to My Boys regarding Technology (and their use of it)

Christy and I have had a love-hate relationship with our kids' use of technology.  Still do.  It's been a bumpy road.  So, I wrote them a letter.  It follows:

An open letter to my boys regarding Technology and their use of it:

Based on our not-so-positive experience with technology, and the resulting potholes and speedbumps experienced at the intersection of Father’s Way North and Son’s Trail South, I thought it healthy to put some rules in place -- and in writing -- and then nail them to the door.  If you object, roll your eyes, and state that I can’t change the rules of the game once its started, please see rule #1.

  1. The following Ten Rules apply to iphones and ipods and anything else that starts with an “i” (hereafter referred to as ‘the fruit’).  It also includes anything technological that takes you out of interaction in this world and sucks you into some other where your body is here but your mind elsewhere.  If you object and state I can’t change the rules of the game once it’s started, tough.  My house.  My rules.  My game.    Note:  These are not requests.  These are mandates.  Rules from on-high.  Think lightning bolt to some place you don’t want one.
  2. Failure to agree or comply with any and all of these rules will result in immediate confiscation of said fruit and termination of your lease.  No questions asked.  Your membership in the Facebooking-texting-youtubing-googling-tweeting-nauseating-I-am-the king-of-my-own-private-island-so-don’t-mess-with-me-club is hereby revoked.  You can reapply in a week for a minor infraction.  30 days for a major infraction.  90 for a real zinger.  And before you ask, “No, saving your pennies and buying your own fruit does not circumnavigate or nullify these rules.”  Further, the degree of the infraction and resulting punishment is entirely dependent upon my subjective feeling at the moment.  Don’t like it?  Tough.  Welcome to earth. Hand in the fruit.  Note: if you’re feeling all of a sudden down, like I’m peeing in your corn flakes, don’t worry.  You’re not the first to get kicked out of the garden.
  3. Ownership is not a right.  It’s a privilege.  I’m doing you a favor.  Just to be clear, I own it.  You are borrowing it.  If you don’t like this fact, tough.  I gave it to you.  And if you want to argue this, and state how you paid for a portion of it with your hard-earned Christmas money, hand it in.  Hence, you may NOT do what you want, when you want, however you want, whenever you want, wherever you want, with this thing.  Just to make sure there’s no confusion -- you are NOT king of your own private island, so if in doubt, ask.  And I don’t care what your friends do or are doing or how hard this is on your social life or how it handicaps your cool-factor and resulting ability to be accepted by the other island dwellers.  I navigated high school and then college AND dated and married your mom without ever sending or receiving the first text.  After twenty years of marriage, we’re good.  You will be too.  One last note regarding your friends, before you offer the, “But dad, all my friends...”  Again, I don’t care and I don’t give a flying rat’s butt what they are doing.    They’re not mine and I’m not responsible for them.  God gave me you. Not them.  If what you are about to say is true, their parents are either out to lunch, nuts, naive, or just terrible parents.  You’re lucky I’m not one of them.
  4. Never say or view anything which you wouldn’t say or view out loud in my presence.  Hear that?  ‘Out loud in my presence.’  So think before you let your fingers do the talking and your apple does the walking.  Note: This is especially crucial when texting girls: never say anything in this device that you wouldn’t also say out loud in the presence of that girl’s mother AND father.
  5. Never lie with this thing.  Don’t mislead or insinuate.  Don’t gossip.  You CAN Encourage, build up, edify, ask honest questions, joke appropriately, small talk, or shut the h-e-double hockey stick up.  Everything you type in here is public -- swimming in the air around our heads in invisible little ‘0’s and ‘1’s. I don’t care if you think it’s private.  It’s not.  Because every few days I’m going to pick it up and read everything you’ve written.  “But, dad!”  You object.  “You don’t trust me?”  Take a look in the rearview.  Do you really want to go there?  Let me put it this way...I’d like to give you a chance to rebuild it.  If I’m raining on your parade, you’d do well to swallow your pride, silence that defiant voice inside you and come in out of the cold. Trust is built over time.  When sufficient time has passed, I’ll trust you more.  When is that time and how much is that time? Don’t know. I’ll let you know when I do.

    Given that it is my God-given right to read everything you say, you may not erase anything.  So, refer to rule #5.  If I discover that you do, you lose the fruit.

    If it has a password, I know it before the fruit does.

    If the fruit rings, answer it.  Period.
  6. The best and most useful button on here is the one that turns it off.  Use it.  Frequently.  Check out of that world and into this one.  Trust me, you’ll live.  What’s more, the other humans on the planet will thank you because you’ll start acting more like one of us rather than a robot with spastic thumbs and a nervous tick.
  7. Before you ever send a picture, ask yourself if you would send said picture to your mother, father and both sets of grandparents. If not, yep that’s right, you guessed it, don’t send it.  If you do when you shouldn’t, you lose the fruit.  The excuse of, “But dad, I thought...” won’t work.  Turn on your internal filter, and use better judgment.
  8. You will reattach this fruit to its charging vine in the kitchen Sun-Thurs by 10pm.  And by 11pm on Fri and Sat.  Exceptions granted upon request.  Failure to do so will result in immediate forfeiture and confiscation for at least a week.  “I forgot” will get you no sympathy.
  9. No texting between the hours of 10pm and when you wake up -- which is logical cause it’ll be hanging from the vine and not in your hand.  If you can’t remember to do this, then set a nightly alarm to remind you.  I will not.  If I see you handling the forbidden fruit passed 10:05pm, you lose it for the following day.    If you need it to serve as an alarm, you may ask to do so but know this -- the temptation to use it while it sits idly on your bedside will prove difficult -- as your history has shown.  With that in mind, you might do well to buy yourself a $2 alarm clock from Wal-Mart and save yourself the temptation, aggravation, and resulting confiscation.  Consider yourself forewarned before I lay an axe to the tree.
  10. All music on this thing is subject to my approval.  And if you are going to spend money on it, ask permission before you do.  I can and will delete at will.  If it sounds angry, spits profanities, contains the ‘explicit’ label or talks in any way I deem inappropriate about drugs, alcohol, or girls and their bodies or what the artist/musician/singer were, have, are going to, or wish they were going to do to them, it’s gone.  Our bodies are a temple.  And when God declared this, he didn’t stutter.  Note --> Girl’s bodies = temple of God.  He made it for His pleasure.  Not yours.  When it’s your time to experience that (which is waay cool and you’re going to love it), He, her father, and she will give it to you. Until then, we’re not defiling it.
  11. Same rules apply to movies.  Note: Cool movies must be watched with me.  Cool lines will be remembered and quoted frequently between us in stocatto’ish fashion which will sound like incoherent babblings to the uninformed.  Your mother will not understand this but don’t look down your nose.  She brought you into this world (I saw it) and she can take you out.  She multi-tasks on a level you and I cannot comprehend.   So, cut her some slack.
  12. You’re right I said ten, but I’m not finished.  With our mouths, we curse and we damn or we bless and build up.  Hence, words matter.  Never do the former.  Always the latter.  And, remember that bit about sticks and stones and how words can never hurt? That’s BS.  They can hurt like h-e-double-hockey stick.  On the other hand, in one of the most miraculous transactions to occur on the earth, they can bring healing to a deep wound.  (For more on this, read my latest book.  It’s entitled ‘Unwritten’ for a reason.)  That’s why God gave them (words) to us.  They started with Him.  Like the fruit, we are borrowing them.  Treat them delicately and with equal integrity for we will return them one day.  With your mouth, you are either a walking, talking spinner of damnation, or a triage nurse roaming a smoking and scorched battlefield called earth.  If you curse, damn or tear down, you’ll lose more than the fruit and it won’t be me who takes it from you.  If you bless, build up, love, forgive, and bring laughter, well then...you’ll gain more than my trust and it won’t be me who gives it to you.
  13. I realize there is a voice inside you right now saying, “Dad, do you have to make such a big deal of this?  None of my friends parents do this.  I mean, seriously.  It’s just a...”  Here’s the deal, you’re not a weekend hobby or a passing fancy.  Not something I tend to in my spare time.  You are magnificent.  Without measure.  Not for sale.  And...you are standing at the threshold of manhood.  With that in mind...I’m your biggest fan, and I want you to make it through the doorway -- intact.  I’m also your dad.  God made me that.  (It’s one of my greatest honors.)  Therefore, I will not sell my parental rights at the altar of pop culture, or at the altar of what everyone else is doing, or the altar of indifference -- which is the curse of this age.  Trust me, you’re cool without trying and I’m anything but indifferent when it comes to you.  Said fruit doesn’t increase your coolness.  In truth, having your face constantly buried in it can make you look petty and insecure.  Neither of which apply to you.  This is the subject of a larger conversation (one we’ve been having since you were old enough to listen) so in the infamous words of Inigo Montoya, let me sum up -- The world is going to try and steal you from me/us and, if we let it, it will use (among other things) the fruit to do so.  It’s also going to use alcohol, sex, drugs, fame, power, porn...the instruments are many and the battle constant.  You were born into a world at war and are being hounded by a very real enemy who is hell-bent on ripping your head off.  Maybe I’ll expand on this in another Manifesto, but, fear not, you have a King who’s stronger than your enemy.  What’s more, he’s sent you thousands of texts  All sitting in your inbox.  String them all together and it’s the greatest love story every told -- one in which you play a starring role.  Even better than Les Mis -- although I think Victor Hugo must have borrowed a few notes from the King’s Story cause I saw a lot of similarities.  Anyway, in it you’ll find every thing you need to know about you, Him, and the battle plan.  Look around a bit and you’ll find there’s an app for that.
  14. The purpose for all these Don’t Do’s is NOT so that I can control your life and hold you under my thumb.  I’m fighting for your freedom.  Not your imprisonment.  Trust me, we’d love to trust you with this thing.  So, before you get puffy, remember, the Don’t Do’s allow the Get To’s.   Realize that and this will sting less.  It’s like football -- the game is played in that green space between the sidelines.  And once you agree to abide by the rules and stop arguing with the guys in the striped shirts, you get to play all out and use the gifts you’ve been given.  Which are many.
  15. You are now free to roam the garden.  You can eat your fill from all the trees but one.  Avoid that one like the plague.  It’s bitter fruit.  Life or death.  Choose wisely.    

I love you,



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