Creating a Digital Rule of Life


The average person in America spends 7 hours & 4 minutes on their phone. That’s a lot.

The younger you are the more likely it is for that number to be higher. For some perspective, that's nearly a full-time job just looking at a screen.

Let me remind you of 2 important truths: in relationships, there is no substitute for time spent with someone to grow closer; and time spent with God is never wasted. Jesus desires to have our time and attention.

There is very little debate among psychologists, sociologists, and ordinary people that for every leap forward in digital technology, we pay a cost.

Inundated on all sides by screens, entertainment options, outlets for curating a fabricated image of our lives, we are—as Ronald Rolheiser worried—“distracting ourselves into spiritual oblivion.”

The endless dopamine drip feed of new information, photos, updates, headlines, likes, comments, and outrage have so dulled our once hungry attention spans that many of us—whether we realize it or not—no longer have the attentive wherewithal to endure a single meal or movie or conversation or get-together without our itchy twitching fingers stabbing at a touch-screen display.

The same digital technology useful for communicating, finding your way home, and enjoying art can also distract and anesthetize us, steep us in noxious fantasy, damage relationships, and incite us to sin.

In a world of normalized digital addiction, disciples of Jesus remember the uncompromising words of Paul, “I will not be mastered by anything” (See 1 Cor. 6v12).

Rather than allowing ourselves to circle the drain of the digital vortex, we instead “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (See 2 Cor. 10v5).

There is no scripture that deals with iphones or social media. And I’m certainly not advocating that we get rid of our devices completely. But as followers of Christ we must decide how we are going to relate to our devices in a way that honors God. We need an ordinance that we can lean on or a “rule of life” that will guide us to Christlikeness.

6 ideas to consider, adapt, or inspire:

  1. Have a bedtime for your phone.
    • Create a recurring schedule for when your phone will be powered down and put away. Put it to bed and don’t turn it back on until it's time for your device to wake up. For me this looks like 8:30pm my phone goes to bed. This gives me a little bit of time after my kids go to bed to laugh at reels or watch some YouTube videos that catch my attention without drifting into hours of scrolling.

    • My phone “wakes up” at 7:30am. This ensures that I make spending time with Jesus my priority in the morning.

  2. Minimize the number of apps on your devices.
    • If possible, make your smartphone a dumb phone. Use it for only texting and calling. Shift your social media use to only be used on your computer or laptop. Again, this helps limit our screen time.

  3. Take a weekly sabbath away from devices and screens.
    • Make this a part of your Sabbath practice. My sabbath is Friday and I make a practice of not being on my phone until the afternoon on my Sabbath day.

  4. Establish limits and parameters for particular devices, apps, or media.
    • Use time limits on your apps. I give myself 30 minutes for social media a day. And if you are the kind of person that is just going to ignore that, have someone else set the code so you can’t open the app once you’ve hit your screen time limit.

  5. Establish “no device” zones, like the dinner table, the car, or while out with friends.
    • Normalize leaving your phone in a different room and not thinking about it. We’ve made our bedroom a no device zone which has been wonderful for our marriage. But even throughout the day I often leave my phone somewhere I am not.

  6. Parents, develop best practices and guidelines for your children and family. Consider how your personal relationship with devices will affect your children’s relationship with devices.
    • The importance here is presence. If you give your children your presence they will want more of it. If you give them screens they will want more screens. Nothing is more important than your presence with them in the simple ordinary moments of life.