PULASKI — Joe and Elisa Tremblay like to tell the story that illustrates how smartphones and social media can disrupt family bonding time. It occurred during a family outing to a local restaurant with their six children.
The Tremblays have guidelines for using mobile technology, such as smartphones, and meal time is not an appropriate time. When another family with about five children entered the restaurant, Joe recalled, there was a stark contrast at the two tables.
While there was interaction and conversation between the Tremblays, the other table was silent as everyone monitored their smartphones. It is one example of how technology can overstep the boundaries of faith and family.
To help parents make good decisions on the use of technology at home, especially with their children, the Tremblays lead a workshop at different churches around the diocese. On Feb. 14, the Tremblays offered their presentation to parents and high school religious education students at Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Church. Nearly 100 people from Assumption in Pulaski, St. Stanislaus Parish in Hofa Park and St. Casimir Parish in Krakow attended.
Titled “The New Evangelization and Social Media: Preserving Family and Faith,” the presentation is funded by the Bishop’s Appeal.
“Through the Bishop’s Appeal ministries like the New Evangelization are able to reach out to families and individuals interested in growing in their faith. Ninety-one percent of the New Evangelization’s budget comes from the Bishop’s Appeal. So a gift to the Appeal makes a big difference,” said Josh Diedrich, director of the Bishop’s Appeal.
Joe Tremblay is adult faith formation coordinator for the Diocese of Green Bay and Elisa is youth minister at St. Pius X Parish in Appleton, where they are members. The Tremblays say that leading the workshop is not just about their roles as church ministers, it’s about sharing their personal experiences about family and technology.
“I think a lot of parents don’t know what to do” about monitoring the use of technology, said Joe. “They know it’s a blessing and they want their kids to be plugged in and connected with their friends and everything. Of course, the computer is a really a good thing, as well as their phone, but they have also noticed some patterns that disturb them, especially when it comes to family time and so they struggle with the balance.”
Elisa, a self-proclaimed “techie,” said the church has always viewed technology as a potential for good. The key is having guidelines and monitoring its use.
“We are trying to get parents not be be reactionary,” she said. “We want to talk about purposefully preplanning some of these things out, so (parents) have a mission or purpose for their children and their family, to use these things wisely. Too often the feedback I hear with my own children’s friends, people I work with at the churches, is this is a problem that’s out of control and how do we pull it back. We are trying to get them to think ahead.”
During their 90-minute presentation, the Tremblays offer a PowerPoint presentation that includes examples of how smartphones can build community and divide it. They also offer numerous tips for parents.
- Have a family policy of keeping all technology (computers, laptops, smartphones and tablets) on the main level of a home. “It keeps everything up front,” said Joe, and prevents any temptation to view undesirable items online.
- Purchase wireless Bluetooth speakers for children who say they need their smartphones in their bedrooms or bathrooms to listen to music.
- Stay on top of social media and technology. “Get yourself a device and ‘friend’ them” on Facebook, said Elisa. “It’s important to see what’s going on. You don’t have to be stalking them, but they know you know what’s going on. It’s called accountability.”
- Watch morning TV talk shows that share the latest trends in technology and social media. “They are abreast of what is happening with teens on social media,” said Elisa.
- Use social media for prayer. “There are a lot of good Catholic apps,” said Joe. These can help people recite prayers, find Scripture passages and even prepare for confession.
Elisa, who attended last month’s March for Life in Washington, D.C., and was among some 150 pilgrims stranded on three Lamers, coach buses on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, said smartphones and social media have the potential to promote the Gospel.
“We were able to witness for life through social media” during their time on the buses, she said.
The Tremblays conduct about five presentations on evangelization and social media each year. “We are hoping to grow more interest in it,” said Joe.
To learn more about the social media presentations, contact Joe Tremblay, (920) 272-8313; [email protected] dioc.org.