Imagine with me for a moment that you are in church with your little ones by your side. Your darling sons and daughters are all spiffed up in their Sunday best and they are going to sit reverently through all of church . . . or so you hope. Instead brother pulls sister's pigtail, toddler won't stop begging for a snack, and baby is just crying for the heck of it. We've all been there. I know that scenario too well. So what do you do? You could pull out the iPad and let them play Angry Birds OR you could pull out the iPad and let them play a church app instead. Although I'm not a big tech user at church, I believe technology has great power to teach children and cement concepts and ideas into their brains. I've been learning that technology can help teach our children religion and important moral values. Media and technology are great for distractions and entertainment, but why not sneak in some learning at the same time? This is why I like the app called Z is for Zion.
Z is for Zion is an LDS (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) app to help teach children. The app is storybook style and can be used for young children and older children.
The app's creator, Jordan Richardson says that he remembers his testimony and understanding of the gospel "being cultivated not always necessarily at church, but through deep discussions about God & the gospel - at home - with parents & family." He says, "I'm grateful for those moments, and I sincerely hope that this app might stimulate a few of those discussions. The app contains short & simple thoughts on each topic - purposefully to spark interest & discussion."
Older children can easily swipe and find more information about each subject. This would be a great bedtime story too. This app is a way for parents to easily sit down with their child, pull out their phone, and teach the gospel in just a few minutes.
I have a son who LOVES his tech and I have seen him be able to remember in exact detail what he sees and hears on media of all kinds. Technology is an excellent teaching tool. But the technology we give kids needs to be carefully chosen. We are fans of Angry Birds at our house too, but that doesn't mean I want them using it all the time. Instead, I put on a bunch of games that are educational too (and delete the addictive games for awhile). The truth is, kids are going to play whatever technology they can get their hands on, so why not give them good educational choices.
3 tips for using technology to teach religious principles to kids:
1. Use religious apps and games.This is seems the most obvious, but think about this: How many religious stories and games do your children have on their devices compared to other movies and games? Adding a few more "churchy" apps like Z is for Zion would not kill anyone and if your kids are like mine, they love new apps and will try anything. Also, you could set a rule about only using religious apps on Sunday or at church. Encourage them to use them more. Maybe have them do 10 minutes on the religious or educational apps before they play the regular games.
2. Use devices for religious music.Music is a huge motivator for children. They could be using their devices to play positive, wholesome music. My kidlets almost always turn on music when they do chores or mundane tasks. We love 80's bands, the latest radio hits, Disney tunes, and even The Piano Guys at our house. Sometimes I encourage them to turn on some religious tunes. Religious music brings a beautiful peace into our home and I want my children to experience that more often. There are many great apps with church music or even just classical music. The kids will listen to it . . . they may not like it at first, but the more they hear it, the more they will learn to enjoy it. It doesn't hurt to help them develop many different tastes in music.
3. Use your device to engage them when you teach.I've noticed that when I teach my kids at home, or when I teach music to the children at church that they LOVE that electronic glow and will immediately listen up when I turn it on. I know it's not always the best or the only way to teach children and they need to learn to get along without devices all the time. However, I do think our technology can be a great teaching tool when used thoughtfully. They can grab the attention of children when you need them to focus. You can show them a variety of good movies or video clips to help them understand a concept. They can read scriptures or other religious texts from them. Use them to show pictures as you tell or story or teach an object lesson.
They key is to use technology wisely. I feel like I cannot say this enough. Technology is a wonderful gift if we use it with care. Overdoing anything becomes a problem, and overuse of technology makes it a negative thing in our lives. Balancing the fun with the education and the religious helps keep our devices as positive tool in our homes.