Thursday, December 10, 2015

Technology, Christmas Gifts, and Keeping Kids Safe

My latest article is now live at ministrytech.com.



Christmas is a great time of year for ministries as we celebrate the birth of our Savior.  It can also be a challenging time for parents as kids Christmas lists are full of the latest high tech gadgets and whatchamacallits so they can visit websites you’ve never heard of.  Here are some tips for parents to help keep children safe on Christmas Day and every day.

I am very pro technology but like most things in life you have to earn the privilege to use it and then continue to use it responsibly.  For example, when you learn to drive you don’t get behind the wheel of a race car at Indianapolis right away.  That isn’t saying that race cars in Indy are bad but that you have to earn it and work hard to use it properly.

In the real world we have curfews, why not in the virtual world?  Parents should set boundaries on their kids use of technology and devices.  I don’t agree with the notion that as parents we should let our kids fail first and then pick them up and help them along and allow them to continue making bad decisions so that they can “learn”.  That is how many kids end up viewing porn or participating in online activities that are not appropriate – often times long before mom and dad are aware.  And by the time mom and dad become aware it is too late. (Prov. 22:6 and Ephesians 6:4)

It is also important to encourage Godly relationships.  Positive peer influence is critical as over 80% of kids ages 7-10 years old view pornography online at the encouragement of a friend.  Do your kid’s friends model a Godly example and help them live a life that strives to become more like Christ?  Those peer influences in the physical world also impact actions in the virtual world.

Proverbs has a few things to say about this.  Proverbs 27:17 talks about iron sharpening iron.  Remember that this iron sharpening can happen virtually as well.  Proverbs 18:24 says, “A man of too many friends comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”  What did it say?  Too many friends can be a bad thing?  Seem to fly in the face of the goal of having as many online friends and connections as possible.

As a parent I expect obedience.  The Bible is pretty clear about the whole children obeying your parents thing (Eph. 6:1) but often the rules seem looser when it comes to online obedience or obeying mom and dad when they don’t understand the technology.  Internet use, cell phone use, tablet use, video console use, etc. is not a right.  It’s a privilege that is earned through responsibility.  It is not an inalienable right.  After all, who is paying for it?

Removing the technology should always be an option that is on the table when it comes to expecting obedience.  Granted, some technology is required for school but there must still be a way for young people to accomplish their education and then not use their devices for anything else.  If there is a sin issue in their life as a result of the technology then it must be removed, whether that sin is something obvious like pornography or something less obvious like gossip.

The story is told of a traveling salesman back in the good ole days before the internet and cell phones who struggled with pornography on hotel room TVs.  Recognizing this challenge in his life he decided that he would not stay at hotels unless they would physically remove the TV from his room, and if the hotel would not remove the TV from his room then he would stay at a different hotel.

What lengths are you willing to go to in order to help your kids stay pure?  It might not be easy but I believe that if we are going to stand before God and give an account for how we raise our children then how easy or convenient it is shouldn’t matter.  (1 Cor. 10:31, Col. 3:23-24)

Finally, we should provide accountability and set a good example.  How are mom and dad using the latest technology and gadgets?  Who helps hold mom and dad accountable?  What’s better, for mom and dad to learn about the latest technology, gadgets, and social media and teach their children, or for the kids to learn about it from someone else?

A recent study of 13 year olds by CNN found that parental involvement and accountability “effectively erased the negative effects” of their kid’s online interactions, whether through social media, games, chats, etc.  When a secular study says that it seems that, we as Christian parents should take notice and provide accountability.

Here are some accountability suggestions:
  1. Spend time with your children online and learn from them.  Ask them to show you what they like to do online and their favorite sites.  Ask them to teach you how to use the latest gadgets.
  2. Check up on their logs and history, across all devices.
  3. Use other software for filtering and internet tracking.  The goal is not to remove independence but provide accountability to help the children grow and mature spiritually.
  4. Find out about other points of access.  Where else can your kids get online and use other devices?  School?  Friend’s house?
I believe we are all accountable for our actions.  I think we tend to forget what “ALL” means and who it applies to.  We are accountable for our actions both in the real world and in the online world.  We are accountable for our children, and our kids are accountable for themselves before God.  God is still God, even in the virtual world filled with high tech gadgets and toys.

If you’d like to learn more about keeping kids safe and technology, visit http://faithlafayette.org/parenttech.