Remember, the basic principles of child rearing are love, nurture, involvement, interest, instruction, frank discussion and discipline. Here are some specific ways to apply these principles to counter the negative effects of technology in your children’s and teens’ lives.
1. Carefully consider the potential consequences before equipping children and teens with a smartphone and instant messenger accounts. Understand the high level of freedom you grant your children by giving them their own personal devices of mobile communication. It is unwise to allow adolescents a high level of trust considering that a majority of adults have trouble resisting the temptation to visit inappropriate websites so prevalent on the Internet. Frequent news reports have shown that many teens share undressed photos of themselves through instant messaging sites. If your children need a cell phone, consider providing them with a flip phone.
2. Only allow your child to use an electronic device in a highly visible area. This list should include computers, iPads, iPods, smartphones and any other electronic device that can access the Internet. Mr. Flurry has strongly encouraged this for many years. On November 1, 2006, the American Academy of Pediatrics (aap) stated the same thing: “The aap also recommends that parents do not allow their children to have televisions or Internet access in their bedrooms, for some research has found a link between kids who have tvs in their bedrooms and obesity, as well as kids who have disrupted patterns of sleep. However, as a mother of three children under the age of 10 points out to me, ‘When content is available on all kinds of mobile devices, you don’t really need a tv or Internet access for kids to be viewing entertainment media in their bedrooms—or anywhere at all!’” (Huffington Post).
3. Install and use parental control software. Great parental control applications and programs are bundled with your system or your device’s operating system. Other third-party programs can provide additional protection. Be sure you apply these protections on all devices, including mobile devices, notebooks, desktops and gaming consoles. These programs and applications should help protect the environment your children experience while using technology. Take time to research how to apply these controls, and learn which ones are most effective.
4. Schedule any time they spend using technology. Computers are usually more beneficial to students when they have to schedule the time to go to the machine to use them, rather than having a laptop within arm’s reach 24/7. When you have a predetermined purpose and time for using a computer—writing a paper, editing photos, etc—you tend to carry out that objective instead of wandering mindlessly around the Web or checking social media. In other words, help your children know what they are going to do and when they are going to do it—and then ensure that is what they do!
5. Get involved with your children. Don’t be afraid to invade their privacy. This is your job! When your child does use technology, be involved! There are choices that children, including teenagers, simply aren’t old enough to make. In many cases, you will need to determine what access they should have for their own benefit and protection as they mature into people capable of judging what is right and what is wrong, what is dangerous and what is not. If you are in doubt, don’t hesitate to ask a minister what to do in specific cases. And if your child is already having a problem with overusing or misusing some form of modern technology, he or she really doesn’t have to use it at all outside of specific classroom instruction and assignments. For more information, see the Parent’s Guide to Internet Safety (www2.fbi.gov/publications/pguide/pguidee.htm).
6. Replace indoor activities with outdoor ones. Get your children involved in social activities, sports programs and physical, outdoor jobs. Aim to develop a balanced lifestyle for them. A day full of challenging activity will break a desire to spend time on an electronic device.
7. Be firm, honest and factual about your concerns about electronic devices and Internet use. Foster an atmosphere of openness and honesty in the home. There can be no better influence on your children than your positive example. Examine your own use of electronic devices and the Internet. Do you need to make changes? If so, do so! Explain to your children why you are concerned about mobile devices and Internet access. Help them to understand you have a responsibility before God to rear them His way. Your children will more likely make a change, and put their hearts in that change, when they understand your concern and see your example.
Ephesians 6:4 states that parents must bring up their children in the “nurture and admonition of the Lord.” God tells us to go on the offensive. We must take action now while we can.