I remember when I was 9 and my parents got cable installed in our house. The large gray box that sat on top of the tv brought a lot of things into our home we didn’t previously have access to. Videos featuring scantly clad women and rappers singing about “big butts” were suddenly only a few channels away.
Now the MTV generation is raising the internet generation. And sexual predators & porn are only a click or typo away for our kids.
The Internet can be such a huge blessing. We can spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ like never before! But, like anything that’s good, we know that evil wants to twist and turn it in a deadly direction.
The enemy is fighting hard to claim the hearts and minds of our kids through their technology.
So, as parents we need to be on the offensive. Instead of just reacting to things when they come up, and being ruled by fear, we should know how to set safeguards that will shelter our children as they use potentially dangerous devices.
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Establish rules before you give them a device. Figure out how much time and what parts of the day are appropriate for your kids to be on devices, excluding school time. Have them use and charge devices in a main area of the house where you walk through often, instead of in their bedrooms.
Before they set up any online accounts, or download music and games, they should ask permission. Set boundaries like they cannot respond to emails, messages, or friend requests from someone they don’t know unless you approve. Let them know they need to share their user names and passwords with you in order to keep these accounts, but make them private from everyone else.
Inform them that if they break one of these rules just once, they will lose the privilege of using the iPad, smart phone, etc. for a specified amount of time. Establish family tech-free zones as well, which will help hold you accountable!
Be Plugged In
It’s vitally important that you become familiar with the websites, social media, and apps that your child uses. Explore their peers’ Instagram and Facebook accounts and talk about what is good and what is harmful there.
Be aware of the apps out there these days. Some are just incredible time wasters, and others are literally harmful.
Also, the word “anonymously,” when associated with any app, should automatically set off alarm bells! Anonymity within apps breeds bullying and predatory behavior. It’s also a great enabler for tweens and teenagers who struggle with impulse control. Our kids don’t need another tool to help them be irresponsible and impulsive.
Restrict the amount and types of apps your kids can download by taking the “one app” approach. Only allow them to download one application at a time and when they’ve built trust with that one, they can have another.
Whenever our kids want to download an app or game on their iPads, both my husband and I automatically receive a notification. Then we need to actually approve it before they can download it. Some filters will also even block access to the iTunes App store and Google Play.
Discuss potential dangers
Go on the offensive by talking to your kids about porn first, before they encounter it. You wouldn’t bat an eye about discussing stranger danger with your children, right? These are predators that are lying in wait online instead of on the street or playground. It may be uncomfortable, but you’re preparing them for the sexualized world in which we live.
If you haven’t had “the talk” with them yet, you can simply describe porn as pictures or videos of naked people together. Come up with a game plan for what to do if they accidentally see something of that nature, like shutting their eyes immediately and talking to an adult.
If they’re at a friend’s house, they could excuse themselves to go to the bathroom right away and then call you. Don’t assume either that because you homeschool, it won’t be an issue. There are kids in my son’s Sunday School class that are bringing smart phones with them to church.
Make sure they also know ahead of time that they shouldn’t be ashamed. Sexual sin gains power when it’s done in secret. You can stop darkness from gaining a foothold by not overreacting if your child comes to you with a problem related to an online experience.
Use a safety program
Get a filter like Circle with Disney and install it. This resource allows you to manage time and content across all of your family’s devices from one convenient app.
You can set time limits for or restrict access to certain apps and websites you don’t want your kids using. Their pause feature enables you to turn off the internet at certain intervals, making dinner time more pleasant! It also has 4 preset filter levels (Pre-K, Kid, Teen, and Adult) that can be applied to each individual user according to maturity.
The best thing is that you’ll be able to check your kids’ activity, so you can see exactly where they have been online and for how long. Their companion Circle Go application even works for your child’s device while he or she is away from home! For all parents who want to take back control of technology in their homes, Circle is a must.
Deepen Internal Values
You can set great external boundaries for your family, but what happens when there’s a way around them or they aren’t in place at a friend’s house? While external boundaries are important, it’s even more important to set internal values for your children that will act as a compass when navigating technology decisions.
Use everyday situations to discuss your beliefs and values. If inappropriate content pops up while you’re searching something online together, stop and talk about why we should protect our eyes and minds. Take that opportunity to share about using technology in a God-honoring way.
Read scriptures with your kids that will show how setting internal values is in pursuit of God’s best for us, not just because you say so as a parent. Topics like guarding your mind (Phil. 4:8), setting time limits (1 Cor. 6:12), inappropriate content (Psalm 101:3-4), and posting about/to others (Ephesians 4:15, 29) speak directly to the issues that internet use presents.
For older kids, one of the key ways we can help them own their faith is by asking questions that will help them evaluate how to make wise social media choices. Teenagers will have to fight hard to resist trying to find their identity from social approval in the form of follows, likes, shares, and comments. Keep an open dialogue by asking:
- Have you seen any posts made by your friends you think they will be embarrassed about and regret a year or more from now?
- Do you find that you’re more or less content after you view social media?
- What area of your life (school, sports, dance, music, friends, etc.) are you most tempted to draw your identity and value from and why?
Protecting your child from the possible dangers of technology is a bit like venturing into enemy territory, but we can do it. It’s us who God has chosen to parent the next generation of godly men and women!
He knows what He’s doing, giving us these kids during this time in history. We must remember He has not left us to do this job alone. And He will give us the wisdom and the perseverance to parent well in this digital age.