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Parenting in the Smart Age

Adding “smart phones” and technology to the parenting equation creates both questions and challenges.  When should my child get a cell-phone?  Should I allow my child to use social media?  If so, at what age?  How should I monitor the use of technology in my home?  When and how do I allow my child to make mistakes with technology?  Should I allow a certain app to be downloaded on a phone or tablet?  What restrictions should I set with the use of cell phones and technology? 

These are some of the questions we are currently working through and trying to gain clarity on.  I am certainly not writing this article because I have all the right answers. There’s a good chance in the future I will look back and recognize mistakes that were made.  I understand that within the church there are many different thoughts and views on the subject of parenting and the use of technology.  I want to share some biblical principles that can help to be a guide to us all, as we travel through this rocky terrain.

Deuteronomy 11:19

“You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”(ESV)

It was clear that the Israelites were to actively teach their children.  There are a number of reasons that can prevent us from fulfilling this responsibility.  We can be so busy driving from one activity to the next, that our time and resources are exhausted. We squander opportunities to connect with our kids, when the majority of our spare time is spent sitting around the tube or connected to a digital device.  If we are not being led by the Spirit, then our priority will not be on teaching and modeling the right behavior through our words and actions.  We can also be so consumed with life in general, that we neglect the time and effort it takes to build relationships within the home.

Our children grow up quickly, and they will be educated by someone.  Other influences will take the lead in teaching our kids, if we are passive, silent, busy, or too distracted.  Our children need to hear and be taught of their immense value and opportunities to glorify God.  They need to hear about the importance of living in purity, of being mindful of all of the areas of influence they have, of the dangers of technology, how to spend their time wisely, and of what to do when mistakes are made. 

Romans 12:2

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (ESV)

It may be “normal” for Susie from school to have a cell phone with unfiltered and unmonitored access to the internet, along with apps such as Snap Chat and Instagram at the age of 10.  Johnny from down the street may be allowed to stay up half the night surfing the internet on his phone and texting his friends. Just because a behavior or privilege is considered “normal” by another does not mean it’s a good choice for us.  The world has very different view-points on what is good, which are not based on the will of God. (Proverbs 14:12, Isaiah 5:20) We all have unique children, who are at different places physically, spiritually, and emotionally, and we have to evaluate what is wise and right for our family! 

Psalm 101:3

I will not look with approval on anything that is vile.  I hate what faithless people do; I will have no part in it.” (NIV)

Proverbs 4:23

            “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”

Most of us wouldn’t feel comfortable with the idea of our children riding a bike into a rough part of town known for drug and gang-activity.  We value our children and take measures to protect their safety.  It makes sense for us to also be cautious about the technology which we allow in our homes, because the dark side of town can be accessed in just a few clicks on a computer or phone.  What we look at does have an influence on our heart and our actions that follow, even though our kids may struggle to grasp or appreciate this truth at times.  There are resources available which can help us to be more aware as parents of the games and apps our children are requesting. (I have included a few websites below as a reference.) These resources can help us to see underlying dangers, such as:  Gateways in apps that lead to the Web and allow for unfiltered and unmonitored internet access, opportunities for communication with strangers, intense peer pressure to be noticed or get likes, access to inappropriate pictures or content, and the potential for cyber-bullying.

I am not suggesting that there is a perfect formula to keep our kids on the right path with technology. And the reality is, we can’t perfectly shelter our children.  There are just too many opportunities to see and be affected by sin.  But hopefully when the temptations come and the decisions have to be made, we will have considered and executed our side of the equation through 1) diligent teaching, 2) living by the right standard, and  3) by taking measures to guard and protect the hearts of our children.

- Derek Anderson