Tune in When Your Kids are Logged On
- Tuesday, August 05, 2008
Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Vicki Courtney's book, Logged On and Tuned Out: A Non-Techie’s Guide to Parenting a Tech-Savvy Generation, (B&H Publishing Group, 2008).
The rapidly changing technology your kids use may baffle you. But it’s a vital part of their lives, and if you don’t know who they’re talking to and what they’re saying on their computers and cell phones, you can’t guide them or protect them from danger. So to be an engaged and caring parent, you need to enter their digital world yourself.
Here’s how you can tune in when your kids are logged on:
Be their parent instead of their buddy. Your kids need you to give them rules and boundaries for dealing with technology. Step up to the responsibility God has given you to guide and protect your kids, even when that makes you unpopular with them. There are too many dangers out there to just look the other way when your kids use technology; you must constantly stay on top of how they’re using it. Just as you wouldn’t think of having them drive without first learning the rules of the road, you shouldn’t consider letting them onto the information superhighway without guidance, either, so they don’t become a hazard to themselves and others.
Keep an open mind. It’s unreasonable to ban your teens completely from technology, since it’s such an important way for them communicate with friends, and since they’ll need to be familiar with the latest technology to succeed once they leave home. While you do need to gauge each of your kids’ maturity levels before getting them cell phones and computer screen names, you can’t put it off forever. Remember that technology itself isn’t bad; it’s simply how people use technology that determines either good or evil results.
Commit your time. Be willing to invest the time necessary to guide your kids well once they start using computers and cell phones, so they have the benefit of wisdom right from the start. Make it a priority to regularly monitor the ways your kids use technology. Be proactive about finding out what’s going on rather than just reacting to something going wrong. There’s too much at stake to shirk your responsibility to be constantly involved with your kids’ use of technology.
Install an Internet safety filter. Make sure that you install a filter on every computer to which your kids have access. Doing so will protect them from many dangerous sites.
Install monitoring software. This will give you an ongoing record of all their online activity that you can review regularly. Emphasize to them that you’re not using the software to stalk their every movement, but just to stay informed so you can help them should any problems arise.
Help them instant message wisely. Tell your kids never to instant message strangers; add people they don’t personally know to their buddy lists; click through on links others may send them; accept invitations to go to public chat rooms; or type something that they wouldn’t say to someone face-to-face; or that would bring dishonor to God. Remind your kids that everything they type becomes permanent because it can be stored indefinitely on computer hard drives – even if they delete it from their own computer. Urge them to think before they type.
Set up your own screen name and put your kids on your buddy list so you can use instant messaging to communicate with each other sometimes for fun. But never instant message your kids’ friends; let the friends contact you first if they would like to instant message with you. Also remember these guidelines for instant messaging: Don’t use all capital letters (that’s considered yelling), be brief, be patient while you wait for people to answer your messages, and always say goodbye before logging off.
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