How to Equip Kids to Safely Enjoy New Technology
- Dan Martin pureHOPE
- 2015 31 Mar
For the past five years I’ve had the unique privilege of speaking to and hearing from parents all over the country. The question I am asked most by parents is how to handle all of the tech gadgets invading their kids’ lives and what I would recommend as a dad who has raised three teenagers in the digital age.
Finding a balance of face-to-face and digital connection is the key. As the Apostle John said: “I have much to write to you, but I do not want to use paper and ink. Instead, I hope to visit you and talk with you face to face, so that our joy may be complete” (2 John 1:12).
What John understood was that technology (his being paper and ink) was a substitute for something better: face-to-face interaction and connection. John, and all of the writers of the New Testament, mastered the art of balancing these two connecting opportunities. Just like them, we ought to seek a healthy combination of both.
Here is a three-step plan for managing technology in your home:
First, we are to protect our kids.
Protection involves several layers in today’s wired environment. A comprehensive protection plan involves activating parental controls on all digital devices, browsers, specific social media sites and apps. Many parents forget to also protect at the router level. This will help with devices that are brought into our homes by friends of our children who might not have parental controls activated.
Filtering and/or monitoring (aka Internet Accountability) should be part of a comprehensive protection plan. Our family has used Covenant Eyes for both filtering and monitoring for several years and we have found it to be a wonderful piece of our overall protection plan. We used filtering when our kids were young and moved to monitoring when they got a bit older.
I also recommend that technology be used only in common areas in the home, i.e., no technology in bedrooms. Besides the obvious risk of kids viewing porn is the fact that cyber bullying has become all too common in the digital age and a 24/7 possibility.
Second, we are to equip our kids to thrive in a digital world.
If all we do is protect our kids from … we will fail to equip them for … A home strategy should involve lots of equipping when it comes to technology. I would much rather send an equipped child into the world than a protected one. Equipping means that our homes become incubators for healthy learning, healthy growth, healthy correcting and healthy dialogue about the impact and influence of technology. If we want them to make good decisions when they leave the security of our homes, they need to understand why prudent tech use is so important to their spiritual and emotional well being.
Third, and in my opinion most importantly, we need to model wise and healthy technology use for our kids.
It remains true that observational learning is the primary way our kids develop understanding and learn behavior. It also remains true that parents are the primary influence in their kids’ lives. Not peers, not media, not celebrities…parents! If we desire for our kids to use technology wisely then we must model this behavior in our own lives, in our own homes. Here are a few things I recommend doing as a family and yes, parents, you need to set the example here!
1) Create a Tech Basket – a place in the home where all technology is placed at a specified time each evening in order to protect valuable family time. We have a rule that family meal times are also tech-free!
2) Tech Sabbath – This could be a night or a weekend of complete rest from technology. Our family loves to go camping together, which provides time to reconnect with each other and disconnect from technology.
3) Model Good Tech Use - As parents we also need to have our own Internet activity monitored in order to model good technology health to our kids. When my oldest son left home for college he received a laptop as a graduation gift. I will never forget him bringing me his laptop prior to moving out and asking me, “Dad, will you install that program (Covenant Eyes) you have on your laptop?” One question to ask yourself: are you modeling the type of behavior you want to see in your kids?
A three-fold strategy involving protecting, equipping and modeling will help our children thrive when it comes to living in this digital age.
Dan Martin serves as Parenting Associate at pureHOPE and as the Adult Ministry Pastor at the Chase Oaks Church Fairview Campus in Fairview, TX. Dan lives in Lucas, TX, and has been married to his wife Kathie for 24 years; they are recent empty nesters with three college-aged children.
Publication date: March 31, 2015