Helping Kids build a healthy relationship with technology
By Pastor Tom Anderson
Many are the parents who spend much time setting up controls on all their family devices only to be frustrated that their children get a friend request from a stranger through some app or they come across inappropriate photos while searching for cookie recipes. There just isn’t any substitute for vigilance and regular family conversations around moral values in the digital world. David vowed in Psalm 101, “I will walk with integrity of heart within my house; I will not set before my eyes anything that is worthless.” If there was a Biblical vow for the digital age, surely this would be it.
At some point every family will need to determine when it’s right to give their children their own devices and accounts. Readiness is best determined by conversation. I’ve come across several free “Parent-child tech contracts” online and here’s one I’ve modified slightly for use by Christian parents. The original is at www.cyberwise.org. The idea is to talk through these points and agree together on the boundaries and consequences of not keeping them.
Stewardship. Who owns the device and who will pay for the technology you use? Is there a monthly cost? Who will bear that cost? Will it be paid in cash? Chores? Some other way?
Passwords. Why should they be kept safe and secure? Why should they not be shared with others? Agree where they will be stored and discuss the reasons why parents might need to access these passwords.
Balance. Discuss important times to unplug, such as during meals, family gatherings or when friends visit. How many hours a day should be the limit on weekdays? Weekends? Agree to not let tech interfere with getting enough sleep, exercise or worship.
Privacy. Never divulge names and contact information online and be wary of sharing personal information of family or friends as well. This includes photos. Discuss your family policy about sharing personal information and images online.
Reputation. What gets posted stays online forever and can be seen by anyone. People judge us by our online reputation. Responsible users are mindful of what they post and try to be the same good person online that they are offline. Discuss and agree on what is inappropriate to share online.
Civility. Discuss what you will do if you are treated cruelly, see another being treated cruelly or experience inappropriate language online.
Social media. Most social media sites require users to be at least 13 years old. Why is that an important guideline? Discuss which social media sites are appropriate for you to sign up for. Agree to review and discuss the settings on all sites and apps used. Set them up together.
Friends. Be discriminating about the friends you choose online. Tell an adult if you receive a suspicious or creepy message from anyone. Discuss your family’s policy on selecting and accepting friends and followers online.
Discernment and Wisdom. Never search for or share inappropriate information. Never take, send or ask for nude pics, ever. Not everything online is true and you should verify things before you share them. You know not to use creative works without permission. (Exodus 20:15) List other digital activities that require careful thinking and self-control.
Ultimately our goal as parents is to develop our children’s ability to manage themselves. We can’t and won’t always be there to protect, control and manage their digital lives. Developing strong values through family prayer, Bible reading and regular worship is crucial to a healthy relationship with tech. Spiritual practices and spiritual conversations will build moral character. Help your children know who God is, who they are in Christ and how to walk in righteousness.