Parenting in a Tech World

It’s no secret we live in an age where we are all inundated with technology. We wake up in the morning and our televisions, radios, or phone screens are blasting us with advertisements and messages.  It’s easy to let technology take over our lives – and by extension – our children’s lives.  Technology is so accessible and so easy to use now that we border on the unhealthy usage of it.  We wake up in the morning and turn on the news. We stare at our phones and scroll through social media the second we get a free moment. We fall asleep with the tv on. 

And our kids are watching us and modeling this behavior. The first thing my kids want to do when they wake up in the morning is play video games. They want to turn on their favorite television show and be entertained mindlessly rather than engaging their imaginations or having real relationships with their friends. 

We all know too much technology is dangerous for kids.  The dark side of technology is that they can learn bad habits, view harmful material, or even interact with dangerous people online.  So how do we keep our children safe in a tech world?  Our family has adopted a few rules to help us limit and mitigate our technology usage.  Here are a few categories of technology we parent through:

1. Television

We limit screen time by not allowing any technology for the majority of the day.  There’s no television or video games turned on in our household before 3:00pm – and later if homework is not done. The day should be spent learning and engaging with other members of the household, not staring at a screen.  

When we do watch television, it needs to be parent approved shows. We often practice co-viewing so we as parents can help our kids understand what they’re watching and interpret it with a biblical worldview. Co-viewing is a great practice for families to engage in media together and teach values and morals. 

2. Video Games

My kids love to play video games.  But many video games are violent in nature.  We don’t allow those kinds of games, particularly those where humans are killed or injured intentionally.  We teach that people are created in the image of God and deserve love and respect.  Violent video games undermine the values we try to teach them. 

Many games are online, but that sets the stage for unwanted or dangerous persons to infiltrate our children’s lives.  If our children are playing online – and that’s rare – they are only allowed to play with friends we know and trust.  Online people are real people and can be potentially dangerous. Allowing online play with just anyone sets a dangerous precedent for our children.  Stranger danger looks different in the 21st century.

3. Phones

Phones are one of the most convenient and innovative pieces of technology in our day and age.  The internet is at our fingertips: google, email, etc. But it also allows access to harmful sites. Allowing our children to carry that kind of power when they are ill-equipped to wield it is unwise. I receive unwanted spam texts all the time from people I don’t know. I don’t open them and immediately delete them.  Would our children have the wisdom to do the same or would curiosity get the best of them?

My oldest son just got his first cell phone.  He is in the 8th grade and we allow him to stay home alone for short periods of time. His phone is a link between us and him.  He is mature for his age but we still have safeguards in place for him.  For instance, his phone doesn’t have internet access. He can make calls and text, that’s about it.  We also ask that he only texts people we know.  There are monitoring apps out there that allow us to see who is talking to and what they are saying.  Yes, we want to honor his privacy, but privacy has its limits for a 13 year old.  

We are not helicopter parents by any means, but we do want to practice wisdom for the sake of our children.  They are growing up in a dangerous world and we can not turn a blind eye to that fact. There are plenty of resources on this subject that are helpful in providing insight and action steps for families.  One resource I recommend is The Tech-Wise Family by Andy Crouch.  He provides helpful research and practical tips for keeping our kids safe in the modern world and engaged with reality.  

How do you safeguard your children from dangerous activities online? How do you equip them to engage with technology with wisdom and moderation? Start the conversation by leaving a comment below.

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