Computer technology is here to stay!!! Funny that I even need to write that down because my children don’t know a time when it didn’t exist!!! Computers are part of our lives and children nowadays are born knowing how to use them. I know my mom would like to jot all the “steps down on a piece of paper” and I know that none of my kids have ever consciously thought about “how to drive a mouse.” They are quite simply living side by side in different era’s.
While my parent’s parents would have worried about what their kids were reading in their bedrooms, my parents may have been concerned about what movies we watched and now we have to worry about the entire internet spilling into our kids brains without anyone noticing because it really happens in the “background noise” of life. It seems with the “whole computer thing” here to stay, not to mention advancing in leaps and bounds, our children have yet another spot to beware of and yet another thing to be cautious with. And the parenting list of “things to teach our kids” just got a whole lot longer, or did it?
Just like flight or fight is probably not the best response to any sort of media and let’s be honest the internet is packed with “media”, it probably isn’t the best response to technology either. A lot of friends have asked: “How do we keep our kids safe on the internet?” A couple of friends have said their children aren’t allowed near computers. My reaction is you cannot keep your kids away from computer technology and all that it has to offer forever. Our kids are destined to live in a technology driven world and I would like them to have the tools to use it and live alongside it comfortably. I think that, considering the tool, that the internet provides, our children need to know how to use it appropriately long before they are “tossed to the wolves” when they leave home.
There is no denying that the internet has a very bad reputation, with dangers lurking at every turn. There are endless lists of problems associated with the internet and social media and all that is waiting “out there” to get them. But the internet is also a great resource for information, learning, communication, friendship, witnessing, service and just plain old fun, I could go on!!!
Apart from the obvious things like: Keep their computers out in the open; Use filters; Limiting their screen time; Never reveal their contact details; Keep communicating with them and so on. I thought I would have a look at what the Bible has to say about the internet and a great place to start is in Proverbs… Here are Se7en things I would like my children to understand about the internet when they use it:
- Accountability: My children need to be accountable for their behavior. They need to know that wherever they “go” they leave a “footprint” and hitting delete, like saying “I am sorry” in passing, isn’t going to take it back… If you have published something online it is out there forever.
- Discernment: We can safely say that I would have to teach them this in every area of life: appropriate books, movies, clothing and internet surfing… I can’t blindly hope they will grow up knowing what is right, but I can lead by example and make sure that they have good role models in place to help them as they grow.
- Boundaries: The rules of life that are a guide in our home are just as much relevant on the internet as anywhere out of the front door, even in the internet. Just as in every interaction with other people I expect them to show respect and understanding, I would expect that on the internet too.
- Self-discipline: At the moment I am training my children in self-discipline – that is what school and a lot of learning in childhood is all about. And much as we would like to lie around and eat ice-cream each day it isn’t going to get us very far, neither is playing computer games. Everything in moderation and all that!!!
- Time Management: As with self-discipline, there are things we need to do apart from playing on the internet all day. We all need to set a time limit and maintain it. Because I don’t want my children to grow up thinking every waking moment is to be spent on-line. I have to make sure that I am providing a working example of someone who spends their time wisely.
- Service: There are so many opportunities to serve on the internet. So often we stall because it is going to cost money but there are many free chances to serve. Something as easy as the Free Rice Project is easy enough to get kids going.
- Maintaining Relationships: I don’t expect my children to accrue thirty thousand “best friends” on Facebook. That being said, many of my best friends are an email away. It takes time and effort to maintain friends, off and on the the internet. A lot of my closest friends I have met via the internet and while I may never meet them on earth I will meet them in heaven someday!!!
- Be a good witness: Our behavior reflects what is our their hearts. My children need to be aware that folk are watching them and learning from them wherever they are in the world – online or not….
And the “Se7en + 1th” thing…
As I wrote this list I very quickly realized that what I wanted to teach my kids regarding the internet was not so much “rules regarding the internet” but skills for life. The internet is indeed a “mind field” packed with trickery… and the world is a “mine field.” I need to equip my children for both.
If you want to know more about the internet and kids then have a look at God’s Technologies by David Murray at Head Heart Hand. It is a downloadable video – you can see a free excerpt on his website. I recommend it not because he is a distant cousin and needs marketing… He isn’t a cousin, distant or otherwise, he has never heard of us!!! But I say this because the father person and I watched it over the weekend and thought it was really useful.
Have a good week!!!