Instant Info Generation

text-messaging-1I received this question from a concerned parent:

Q. My teenager spends a lot of time texting their friends, posting comments to Facebook, and uploading photos to Instagram. I keep hearing about kids who send inappropriate texts to one another, or post suggestive photos on Facebook. I’m so scared my kids are going to get caught up in some bad things, and I won’t even know about it, because it is easy to hide a phone or a social network application. As a Christian parent, what’s the balance of trusting my children while protecting them while they are on the Internet?

A. This question is very timely and relevant to the emerging generation. They have been labeled the Connection Generation or the Now Generation because of their accessibility to instantaneous information thru cellphones, ipods and social networks on the internet. There is an assumption that this generation owns technology. Because of that perception, there is a great sense of entitlement that young people feel toward anything technological. In addition, there is a real pressure that students experience, from friends, to have the latest gadget. This can cause parents to feel the need to provide their child with the newest “thing” in order to fit-in. Here are a few suggestions to help navigate the sea of social technology
1. Set Stages
When my daughters were infants they ate baby food that came is little jars. The food was packaged and labeled “stages.” These were for the purpose of providing babies with the appropriate food at the proper stage of development. A baby should not try to eat a steak at 4 months (I learned this the hard way). In the same way, parents should have a plan that allows the introduction of technology at the appropriate age and in stages. Prayerfully consider this for each child. Every parent knows they develop at different stages.
2. Set Standards
Don’t allow the tide of cultural pressure to sway you from what God wants to accomplish in your family. The Bible never endorses “Keeping-up-with-The Jones.” As a matter of fact it says in Romans 12:2 that we are not to be conformed to the world’s standards. In our homes, we are responsible to set the standards for what we allow to come in to our house and family.
3. Set Boundaries
Beyond what popular thought says, technology is NOT a “right,” it is a privilege. When we help our kids to view it this way, then we as parents can determine how that privilege is earned or potentially lost. As parent, you extend that privilege, which means you should have access to all the emails, texts & updates. This is YOUR right as the parent.
4. Set Guidelines
Don’t just blindly hand over the latest ipod or smart-phone to your child. Establish times and restrictions for proper use. Be clear and consistent on when and where these gadgets are appropriately used. You should be the first “Friend” your child has on Facebook. You should follow your child’s “tweets” on Twitter. Also, many smart-phones have “parental-control” features and restrictions. Do the research and use the tools already on the device. It’s easy and worth it.

As parents we have the responsibility to “train up a child in the way they should go” (Prov 22:6). Since most of this generation is “going” to the internet, then we need to be involved with their journey and not simply let them “go.” If we are not involved, we won’t like where they end up. Let’s help them successfully pilot thru the sea of social technology.