Navigating the Digital World with Your Kids & Students
Technology can be great. There are Bible apps and great information easily accessible. I took college courses online and saved all my written lectures. You can interact with friends and encourage and pray for one another. There are awesome parts about technology. But, like most anything, what can be used for good, can also be used for bad.
Our goal is not to scare you. It is to make you aware, encourage you, and equip you. This can seem overwhelming; there’s a lot of info out there. But, the kids that I have seen be most successful, had great open conversations with their parents. It is about creating a safe environment to have intentional conversations with your kids. Not coming down on them. Not scaring them. But, honest conversation where they know that you want what is best for them and you are there for them.
Here’s an overview of things we discussed in the February 28 Parent Session, which includes references to different tools/resources that might help.
Set Limits/Boundaries on Screen Time
Help kids understand the “why” behind the rules. Not just “because I said so”.
Consider screen-free zones – like their bedroom – and times – like during meals!
Just this week, I walked into a High School small group, and literally every person was on their phone except the leader. Students are addicted and have trouble disconnecting even for 5 minutes. You need to help create a rhythm. And first and foremost, you need to model it for them. You can’t tell students to get off their phones while you Facebook on yours. Support your limits/boundaries by modeling them yourself.
There are times to use technology together in a way to have fun/connect. For example, my wife and I enjoy playing Wii together. We love Mario. It is a fun thing to do together that also helps us connect. Watching shows together or having a movie night are also good things.
But remember – it’s also important to find times to disconnect from screens as a family.
Smart Device Apps
There are tons of apps are there. You might be wondering, “What is good and what is bad for my kid?” The Bible app is good. I can confirm that.
One website – http://www.smartsocial.com gives an overview of apps. They use the following ratings: green (safe), gray (caution), red (not safe). I encourage you to read the description under the apps. You may decide that an app the site deems “safe”, such as Twitter, is not appropriate for your child. But, the site gives good descriptions and makes you aware of apps that you are unfamiliar with.
You can also make a plan for requesting and downloading apps to devices. Most devices allow for setting a password in order to download apps (in settings).
The average age of first exposure to internet pornography is 11 years old. The largest consumer of internet pornography is kids ranging between ages 12 and 17. It is a major issue our students face.
One website – Fight the New Drug – is a resource of information on this topic. While the site is not religious-based, it showcases the harmful effects of pornography, breaking those effects into 3 categories: brain, heart, and world.
So, we know that pornography is bad. We also know it is something your student will face. Even for girls, it is becoming a big issue. Know what your kids are reading. For some, romance novels can be a gateway drug into porn.
Supervision vs Surveillance
Surveillance is watching secretly and waiting for your students to mess up so you can punish them.
Supervision is walking alongside your students. It is paying attention to what they are doing – not so you can enforce rules but so you can help them in their decision making.
It is good to set up restrictions, but even with restrictions, your students can come across stuff. How you respond in that moment is important. Some things to consider:
- Keep doors open – don’t let your child use a device in their room with the door closed
- Hand in devices at night
- Nothing should be inaccessible on the phone – make this the same for you as well, allowing a spouse or friend to have access and create accountability
Parental Control and Content Managers
Each of the apps listed below allows you to filter websites, monitor social media and texts, and set time limits for devices. All are great resources. All cost money because they are really good. Do your research and decide which might be best for your family.
- Circle (Disney)
- Net Nanny
Each of the apps listed below tell you about content in shows, movies, and games using categories such as sex/nudity, violence, and profanity. For example, Game of Thrones and many shows on Netflix have super inappropriate content for your kids, and these apps can help you sort through that content.
- Common Sense Media
- Plugged In (Focus on the Family)
- Kids in Mind
Communicate the Guidelines/Restrictions
Communicate the guidelines and restrictions and why they are in place. It is about helping them, not punishing them. It’s about removing temptations.
Consider setting up a cell phone agreement. Have your child create one, and I encourage YOU to create one too! An agreement helps your child understand that there are safety guidelines that come with the phone that you paid for.
As your students get older and have earned trust and followed guidelines, then, I recommend gradually giving them more freedom. For example, with a child on training wheels, you eventually have to take the wheels off for them to learn how to ride a bike on their own.
Remember: The best thing you can do is to have ongoing conversation with your kids about these things. They are going to come across stuff, but if you have the conversation, it will help them, in those moments, to make a better decision.
If you have questions or would like additional resources on setting screen time boundaries, creating cell phone agreements, navigating requests to add apps to devices, or having conversations about technology or sexual integrity, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.