Training Our Children to Use Technology
By Craig and Barbara Smith
Technology is in the official NZ MoE curriculum statement. Most of us ignore it completely. Technology comes up automatically in our homes; we don’t have to “teach” it. Our children are far more savvy at it than we are anyway. Cell phones, Internet, Social networking sites like Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Bebo and soon something from Google, etc. And who knows what else in the future…
What are parents to do?
After reading Jon Dykstra’s article “Facebook Frenzy” in the January 2010 issue of Keystone, Craig’s instinct was to say, “No” to all technology like cell phones, FB, etc., until the current Young Adult toying with these things leaves home. But what happens when the Young Adult leaves home and then has free access to all of this and no guidance…
Proverbs 22:6 says we are to “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” It is a promise from God. This training does not happen by itself. It is hard work. We get no holidays from training our children.
Technology is one area of the training of our children that we must not neglect. We must be training our children in the correct use of technology while they are at home with us so that when they depart from our homes, they don’t depart from the training we have given them.
A Word in Relation to Parents
Once again, the training of our children in the use of technology, as with all things else, begins with us, the parents. How are we using the technology in our homes? Does it rule us, are we enamoured with it and addicted to it, or do we have dominion over it? If we don’t have the victory in this area, then we need to get the victory. If we don’t exercise Biblical wisdom in using these tools, then we’d better develop this kind of wisdom. Our children will follow our example more than they will follow what we say. They are more likely to do what we do than what we say.
Today we read in our daily family worship around the table a passage from II Kings 17. Verse 41 stood out to me, especially after listening to Craig read through I and II Kings of the succession of kings from father to son in Judah and from one ratbag to another in Israel. Most of them did evil in the sight of the Lord, and even the “good” kings who did do what was right in the eyes of the Lord did not remove the high places. The consequences: II Kings 17:41 “So these nations feared the Lord, and also served their graven images; their children likewise, and their children’s children — as their fathers did, so they do to this day.”
So what “graven images” are we leaving in the “high places” while we also try to fear the Lord, having a foot in each camp as it were, for all our children to see? Are we turning our hearts toward our children as we seek to train them? (Malachi 4:6 and Luke 1:17)
Technology, because of the new dangers each new development seems to introduce, appears to be one of those things that we, as parents, are going to be working on for an awfully long time. We must be like Paul in Philippians 3:12-14 (NKJV): “Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” This mind-set has to be in our own lives before we can expect to see it in our children.
The rapid developments, the powerful applications and capabilities of Technology seem to have taken us by surprise. We ourselves have not been trained in wise use of it, and yet we see now that we really do need to train our children in the wise use of it. We need to search the Scriptures because God was not taken by surprise with all this new technology. He has plenty to say. And we need to dialogue with one another seeking to keep each other accountable to God.
Do we have any of these as “graven images” that we serve?
TV: Are you in the habit of watching TV regularly? What do your children see you watching? What do they watch with you? Are you embarrassed at times with what comes on the screen in the programmes and advertising: nudity, swearing, using God’s name in vain, infidelity, etc.? Or do you wait until all the children are in bed to watch TV? Your children will know this, of course, and will conclude that it is alright to watch TV when they are alone.
Movie Theatre/Videos/DVDs: The variety of the genres, the sheer numbers to choose from, the technical quality and special effects are all incredible! It is probably safe to say that these things are watched primarily for entertainment. Somewhere along the line, our daughter Charmagne brought Psalm 101:3 to our attention: “I will set before my eyes no vile thing” (NIV). “I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes” (KJV). “I will not set before my eyes anything that is worthless” (ESV). “I will not set before my eyes anything that is base” (RSV). Now that is a challenge for all of us. So we thought through the meaning of the words vile, wicked, worthless and base. Around about this time we came to the conclusion that it is contrary to our confessions as Christians to sit down to be entertained by gratuitous violence, horror, occultism, immorality, blasphemy, the exultation of evil and the denigration of righteousness. As a result, our family is watching fewer and fewer movies via videos and DVDs.
Computer/Internet: How much time do we waste on the computer? Some of it is good and important, but do we spend time on the computer when we should be spending that time with our children? What sites do we go to? The email discussions, the blogs, the social networks, the buzz, the twitter, etc., are all so much fun, very interesting and sometimes even useful. But do we really need to play another hand of Hearts or get involved again in Mafia Wars or Farmville? Time is also a resource, like the talents given in the parable in Matthew 25:14-30, and the Lord will be asking from us a reckoning of our stewardship. The accounting books we hand over to Him better look good. Yes, He is gracious, merciful, forgiving … and He is also the King of kings and Lord of lords and will not overlook sloth and irresponsibility. He is, oh, so worthy of our very best … and more.
Home schooling Mums come up to me at conferences or ring me up asking for advice. More often than I want to admit, one of the concerns they have is their teenage sons’ addiction to pornography. They ask how they can help get their son off pornography. My first question now is, “Does their father look at pornography?” And usually the answer is yes. We can’t hide our addictions. We must master them. Genesis 4:7 says “Sin is crouching at the door; its desire is for you, but you must master it” (RSV). Porn is death. You must kill it, for it will kill you.
Cell phones: How do we use our cell phones? Are they a tool? Or is it mostly another form of entertainment leading us into sin?
Remember these verses: “The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil,” Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 (ESV). We need to be watching how we use Technology ourselves as well as how we train our children in the use of it. Why? Because we will be giving an account of how we use it and how we train our children in the use of it on Judgement Day.
A Word in Relation to Our Children
We live in such a fast-passed world. When it comes to technology, our children know far more than we do. They pick it up so quickly. We as parents have come to understand this too late for some of our children, but this is no excuse. We need to work at training all of our children, youngsters and young adults alike.
First, if we have been a bad example or a bad influence on our children, we need to master our sin and apologise to our children. What’s done is done, but we need to deal with the past by repenting from it, seeking forgiveness and setting new benchmarks. It is probably best to make it clear that we are compelled by our conviction from God’s word to set new standards. A man-centred resolution to turn over a new leaf generally won’t last the distance. As a family, work together on formulating a philosophy and strategy of using technology to glorify God (I Corinthians 10:31), extend His Kingdom everywhere we can (Luke 13:20-21); be that light on a hill (Matthew 5:14), the ambassadors for Christ, the ministers and messengers of reconciliation (II Corinthians 5:17-20).
As I said earlier, Craig’s first instinct was to forbid all the technology that would lead our children astray. But we would be failing our children if we did this. We must be training them to use technology wisely to the glory of God.
So how do we do this?
We must work on training and strengthening the inside of our children: see Michael Pearl’s article, “Insulate Your Children Within” (http://tinyurl.com/l9ay76).
This will look differently in different families. Michael Pearl talks about beginning young, training them gently and then warning them more strongly as they get older. Or perhaps you might like to heavily supervise until you know your child has mastered technology and only uses it as a tool and to glorify God. Or you might like to restrict the use of technology until the last few years that your child is at home and have intense training at that stage. Or you might like to wait until your child is thoroughly regenerate and is consistently living a life given over to glorifying God. There is no right way yet. There is no proven formula as yet. We are still only just becoming aware of the dangerous aspects of technology; we are not keeping up with the rapid advances, and we are only just starting to formulate our counter-measures. But what we do know is that we must begin training our children in the correct use of technology so that they will not be snared by it when they leave home.
Some Practical Ideas that We Now Use:
TV: We don’t watch TV at all. I mean, like, never. Most advertising is inappropriate. Only the religious TV channels even try to glorify God … the rest have nudity, immorality, swearing, blaspheming God, etc. You cannot fast-forward it. One programme drags you into the next. It kills deep and meaningful discussions. It’s even physically unhealthy: you use less calories while watching TV than while sleeping. A family sitting together watching TV is not quality time together. It is just plain irresponsible for parents to let children have a TV in their own bedrooms.
Movies at the Movie Theatre: (This is not new technology, but some comments will fit in here nicely.) We very rarely go to the movies. You cannot fast-forward the movie. If a scene comes on that you should not be watching, it is hard to escape it. You cannot stop it to discuss with your family like you can with a video. You cannot switch it off like you can with a TV. Because it is so very difficult to get up and walk out, the tendency is to sit there and get further defiled.
Videos/DVDs/YouTube, etc: Videos and DVDs are something that we watch as a family, or Craig might watch some war documentaries with our sons, or I might watch something like North and South with the girls. At all times when watching videos or DVDs, we have our finger near the fast-forward button. We fast-forward all intimate scenes. By that I mean we fast-forward all kissing (anything more intimate, we stop the DVD and get rid of it). We even fast-forward the kiss in Fireproof, even though that one kiss in the whole movie was between a real husband and his real wife: the actress was replaced by the actor’s wife for that scene. But, again, watching any sexual intimacy between others is a basic definition of pornography. Even if the sexual intimacy is moral, that is, between a husband and wife, for others to be watching is at the very least what you call voyeurism … it’s just not edifying.
Our children do not watch videos on their own. We do not like to use videos/DVDs as a baby sitter for our children. Children under two should not sit in front of a screen. Let us quote from this reference: http://tinyurl.com/28tsmtc :
But why does television have such a negative effect on children of this age? “We believe that one reason is the fact that it exposes children to flashing lights, scene changes, quick edits and auditory cuts which may be over stimulating to developing brains” says Professor Christakis. “TV also replaces other more important and appropriate activities like playing or interacting with parents.”
We think this applies to videos and DVDs as well.
We love looking at YouTube clips! But a word of warning: you simply don’t know what’s going to pop up. Be very careful about exploring unknown material with the children watching, although this is also a good training exercise. And some of the other clips displayed on the sidebar can fool you … once you click on it, you can find a lot of junk.
A very good activity is to take a DVD and begin watching it. Stop the DVD at various stages and discuss the good and the bad in it. Discuss why it is good and why it is bad. Discuss how it can be improved. Discuss what the outcome would be if different decisions were made, etc.
Computer/internet: Some families use Maxnet or some other such programme as a protection on their computers. This is a great tool if you want your children on the computer doing their studies without having to worry about them going onto the wrong sites. But this is not training our children in the use of the computer or the internet. It is only protecting them while on that particular computer. And parents need to be very much aware that our children sometimes try to out-smart these programmes and try to get to programmes that have been blocked. I remember once at a Science Centre visit, when we were doing something on the computers there, a farming father put in a couple of words related to his farm activities and a pornographic page come up. The Science Centre said that they had all sorts of protections up on their computers because of schools using them all the time. So we can’t be too careful – we must be watching our children using the computer all the time.
Children can so easily be given a disc or MP3 “with really neat stuff on it you’ll like” from a friend. So if your children do have unsupervised use of a computer, make sure that they run such discs and MP3s past you first. The problem with using Maxnet or similar is that we get complacent about using the computer and forget all the horrible sites that are out there. But we must never forget. What happens when our children visit a friend or family member who does not have these protections on their computer or when they leave home? Again it is very unwise for a parent to let a child have a computer in their bedroom. No, let me revise that: it is pure insanity.
Watch for signs that your child might be getting into websites that he/she should not be on. Some things might be:
1. Always wanting to be on the computer
2. Finding all sorts of excuses for being on the computer.
3. When a job/assignment they are doing takes a lot longer than you anticipated.
4. Whenever you come into the room or walk by the computer, the screen is suddenly minimised. Always question what was closed. Check it out. Check the history if the page was deleted. It is always a good idea to check the computer history often.
5. You see a change in their behaviour – more disrespectful, telling everyone else to pull their socks up, etc.
Computer games are usually nothing more than an incredible waste of time and can also become quite addictive. We know: used to have a thing going with Tetris! Other games are quite evil with all kinds of gory graphics, occultism, killing and maiming people for points … again, this kind of thing is insanity for Christians to be involved with.
Networking sites: Facebook, mySpace, Twitter, Bebo etc These can be incredibly dangerous or a wonderful tool. We have rules for our family:
Our Family Facebook Rules:
1. All emails go to Dad’s email address.
2. Parents only have the passwords.
3. Parents are friends with all their children’s friends.
4. Male children only have male friends on Facebook.
5. Female children only have female friends on Facebook.
6. Exception No. 1 to rules 4 & 5: relations can be of both genders.
7. Exception No. 2 to rules 4 & 5: Children can make application to parents for exceptions to this rule.
8. No more than two quarter-hour sessions per day per child.
9. A parent has to be in the same room and able to see the computer screen at all times.
10. Child has to be at least 16 before getting a Facebook account, or else show clear signs of regeneration and trustworthiness. We allow no accounts with MySpace, Bebo, etc., because, first, we hear too many bad reports about those sites; and second, we’ve already got enough to keep track of with Facebook.
11. No games, and I think I am about to add, “no quizzes”.
12. These rules are related to one’s level of maturity and trustworthiness, are open to negotiation based on these two qualities and may vary from individual to individual (although that seems to be extremely difficult to accept when an older child is offered less privileges than a younger one).
When a male asks our daughter Charmagne to be his “friend” on Facebook, she sends him this reply:
Thanks for the friend request. However, the Smith family has some Facebook policies including one I call our “Pursuing Purity Policy” which means the females of our family have only ladies and relatives as Facebook friends. (There are similar rules for the Smith guys, too.) Thanks anyway! Sincerely, Charmagne.
Charmagne says, “Young or old, almost all the men I send this to answer back in a positive manner.” Charmagne is now 23, and she continues to live with this rule because she has taken it as her own.
There are other dangers with Facebook. There are places where your children can be sending messages to people who are not their friends. This took us by surprise with one of our children. At times we have had to forbid the talking with friends in the chat facility at the bottom of facebook and through messages at the top where they can send and receive messages from non- friends.
Also check the security settings for your children and make sure that they are as tight as possible. Ensure that only the minimum number of people can “see” their pages. The whole world can see Facebook pages now, or you can have a default setting so that only “Friends” can view pages. I guess that mySpace and Bebo, etc., are the same. I don’t know too much about them since we don’t use them and don’t allow our children to.
We need to remind our children to give out the least amount of personal information over the web as possible. There are people out there who pose as children and young people to become friends when in fact they are out to cause trouble and not very nice trouble at that. We cannot be naive about the internet, especially when using networking sites. By only being friends with people we know, we overcome that problem. So tell your children that they are not to become friends of friends unless they know them or are highly recommended by that friend. Be sure you read this article: https://hef.org.nz/2010/social-websites-harm-childrens-brains-chilling-warning-to-parents-from-top-neuroscientist/.
Blogs/Website: Because we have a lot more control over these, we let our children have a website/blog at a younger age. Jedediah got a website at 12. He can pull information and photos from our other websites, including his older siblings’ websites, but cannot go to any other websites unless we are sitting right beside him. He only gets to update his website/blog about once a month. There is very little interaction from others on this. Comments are moderated. Same rules apply as Facebook in regard to passwords, emails and friends.
Emails: Our younger children do not have email addresses. They use our email addresses when they want to send or receive an email. I guess it will be different in each family as to when they let their children get an email address. Jeremiah got his when he needed it for work. We set it up so that all the messages he sent and received came through a parent’s email.
Cell phones: This is a biggie. Put off letting your children have a cell phone for as long as possible. Once they get a cell phone, they become so much more independent. Yet we must realise that as parents, we have no idea what they are doing on the cell phone, even though we are still morally responsible before the Lord for much of what they do (the younger they are, the more responsible we are; the older they are, generally the less responsible we become). Again, this is easier if the child is clearly regenerate and showing obvious signs of commitment to Christ in his or her life.
Watch the phones that your children get. Some phones are very basic and only send and receive calls and texts. Others can do all sorts of things. We only have basic phones and got caught out when we realised that a phone a child had could do so much more than our phones. Know the phones your children buy. Again, ask the questions: “Do they really need a phone for that job?” We let a child get a phone because he really needed it for a job. The job didn’t last that long but the phone did. Do they need a phone that can do so much more than a basic phone? Phones now can send and receive emails, take photos and movies, download movies, email photos and movies, surf the internet and so much more.
You remain in control of the technology in your home: When we see behaviour deteriorating in a child, we are now quick to moderate / re-assess / take away certain technologies from that child. Technology is a privilege. Our children have responded well to this. Well, not initially. But they soon realise that this is part of our training of them, and if they misuse the technology for any reason, then there will be consequences. Both Craig and I have workshops on this. I would like to write mine up one day soon: “Christian Parents Preventing and Changing Rebellion in the Child’s Heart.” Check out this website with some excellent links: https://hef.org.nz/2008/changing-the-heart-of-a-rebel-2/.
Remember that technology can steal your children’s hearts from you. Be very diligent and vigilant to keep your children’s hearts focussed on the Lord, on doing His work and on honouring you.
Vol XV1 No 83 July 2010
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