(Note: the following article is written with the assumption the reader believes and follows the teachings of the Bible, and is written from that perspective. The principles are applicable to anyone, regardless of your religious background or beliefs.)
Several places in in the Bible we see God indicate that the role of parenting is one of active involvement. Proverb 29:17 says, ‘Discipline your children, and they will give you peace; they will bring you the delights you desire.” We can mistakenly associate “discipline” with just the punishment part, but the dictionary defines it also as, “The practice of training people to obey rules or a code of behavior…” This is a reminder that we are called to actively engage with our kids and train them, regardless of whether it is related to high tech media or not. Technology is just a tool — people are, for the most part, still the same.
In my home growing up, the rule for online “chatting” for my little sister was, “only if you have met someone before, in person and in real life”. My sister was the youngest of 6 with 5 older brothers, so the rule was well enforced. As silly as that might sound, the principle is sound and can help safeguard your kids not just from predators (less likely), but also from assertive negative peers of either gender and from developing unhealthy relationship-building patterns. If your teen or pre-teen would rather not be associated with, or has been forbidden from associating with someone in the real world, they should not be engaging in an online “friendship” either. Or, if they desire to get to know someone, they should learn to be appropriately friendly with that person, before relying on the Internet to communicate with someone.
Simply put, if it’s not someone they know, they should not be chatting or connecting through social media. This isn’t meant to encourage rudeness, but rather to encourage real human interactions as the primary method God gave us to relate to each other. It can also help to prevent the unhealthy aspects of false-emotions that can build with someone you think you know online, but have never met in real life.
The internet is just another tool. Not unlike the invention of the printing press or the telephone, this technology is bringing about rapid change to how we communicate with each other. In our fallen nature as sinful human beings, any change is easily abused for the wrong reasons (isolation, pornography, etc.). Our challenge as followers of Christ is to continue being salt–that is attracting others to Christ–and to coach our kids in doing likewise. This is true, even when the methods of communication change.
Next Month: I’ll be writing about safe use of Facebook to connect with others, and how to hold your kids accountable to safe practices of this popular social media tool.
You can see the first post on this series here: Being Tech-Wise Parents