I’m guessing that most parents get these frustrating moments where we think the younger generation is dealing with unprecedented challenges and, as parents, we are having to deal with things never before seen. In some ways, the rapid development of technology and the growing accessibility of it all make for challenges that our parents could never have imagined. But, if we are to believe Scripture, we need to remember that there is nothing new under the sun, and God is still faithful in giving his Grace to parents who ask it of Him and who strive to seek and follow Scripture’s principles in raising our children.
It’s a messy and never-perfect process, but just following the culture’s standards is never the answer. It goes without saying that we are called to stay engaged in the struggle to train our children, to discern and protect them from harmful influences they are not yet mature enough to fight on their own. This is true even if we as parents don’t fully grasp what all this technology is all about. So don’t let technology intimidate you – engage and be intentional in discussing, praying, discerning and deciding what is best for your kids!
My wife and I had a lengthy conversation about the amount of use our oldest son (soon to be 5 and already an avid reader) can make of our tablet device. He happens to be smart enough to know how to search for and view YouTube videos. My wife actually makes extensive use of YouTube to provide him with supplemental Natural Science materials to go along with his grammar and reading schoolwork. So, naturally, our son is very aware of the interesting and entertaining video content available just a click away.
On our end, we fear his inadvertent clicking of the inappropriate content easily available on YouTube even when watching a perfectly harmless video of a diesel train (one of his favorites to search for). So we’ve established a rule that he is only allowed to watch videos when he is in the presence of me or my wife with the screen always in sight. This allows us to closely monitor what he is watching and lets us quickly step in if need be.
But a bigger question we are grappling with is this: how much time or use do we allow him to have? We have no problem with our son sitting for hours reading books. His consumption of this traditional media format is, of course, greatly beneficial, assuming he is getting adequate other active playtime. I don’t want to go to an extreme of not allowing him beneficial use of web or digital technology. On the other hand, there is a lot we don’t yet understand about how extensive video watching can impact a child’s development, if at all (and assuming it is healthy and positive content). These are challenging questions that require wise decisions.
The bottom line for my wife and me is that we want to ensure that our kids grow up with a strong sense of creativity and the ability to use their imagination to solve problems and to have fun. We also want them to develop character and positive habits in the areas of self-control and in coping with emotional stress. The last thing we want is to have our kids use video watching as a way to “check out” or unintentionally allow video watching to numb their creative development. So we do allow our son to enjoy both educational videos and just-for-fun videos from time to time. I watch for his attitudes when I say “no” to his requests and encourage him to be self-controlled in shutting things down on his own when I instruct him to do so or when he has hit the limit of videos he’s been given permission to watch. This is just the approach we take as we strive to follow Scripture in raising our kids.
Maybe my wife and I are overthinking it, but since we’re homeschool parents, we tend to be very intentional about this sort of thing. Whether you homeschool or not doesn’t matter; as a parent, I want to challenge you to be similarly intentional in thinking about these questions together with your spouse.
One of the advantages of having Google is that it is now easy to look up what parenting experts like Dr. Dobson or others say about this. Do a search and educate yourself on the questions and challenges your kids are facing. Then spend time together discussing it, and decide what God has called for you to do in guiding your kid’s media consumption.
Be intentional – don’t leave this to chance, because chances are, if you do, the popular culture of our day will decide for you. That is rarely a recipe for successful Scripture-based parenting.