After taking last week off from blogging because of the holidays and travel, this week I am late because of getting back in the office and being in ‘go mode’. So, sorry for that.
I wanted to, especially after Christmas has just passed and many tech gifts have been given to students, I wanted to issue a warning to parents that I once put in letter form at the first church in which I served. That warning is directly tied to those tech gifts that have just been given, as well as all the ones given through the years to teenagers. I am convinced that one of the biggest mistakes made by parents is simply giving the gift of technology without then monitoring that technology as it is put into use by the student.
I was spending some time with 4 of the best guys in my first ministry one day. I asked to look at one of their cell phones that they had just received as a birthday gift. It was cutting edge! I am just drawn to stuff like that and wanted to check it out. After playing with it for a few moments, I stumbled upon a place where he had saved some wallpapers. I couldn’t believe what I found. It would be no exaggeration to label the images I looked at as pornographic. That’s all I’ll say, but nonetheless, I was shocked that these kinds of images could even be put on a cell phone! Needless to say, I received quite an education that day. After returning the phone and saying nothing, I asked to see the other guys’ phones to compare them, or so they thought. I was saddened to see that 3 out of the 4 guys had extremely questionable content on their phones. Did I mention that these were 3 of what I would have called leaders in our youth group?
When we give the gift of technology to students, we open a whole new world of temptation to them. I have found that with technology, you don’t need to go anywhere to find this temptation. It will come and find you. When we choose to then let them use that technology without our monitoring their use, we are providing safe harbors for that temptation to grow, ensnare and finally trap those students.
Now, I know what you are saying. “I want to show my son/daughter that I trust them and I don’t want to break that trust and be a snooper.” Well, let me remind you that for your students, getting a gift like that is not a right, it’s a responsibility. We must then be willing to help them with that responsibility and hold them accountable for what they choose to do with those gifts.
I was flipping through the channels tonight and stumbled upon the show “Supernanny.” I decided to watch it for a few minutes as I became interested in how she would handle the young teenage girls in the family who are extremely self-centered and shockingly disobedient and disrespectful. They found themselves in a situation wherein the 11-year-old daughter was a member of an internet social-networking site. She had lied about her age, and had befriended many guys on the site who were much older than she. The parents were shocked as they began to read the interaction she had been having with these guys that included explicit material. The most shocking part might have been that the parents had no idea. Up until that point, she had been able to use that computer, in the privacy of her own room, without any limitations. I found myself wondering if any of our students in our own ministry had their parents duped like she did.
My question to you is this…do you know what images are on your child’s cell phones and what kind of conversations are taking place with their use? Do you know what’s on your child’s MySpace page or who he/she is befriending with its use? Do you know what kind of downloads are taking place on your child’s computer and what kind of content is entering through his/her eyes? Do you know what’s on your child’s ipod that is entering through his/her ears? Do you know what is being watched on their tv’s and dvd players when you are not around? I urge you to find out.
Take them or leave them, but here are a few suggestions you might want to consider…
1. Do not allow your child to have a computer in his/her bedroom. A computer should always be in full view of everyone to see. Without those opportunities that take place in secret and in the dark, temptation is greatly diminished and students are less apt to do that which they know is wrong.
2. Lock down your computer with a password that only you as parents know. This way, if you are out of the house, or have set limitations on computer use, your students will not be able to break those rules or have opportunities to be on there when you cannot monitor its use.
3. Practice having routine unannounced tech checks. Take a look at your child’s cell phones, computers, ipods, etc… and see for yourself just what they are taking in.
4. Educate yourself according to the tech gifts you give. Know how to use the computer, cell phone, ipod, MySpace, etc… so that you will know how to check them. One of the biggest barriers between children and parents is simply ignorance. Many parents can go as far as checking their children’s computer and not find any violations simply because they are clueless as to how to look.
5. Set extremely strict guidelines with extreme measures for when violations occur, and then CARRY THEM OUT WHEN VIOLATED EACH AND EVERY TIME. Jesus tells us in God’s Word that if our eye causes us to stumble, pluck it out, and when our arm causes us to sin, to cut it off. He is telling us there to use extreme measures when dealing with temptation to sin. This tells me that if the computer becomes a portal for me to sin, I need to do away with the computer. If the shows on television cause me to stumble, I don’t just set more strict rules, I do away with the television. Get the idea?
The idea behind these is to help our students become disciples of Christ and not do things which enable them to more easily sin. I hope that you will read this and see my urgency and not hear a bunch of condescending remarks. I pray that you will consider putting these ideas into practice as you move forward. If you would like to talk with me more about these issues, I would love to do so. In the meantime, know that I am praying for you often.