We live in a time of exploding connectivity. The Internet links people all over the world. Every day, new websites and software, including social media sites, games, and apps, give us more and better ways to connect with one another. More advanced devices and ways to use these resources are emerging all the time. Not only has connectivity become an important part of how we learn and interact with others, but it is also integral to how we live. For children to succeed today, they must be able to use technology and media skillfully.
On the other hand, there are real risks involved in opening the world of adults to our children. Media—TV shows, movies, videos, photos, podcasts, music, games, websites— are more accessible than ever before. Though increased connectivity benefits children in many ways, it can also influence their values in ways that are often unhealthy.
Sexual and violent content is often just a click away. Predators roam the internet looking to take advantage of overly trusting people, of the young and the elderly.
Cyber bullies hide behind the anonymity of the web, looking for opportunities to strike out against others.
Children post comments and pictures on websites without thinking about where they might end up and for how long they will be out there.
Christian parents filter and limit what they can, but they realize that the best filter is the child’s own brain. So they also teach their children how to make good decisions for themselves. God lives at the center of each one of us; there is no better filter for our children than Gold’s Holy Spirit alive in their hearts.
As Christians, we have a duty to make sure our children learn to recognize the Holy Spirit within them and tap into it through prayer, reading the word of God, and connecting to the positive influence of a Christian community. Teaching our children from an early age to filter their life experiences through the wisdom of the Holy Spirit will provide guidance for them throughout their lives.
Here are some suggestions for helping your child learn to use the Internet and other media safely and effectively:
- Spend time online with your child. Ask your child to show you her favorite websites and apps and to tell you what she likes about them.
- Help your child find useful websites. Point her towards sites that can help with homework or that relate to her interests. Use the Internet together to plan family trips, research Scripture verses, and explore the world.
- Take an interest in games, apps, or other media they download.
- Talk with your kids about the need to avoid games that are overly violent or sexual.
- Use filters to block your children from accessing harmful sites.
- Monitor the amount of time your child spends online. Don’t let it take over your child’s life.
- Develop a clear set of guidelines for using the Internet. Do this as a team and be specific. What seems obvious to adults (like “Don’t share passwords with strangers”) could be news to a child. Your guidelines should prohibit bad language, false or cruel posts or texts, and the sharing of personal information about your child and other family members. Emphasize never posting photos or videos that your child wouldn’t want parents or teachers to see.
Visit Activeparenting.com to learn more about active Christian Parenting techniques and programs. Sample videos, downloads, and free research is available for downloading to help you handle situations an raise a child within a vibrant faith community.