A God-Loving...Word-Driven...Ministry-Minded church serving Dover, NH and its surrounding communities for over 35 years.
Teens and Technology
As Christian parents living in the 21st century, we have to deal with a world of technology. Televisions, DVD players, cell phones, tablets, computers, etc. have infiltrated our society. While there is value in technological advances, there are also some dangers that Christian families must be aware of. As parents, we are responsible to protect our teenage children in a way that honors God, teaching them to live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present evil age. While we cannot keep every evil thing out of the lives of our children, doing nothing is not an option.
According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, teenagers spend up to nine hours per day in front of screens. That is probably more time than most people sleep each night. Not all screen time is created equal. Some is for school purposes, or work, but a large chunk of that time is “leisure.” Teenagers are especially into social media outlets like Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, or TikTok. These, and other techy issues, present unique challenges for the Christian parent, but yet also provide good shepherding opportunities for parents with their children. Below are some things that my wife and I have tried to do with our children. Please keep in mind that we are not the perfect model; we are not perfect parents; our children are not perfect children. But by God’s grace, we have a wonderful relationship with our kids and they are evidencing a heart for God.
First, we sought to gain the heart of our kids. If you are not seeking to gain the heart of your child when they are pre-teens, it will be more difficult to do during their teenage years. This is an important parenting principle. Gaining the heart of your child is a challenge, but something that parents should strive for. Learn to have open communication with them when they are young. Make sure they know they can talk to you about anything – and I mean anything. When our kids have heard or seen things in the workplace or from others around them, they know they can come and ask us about it. We have had pretty serious conversations about the difficult things of life, but that open line of communication started when they were younger.
Second, the decision about their use of technology was ours. When it comes to technology use as a teenager, the decision should not be left up to them; it is your responsibility to lovingly shepherd them through these issues. There are, unfortunately, situations in which the teenager’s ideas and desires tend to rule the parents, leading the parents to follow the children. However, this is completely unbiblical. Children are told to honor and obey their parents, not the other way around. Parents, you need to take the leadership when it comes to your teens and technology. This does not mean they cannot give input. However, you must lead your children into proper thinking and living when it comes to any technology use.
Third, the biggest problem for our kids is not technology; it is their hearts. It is the heart of your child that needs to be taught to love God supremely and others selflessly. They need to love God and others more than their devices. This is not a license to allow any and all use of technology in their lives, but it does mean that your primary concern should be their hearts. For out of their hearts evil things will be manifested through technology.
Fourth, we sought to teach our kids how to use time wisely. Time is a precious commodity. Are several hours a day in front of a screen (not used for work or school) the wisest use of time for your teenager? Probably not. Teach them more profitable ways to use their time for the glory of God and the good of others. Whether it is reading good books, playing sports or musical instruments, hobbies, or playing outside; there are other opportunities for leisure that provide greater benefit.
Fifth, we put safeguards on our kids’ devices.There are a multitude of reputable safeguards that can be used to block websites, control what can or cannot be viewed, downloaded, etc. Cell phones, computers, tablets, and other devices should be equipped with safeguards as a means of protecting your children’s hearts. No safeguard is 100% guaranteed, but parents would be wise to invest what is needed in this way to help guard your children from the evil that is lurking “out there.”
Sixth, we taught our kids that technology usage is a privilege, not a right.When age, maturity levels, and trustworthiness allow, the use of technology should be taught in a responsible and God-honoring way. Just because a child “wants” a piece of technology or use one already in the home doesn’t mean the child is ready for it. When it comes to a child having their own mobile phone, I would recommend that they start with a “dumb phone” or a “dumbed down” smart phone. This can help teach them responsibility with phone use while not exposing them to all the aspects of the web. This is how our children started when they first got a job. They used a “dumbed down” smart phone that did not have internet capabilities. Our kids did not have their own smart phone until a few months before they left for college. This gave us time to teach them and to monitor them before they left for college. It would also be wise to write some kind of “contract” with your children that addresses your expectations as well as potential consequences of misuse. That way, they know what the boundaries are, and it is a great teaching tool as well.
We have also done the same thing about social media. Our kids have Facebook, but no other social media. Frankly most social media is garbage anyway, but our kids got Facebook accounts just before college, again so that we could teach them and monitor things before college. This plan has worked out quite well for our family. Owning a phone or tablet is not a “right” for your children, neither is having social media. They will survive their teenage years – or at least a portion of them – without a smart phone, or social media.
Seventh, when there have been “issues” we have sought to handle them biblically. If/when some kind of failure occurs, handle it in such a way that leads your child to the gospel of Jesus Christ, and his help. There is forgiveness with the Lord when we sin against him. As a parent, you must practice biblical forgiveness as well. Your teenager needs to see you respond biblically, express love to them, and help them understand even more their desperate need for Jesus Christ and his help. If you fly off the handle and “ground them for a year” that will help nothing; in fact, it will hurt your ability to shepherd them and cripple your credibility in leading them to humbly repent and change by the grace of God.
I am by no means an expert on parenting, but one thing I have found in parenting for nearly 18 years is that parenting teenagers is much more about me as a parent than it is my children. I must love God supremely, and my neighbors selflessly. My wife and children are my closest “neighbors” and my love for them must be thoroughly biblical. As a parent, we must bring our teenagers up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord, bringing biblical principles to bear upon 21st century issues like technology. Technology offers some challenges for Christian families today, as there are many dangers to be aware of and to shepherd your children through. Rather than relegating technology to “the younger generation,” parents should lead their teenage children in the wise and proper use of technology, all for the glory of God.