With great technology comes great responsibility. Pastor Doug Sauder shares the basics about threats to your child’s safety while using technology, and what you can do to prevent them.
As a parent, technology can be very, very intimidating. Your kids may know more about technology than you do, right? They know how to download games on the iPad and use face filters on social media, meanwhile you have difficulty typing out a text message with two fingers. Technology can be a lot of fun. But here’s the thing, just like in the real world, there are safe and unsafe things in the online world that your children may not be aware of. It’s our responsibility as parents to make them aware.
Technology is a tool. It’s actually a morally neutral tool. Think of it like a car—a car is not inherently dangerous in and of itself, it all depends on the driver behind the wheel. You would never let your kids get in a car and drive without any training or guidance, right? We should train our kids for the information superhighway in the same way. Instead of sheltering your family from technology, prepare them for it. Because, like it or not, it’s a part of our world and it doesn’t seem to be going away any time soon.
The Bible says in Proverbs 22:6, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” One way we can do that is through inoculation. Inoculation means to give someone a little bit of something bad to help protect them from greater future harm, kind of like a vaccine. So what does that look like regarding technology? It looks like having real conversations with your kids about the content and the threats that are there—being open with them and not freaking out when they’re open with you. It involves you deliberately exposing your kids to the kind of pressures they’ll be exposed to later in life, but in the safe environment of the family. Here are just a few things you can discuss with your kids to help them make safe choices while using technology.
Not everything on the internet is true. Sure, that may seem obvious to you—but it won’t be to your kids! The freedom to create content is the Internet’s double-edged sword. Anyone can put out anything. Children need to be taught how to filter information and identify reliable sources.
Information posted online, including social networking sites, lasts forever. Many jobs and and even colleges have added reviewing a candidate’s social media profiles to their vetting process. You should be wise about the things you choose to post.
Bullying and Venting
Back in the day, if you were upset with someone, you had to pick up the phone and call them and talk to them or write a letter. Now, you can let the whole world know you’re upset with the click of a button, without really processing and thinking before you speak. The barrier that technology creates may make you forget you’re interacting with humans, people with feelings. A good rule of thumb, if you wouldn’t say it to someone’s face, don’t say it online. Remember, death and life are in the power of the tongue.
Negative content will try to find you. The average age of unintentional exposure to pornography is between ages 8 and 11. Pornography is a multi-billion dollar industry—it does not profit from being discreet. It profits from provoking curiosity. One naive Google search or enticing pop-up can potentially lead to a lifelong struggle with pornography addiction.
Phishing is a fraudulent tactic to get information from you. You’d be surprised how little information someone needs to clear out your bank account or steal your identity. If you receive an email from someone you don’t know it could be a fraudster trying to get your personal information. Always look at the email address domain (email@domain) to verify whether the email is legitimate or not.
Unfortunately, the buck doesn’t stop here. Sexting, online solicitation, and other inappropriate exchanges are prevalent online and should also be discussed. If you’re reading this—and you’re thinking, Man, this is just so overwhelming—don’t be discouraged. There are some really basic things you can do to help safeguard your family.
- Don’t leave your kids alone with technology.
This is so simple and effective. Keep the computer or laptop in a shared space and don’t let your young children use smartphones or tablets without supervision.
- Use a filter.
You can adjust settings on web browsers and search engines to filter out specific content. This takes very little time and effort but could make all the difference in what your child is exposed to.
- Employ a monitoring system.
There are really great monitoring systems available that give parents access to the family’s online activity so that you can hold your children accountable. 5th–12th grade students at Calvary Christian Academy are given Chromebooks to use in school that they can take home for class projects. “...We configure [a program] for each Chromebook to provide at-home filtration, usage controls, and internet activity tracking for parents,” said CCA Director of Technology, Rick Geyer. “We did not want to put an internet-enabled device in the hands of students without providing parents with the tools to effectively manage their child’s access to the internet. We (CCA) set a base policy for filtration of adult content and other inappropriate content. Parents then have the ability to tighten the policy depending on their preference and the age of the child. They can also set time restrictions so that the internet is not accessible after a certain time, and view a complete list of internet activity.” This list gives you a breakdown of the best systems available in 2018 for parent use.
Most importantly—educate your kids. Since technology is always changing, you’ll need to stay informed and address new developments as they happen. Make this an ongoing conversation that evolves as your kids grow! With great technology comes great responsibility, but don’t be intimidated. By having an open conversation with your children you can help them learn how to navigate technology and make wise decisions.
Doug Sauder served as the President of 4KIDS of South Florida and is currently the lead pastor at Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale. He and his wife have three sons, who each attended CCA.