“Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it” (Proverbs 22:6).
The responsible way in which we choose to handle modern media will set the tone for our children’s online behavior. Young children mimic what they see, and habits are hard to break as they grow older. By holding ourselves to the standards that we expect of our children, especially within earshot, we are already removing some of the dangers they are exposed to daily.
In searching for the statistics in this parental area of concern, this glimmer of hope popped up. The Statistics Portal released a study on the “Percentage of Parents Placing Limits on Children’s Media Consumption in the United States in 2017, by Medium:”
94% of parents pay attention to the content of the games their children play.
75% place limits on video game playing
71% place time limits on internet usage
68% place limits on television viewing
61% place time limits on movie watching
The Pew Research Center studies agreed, giving parents credit for checking the websites their teens visited 61% of the time, and checking social media profiles 60% of the time (Time reported some great screen-time tools and guidelines here).
1. Pay Attention
SEE ALSO: Is Watching Church Online Really the Same as Going in Person?
There’s no replacement for parental engagement. Setting time limits online, asking questions about games they are playing, and enforcing healthy boundaries and rules is crucial. Through it may be extensive as far as our time consumption goes, the effort will pay off in the long run as our children learn healthy habits online.
Think of how aggravating a set of flashcards can be for a kid, and a parent, when they first learn the frustration of getting the wrong answer several times before memory retains the correct one. The “flashcard mantra” can be appropriately applied to every new stage of media we encounter with our kids.
They don’t like limits, and we have to somehow juggle one more thing each day. But we will never the regret the extra efforts we have taken to ensure they have a healthy online profile and habits. Checking teens’ social media accounts may be tedious, but it will open up discussions the need to be had in this generation consumed with excessive screen time.
2. Preach Safety
SEE ALSO: 10 Guidelines Parents Should Follow before Posting a Picture of Their Child Online
Instruct children never to use their real names or fill in any of their information online to play games. If elementary aged children have email addresses, they should be monitored by parents (Gmail requires an age limit to open an email address). Kids need to know that not everyone is a friend, and that they shouldn’t believe everything they read. They need to be aware; just like losing mommy’s hand at the store, people are out there ready to take advantage… and take them.
In this day and age, it is unbelievably easy to steal someone’s photo and create a fake online profile. Just because a person owns a computer or any other electronic device does not mean that they will use this technology wisely. As a parent, however, you can teach your children to make aware when they spend time online. While technology is an incredibly powerful resource that can be used for good, it’s important to teach your children to err on the side of caution.
3. Keep Talking
Children appreciate our attention. It might start to hide under the surface of their coolness as they get older, but there’s no substitution for our undivided attention. It’s a breeding ground for conversation. Have them often with children, and listen to them when they are willing to talk. When it comes to media, it will be a lot easier to have a candid conversation with a kid that is accustomed to talking things out with parents.
SEE ALSO: Your Child’s Online Bully May Be Closer Than You Think
It’s not necessary to befriend our children to gain their respect and obedience, or for the seeds God is planting through us to be watered and begin to bloom in their time. The family rules concerning devices and online activity should be talked about and well known, with dangers discussed and consequences to disobedience as clear as any other rule. Keep the conversation open. Remain convicted in the direction God is leading us, so that we may lead our kids by fostering an open relationship with Him each day through Scripture and prayer.
Praise You for the remarkable advances in technology that make us laugh, entertain us, and connect us. Thank You for creating us to be social people, full of conversation and ingenuity. Protect us, and protect our kids, from the dangers that lurk and seek to lure our children from us. Guard their hearts and minds, and may they always hear Your voice louder than all others. Be with them as they make daily decisions that can linger throughout their digitally-driven lives, and equip us as parents to protect Your beautiful children, Father.
In Jesus’ Name,
Photo credit: ©Thinkstock/Halfpoint
Meg Bucher (Megs) encourages others to seek Him first through her life as a stay-at-home mom, career as a freelance writer, teaching Emoti-moms Weekly Bible Study, and leading the kids worship teams at her local church. She resides in a small, Northern lake town with her husband of ten years, two daughters, and their Golden-doodle. Meg writes about everyday life within the love of Christ on her blog, http://sunnyand80.org.