Protecting Kids in a Cyber-Crazed World

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   The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, the public-policy arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, recently published and promoted for use in churches, a bulletin insert entitled “Smartphones, Tablets, and Christian Parenting,”[1] authored by Dr. Russell Moore, president of the Commission.

   Obviously, this is a timely subject, as digital technology continues its encroachment into every aspect of our lives. Dr. Moore makes some great points, among them noting that technology comes with, as he writes, “powerful temptations” other generations have never faced and that too many parents assume the danger to their children from the cyber world is “limited.” Dr. Moore says allowing a child “unrestricted access to the internet is like sending your adolescent to a strip club because you trust him not to look up from his Bible.”

   Further, Dr. Moore encourages parents to rear their children “to see technology as a tool to be used for kingdom priorities,” while admonishing parents to be “more vigilant and attentive.”

   I agree with Dr. Moore on all these points. Parents definitely need a wake-up call regarding technology and their children. Succinctly put, Satan is very eager to use the digital world to destroy your son or daughter.

   That said, we think the other side of this half-sheet insert, rather than being used just as a title page, should have some practical tips for parents on how to be more “vigilant and attentive.”  I guess that’s where we come in.

   So, here you go. Some practical tips for safeguarding your children in a cyber-crazed world.

   First, don’t assume your child is perfectly safe using a smartphone, tablet, laptop or desktop computer.  Rather, assume they will become a victim and take steps to ensure, as best you can, that doesn’t happen. This means you need to be familiar with the digital devices and the apps your child is using. You are the parent, not a friend. You are supposed to invade your children’s cyber privacy — because you love them and want to protect them. Don’t argue with them about this. Discuss and set the rules, before the device is purchased and handed over to the child. Pick up the device from time to time and find out what apps are active, where your child has been on the Internet, check all text messages and all instant message features. Ban certain apps such as SnapChat, Omegle, Down and Instagram. There are others; check the Internet and approve every app on your child’s phone or tablet.

   As a foundational practice, any desktop computer that a child has access to ought to be in the open where a parent can see the screen at any moment.  That should hold true, too, for using laptops, tablets or phones.  Letting kids go alone to their rooms for hours and be on their smartphone or tablet is a setup for disaster.

   A secondary foundational practice is that all devices should be filtered, complete with passwords that the children don’t have and can’t easily get.

   A survey of the internet will afford numerous good options. In addition, most phones and tablets, as well as desktops, now have some parental controls built in, as do search Internet search engines.

   One of the best things you can do for your children in this area is to set a good example. Developing a family pledge regarding internet use is a great idea, with everyone signing and being held accountable, including dad and mom.

   Finally, talk to your children throughout all this. Give them God’s principles for righteous living, as well as practical safety measures.  Explain to them some of the dangers, in age-appropriate ways, and instruct them to never give any identifying information about themselves or where they live to anyone electronically.  Discuss how to use technology for good, as Dr. Moore says, for “kingdom priorities.”  Plan as a family some activities that involve using technology for God — such as Skyping with a missionary or posting a Scripture verse on social media.

   In this cyber age, as in every age and area, we must build in safeguards to protect the minds, hearts and souls of our children.  Doing so is good parenting, not privacy-invading policing. Too much is at stake to do otherwise.

[1] http://erlc.com/resource-library/bulletin-inserts/bulletin-insert-parenting-and-technology

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