As part of my role with youthministry360, I spend a lot of time immersed in youth culture. As someone who works with youth workers, this gives me insight into how culture shapes spiritual development. But as a parent, it’s allowed me to think about how we equip our children to successfully navigate the digital world we live in.
In light of this, I put together the 10 Commandments of Technology and Children, a short guide that will help you think about how you lay a healthy foundation for your children’s interaction with technology.
(Note: These are probably most applicable to tweens and young teens. Ideally, older teenagers should already be practicing healthy habits with social media. My concern here is with laying a good foundation while they are young.)
1. Thou Shalt Engage In Open Dialogue About What Your Children Encounter Online
Over and over again, remind your children they can always talk to you about anything they see online that is disturbing, funny, weird, scary . . . whatever. You can’t overemphasize this. Create the expectation early that you are going to be engaged with what they are doing Online.
2. Thou Shalt Give More Freedom As Your Children Earn It
If you start out with no boundaries, it’s hard to put them in place when you need them. Start out on the strict end of the spectrum. Create the understanding that technology is awesome, but it has to be handled responsibly. As your children get older and prove they are more responsible, relax your rules appropriately to their level of responsibility.
3. Thou Shalt Put Limits On Screen Time
We limit total screen time, which includes TV and iPad/Kindle usage. We let our girls choose how they want to spend it. The amount of screen time you choose is up to you. But a good rule of thumb is to limit screen time in such a way that it creates blocks of time where the family is together but not engaged in technology.
4. Thou Shalt Unashamedly Monitor Your Children’s Activity
Tell your kids up-front that you will routinely be monitoring their activity, whether it’s their browser history or their text messages. For tweens and younger teens, this is a must. As your children get older and show more responsibility, you can and should back off on this. Some. But set the ground rule that at anytime you can and will check their phone or tablet. Which leads me to the 5th Commandment.
5. Thou Shalt Have A “No Deleting” Policy
This is kind of related to the 4th Commandment. I advise parents to have a standing rule with their children: no deleting. No deleting texts. No clearing browser history. The thought behind this is simple: if you’re deleting texts or browser history, you’re hiding something. It’s pretty easy to look at a thread of texts and figure out what’s missing. Same with your device’s browser history. If there’s nothing there, it’s been deleted. Not cool.
6. Thou Shalt Use Filtering/Parental Control Software
Find a filtering/parental control software that fits your budget and purchase it. Use it. You’re not doing this to be an overbearing ogre. You’re doing it to protect your children from accidentally going places they don’t intend.
7. Thou Shalt Not Place All Your Trust In Filtering/Parental Control Software
There are ways to get around this software. And there’s not a one I have ever used or demo-ed that is perfect. Don’t think filtering software means you don’t have to monitor your kids’ activity. You do.
8. Thou Shalt Have Your Children Check In Their Devices At Bedtime
This great idea came from my friend Adam McLane (who blogs HERE with a great perspective on technology and family) and I love it. There’s a lot of reasons why it’s bad for your kids to go to bed with their phones or tablets in their hands. Have a standing rule that sometime before bed time, they check-in their devices in a preselected place, where they will stay until the morning.
9. Thou Shalt Know The Apps Your Children Purchase
The parents I know who are the most savvy about technology have their children’s devices synced with the parent’s account. That way all purchases come through you. If my kids want an app, they have to come ask me. If you want to give your children your password, that’s fine. You should still look for the email that tells you what they buy and make sure their activity is inline with your values.
10. Thou Shalt Model Healthy Technology Behaviors Yourself
I swear I’m going to punch the next dad I see at a restaurant with his head buried in his phone while his family goes about their dinner. (I mean, I won’t, but I will want to!) Parents, please stop being so crappy at this. Do the right thing. Put your phone down at dinner. Seriously.
Those are my 10 Commandments. What did I miss? What Commandment would you add?