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Saturday, March 28, 2009

Technology, your kids, and purity

Parents, this is for you. With the explosion of electronic devices and the digital age, our children have abilities which could barely be dreamed of when we were growing up. Often, the kids are the experts and we are “digital immigrants”, and it isn’t easy to keep up with them. We should be thankful for good and useful technology properly used for God’s glory, but we also need to be aware of potential misuses of the same technology.

For our brief purposes here, let’s talk about computer use and cell phone use by your children. First, they need to recognize that those things are probably not truly a necessity – they are useful and convenient, but they are also a privilege – a privilege that could be taken away if there is significant misuse.

As a parent, you do not have a right to inspect your kids’ computer or cell phone – you have (in my opinion) a DUTY to do so. If the child objects, that may very well be an indication of a larger problem. Every so often, I would encourage you to take the laptop and the phone, and spend some time with them. Check for things, including pictures and text messages on the phone. At my home, I do this without even having to touch the phone – with a laptop and Bluetooth (or a cable), the software supplied by the phone manufacturer allows me to look at or copy everything from the phone onto the computer. It would seem best to do this at unannounced times – and for the phone, do it right after some texting has been going on. One other thing you can do is log on to your wireless account on the cell vendor’s web site, and check out the numbers for your child’s phone for all calls and text messages. (The AT&T site allows this – I assume others do as well.) If you don’t recognize a number, you’ll probably want to find out who it is. Obviously, some children (who have proven themselves responsible and who have a desire for holiness) will need to be checked less often than others.

Computer use is best supervised to some degree – out in the open, or in a room with the door open and the screen facing the doorway. If there has been a time when some unsupervised computer usage has occurred, that is the perfect time to check the machine. If your older child is allowed to have a web site, please check it often – and make sure they don’t have a separate website somewhere that you don’t know about. Personally, I think that IM (instant messaging) should either be blocked or limited to known friends, and if allowed, IM logs should be checked.

There is usually no reason for public chat room access/usage. For computer safety, we recommend installing BESECUR / BSAFE Online on all household computers. There are other filters that may be acceptable as well.

Electronic and digital safety is much more than monitoring and filters, of course. They are helpful, they are necessary, and they can help eliminate accidental problems. However, they don’t fix the heart. The best means to ensure correct use of technology is to instill a heart that loves and fears God, to encourage a desire to obey Christ, and to teach about the ugliness and vileness of sin. If there is misuse, you may decide to take away the equipment for a period of time based on the severity of the problem, or perhaps other consequences would be in order. But don’t stop there – work with your child, instruct him spiritually – address the real issue of the heart.

If your child reads this and is offended, take that as an opportunity for instruction. I love them enough to say these things. You love them even more, so if you haven’t been doing some of these things, now is the time to show your love for them by exercising parental authority in this area. May the Lord bless and give wisdom! And if you have any questions, please ask someone you trust, perhaps an elder in your church – whether the questions are spiritual or technical.


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