The NY Times featured an interesting article in their Technology section today entitled, “Big Brother, No It’s Parents” The article suggests,
“If, a few years ago, the emphasis was on blocking children from going to inappropriate sites on the family computer, today’s technologies promise to embed Mom and Dad — and occasionally Grandma — inside every device that children are using, and gather intelligence on them wherever they go.”
I must admit, our family is an electronic geek family. Most of our electronics are Apple from iPhones and iPads to MacBook Pro laptops. I have been a mac-user since I was first introduced to them in the U.S. Air Force in 1986. We even have Apple relics, previous iPhone now used as iPod touch and old laptops now used by the children. The NY Times article highlights the struggle I feel in attempting to, on the one hand, keep communications open and, on the other hand, protect my children from themselves and others. Presently, both my sons have iPads (got’em free, long story, not hot and not sharing) and have access to a laptop for games, internet, and homework. I have found the iPads are not as parent friendly as computers. iPads don’t allow for separate admin accounts, but they do have parental privileges. Because of the limited options and because the boys have access to a computer, I have chosen to turn off all internet connection, ability to change apps, and access anything not pre-approved by me. On the computer, I have set up a user account that allows me to monitor and choose which programs and web sites they can access. It also allows me to monitor usage. They have an allotted amount of time each day on the computer, when the time is up the device logs them out. The set-up was easy and separates them from things they don’t need to see. This may not be a long term solution, but it works for now. Some might argue that this is over-protection, but I don’t think so. I believe they are still exposed to many things in their school, neighborhood, and society as a whole that are vacuous of any virtuous quality, I don’t have to be a part of that. Those items in the larger society, provide enough basis for conversation to last through their high school graduation. In fact, we have great dialogue about those things as we encounter them through daily life. Some might also argue that I am delusional in thinking passwords can be kept secure from my children. I agree and that is why they are changed regularly. The point of the article and this blog entry is vigilance. That is what it takes to bring up children in the digital age. You have to be in tune with you kids, listen to changes in their communication, their attitude. You have to constantly check and re-check your security measures to guard them. Most importantly, I believe I must talk to them about what they are experiencing in the culture itself. I have found these conversations frustrating and valuable at the same time. They are frustrating because many times it seems like they are not listening, but they are. They are valuable because it allows me to speak truth into their life– to help them quantify, measure, evaluate, and compare what they hear and experience to what we value as Christ-followers. I think this helps me follow pattern set in Deuteronomy 6:4-8 which states,
“Listen, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone.5 And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. 6 And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. 7 Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. 8 Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders.”
I really believe letting them experience the world in these limited ways allows me to point out the virtues and the pitfalls around them. In doing so, it provides a voice into their world. However, I can’t do it alone. The church must be a voice in their world also. The church’s role is to speak truth into my family’s life, which affirms teaching received in the home. No computer parental protection device can do this part. That is why bringing children up in a digital age isn’t really different from successful parenting of other eras– it takes vigilance, dialogue, ongoing communication of truth, and the church.