Monday, July 18, 2011

Will the Real Teacher Please Stand Up?

Two questions are on the minds of children as school approaches. Is my best friend in my class, and who is my teacher? Children know the next nine months will be pleasant, bearable, or challenging based on the answer to these questions. But who is their real teacher?

Who is exerting the most influence on the mind of your children? In today’s society this is no longer a question that can be easily answered nor one that parents can ignore. Being a parent today is so much more complex than it was just twenty years ago. Today the influences on children are not just parents, family, and friends. To keep your child safe, it is no longer adequate just to instruct your child to not take candy from a stranger. The stranger is lurking in your child’s pocket on his phone or residing in your home on your child’s laptop.

To be sure there are many things parents can do to keep their children safer. First, do not allow computer use behind closed doors. The computer should be in a very public location where the screen can be observed easily. If your child is changing screens every time you enter the room, investigate. Install filtering software on your computer. Know all of your child’s passwords. In some situations it may even be appropriate for the parent to be in total control of passwords.

Have you recently checked to see what is being said by your child and their peers on the social networking sites? What basic personal information is being disclosed to the whole world? What pictures are being displayed? Is the language and subject matter appropriate? Is your child using a pseudonym to keep you in ignorance? What are the passwords? Parents, you should know.

Phones pose just as much danger as an unmonitored computer. Do you have a filter on your child’s smart phone and iPad? These devices can access objectionable sights on the web just like a computer. Our children are very adept at texting. Are their phones affecting their mood and health because they are texting late at night thus not getting needed rest? Why do tweens and teens need to have a cell phone in their room after midnight anyway?

Yes being a Christian parent in today’s society is much more difficult than it was in the past. You say that you do not want to implement the above suggestions because you want your children to believe you trust them. Consider this. When you were growing up in a much less tech centered world and a much safer environment for adolescents, did you always follow the rules? Did you always do what your parents expected? Did you never let the influence of peers lead you to do something you should not have done? Did you keep secrets from your parents because you knew they would not approve of what you were doing? I had great parents who were proactive in providing an excellent environment and limiting my exposure to bad influences. However, I engaged in many activities which were not healthy and did not square up with my “good kid” image. Are you really willing to take the “I trust you completely” gamble? How much of your child’s mental, physical, and emotional safety are you willing to entrust to this tech infused world?

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.” Ephesians 6:10-11 ESV

So parents, and the whole Christian community, need to be vigilant in guarding children and ourselves from the evil available through the use of technology while embracing the good that can be gleaned from it for the glory of God.
Lord, give us discernment to know what is safe and unsafe. Provide us protection from evil influences through the Bible, Christian accountability partners, and our local Christian family.