Parenting in a digital world – Part 2

Information has never been more accessible.  From twitter to Facebook, from tablets to smart phones and all the wi-fi around us, we are plugged in to the digital world like never before.  It used to be that you had to search for content and information, but now you have to be diligent to block it out.  I like to think of it as this way: we now live in a house with a thousand windows.  We used to be able to guard the main phone in the kitchen and the television in the living room in order to control the content coming into our homes, now the content is coming in at all directions and at all times of the day.  All of this has led to an interesting dynamic as we parent and lead the next generation.  Parents must be ever more vigilant to make sure the thousand windows are secured and filtered, or else we’ll lose the hearts and minds of our children.  As I made the point in my last post, we as followers of Christ need to redeem technology, otherwise it can be used to further tighten the grip sin can have on our hearts.

This leads me to my second principle and that is technology truly exposes the heart.  As a youth pastor for 6 years, I can’t tell you how many times we’d see a “good” and “committed” student leave our ministry and live like a pagan.  This always led to a conversation with parents and the predictable, “How could this happen?” question.  I think those days are coming to an end.  How your son or daughter uses technology says a lot about who they are.  The thousand window analogy works both ways.  Even though the accessibility to content is readily available, the windows show us just exactly which ones our children are drawn to.  Every song that is downloaded, every message that is sent, and every web site that is visited is open and available for parents to see.  Students can’t hide anymore.  No matter how much you try to whitewash what you’ve done, the digital footprint we all leave behind can be dug up.

I believe that this is to a parent’s advantage, if we are diligent.  Every parent needs to take inventory on what their son or daughter is doing online.  For example, every parent should know: 1)what sites their children are visiting, 2)what their children are saying on Facebook (and how long they are on the site), 3) what songs they are downloading or listening to on iTunes, Pandora, or Spotify (and if you don’t know what those are, you better find out soon), 4) how much time your son or daughter spend gaming and what kind of gaming are they doing, and 5) If  there is a different created identity that your child has with online gaming or other social sites.  The parents that cross their fingers and hope that their kids don’t get exposed to the ungodly content on the internet are the ones that will be asking the question I mentioned above, “How could this happen to my child?”.  Parents must be vigilant to seek out the truth.  It may hurt to find out what your son or daughter is doing online, but it’s better to shepherd and love them through the issues they may have while they are under your authority and care.

Finally, parents must realize that this opportunity to see the hearts of their children is a chance to look in the mirror at themselves.  Here’s the harsh reality, if mom is spending countless hours gossiping on Facebook, your daughter will most likely do the same thing.  If dad is looking at sexually explicit images on the internet, then your son or daughter will most likely do the same.  Parents must lead their children into truth and righteousness, but if it is mere words, than our leadership will be in vain.  Teenagers can smell authenticity and they know far more about a parent’s flaws, than most parents would like to realize.

Mom’s and Dad’s must be authentic followers of Jesus if they are to lead authentically in their homes.  Now’s the time for parents to win the hearts of their children.  Next time I’ll finish my thoughts on this and will give some practical application that I believe every parent needs to think about and do.

-Ben

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