Technology & Your Kids: 5 Guidelines For Healthy Use!

My wife and I were so excited!

We were surprising our 11-year old daughter with a brand new iPod touch for her birthday. She had no idea. Her old iPod had been stolen months earlier and we decided to reward her patience and good spirits with this new device. Little did we know that this would usher us into a whole new realm of parenting. In case you didn’t know, the iPod Touch models have internet access & texting.

Just a few short months into our daughter’s iPod adventure she found herself grounded from her iPod. Bad choices in the areas of internet, app downloads and texting, caused us to reel her in and set up strong guidelines! It was one of those super-awesome parenting moments!

Photo courtesy of istockphoto.com

We live in a technology-driven society. You can’t go anywhere where technology isn’t present. In the 80’s & 90’s (when I was growing up), technology was all around, but we were mostly spectators. Today, because of how personalized it is, we can now be participants. And that includes our kids….big time!

I found it surprising when my pre-teen daughter told me, the other day, that a kid in her 5th grade class has an iPhone 5. “Seriously?” I blurted out. “Yep, and it’s totally his phone, dad. His parents bought it for him!” she replied. I shook my head. But later, as I thought a little more about it, I wasn’t that surprised. This is the norm for our culture. Kids as young as 4 (I have one) are using technology. And I don’t believe that’s necessarily a bad thing. I’m a huge fan of technology. I also believe technology can do a lot of good for our kids in the way of education and even social interaction.

But, because of the massive dangers that exist, I believe parents should instill very defined, strong (and fair) guidelines for their children when it comes to technology use. Here are 5:

1. Set up well-defined boundaries. 

I don’t believe children should ever be permitted to freely use technology without boundaries. They do not have the discipline or reasonable thinking to not make a bad choice. Obviously there are children who are advanced and can make good choices, but it’s too risky to assume this is always the case. There’s too much danger! Boundaries should be well-defined, solid, and non-negotiable.

2. Make sure use of technology is in public view.

If you disagree with this, just check out the statistics on pre-teens & teenagers and the use of pornography. It’s overwhelming! A lot of that is attributed to private internet use. Public view means no computers in kid’s rooms, no iPod use out of ear-shot or eye-sight, and no use after bedtime hours. This is important.

3. Create healthy time limits.

This goes right along with boundaries. We have spent a lot of time monitoring the amount of time our children spend playing games on our iPhones or iPad or surfing their favorite websites on one of our laptops. Why? It’s simple to us: we have a family and a larger life to live than to spend all of our time consuming media and technology! Healthy time limits help to ensure balance and stability in our children’s lives. Plus, it means they receive healthy interaction with their siblings and with us.

4. Utilize parental controls. 

Thankfully, there are several really good avenues for this. In our household we use Macs and they have really good Parental Controls. We are able to set up a separate user account for our children and even decided which websites are okay for them to visit and which are off limits. I believe PC’s have parental controls as well, but I’m not sure how they work. In any case, this is worth checking into. I would also recommend the website internetsafety.com. This is a great tool for monitoring internet use and protecting your children from dangerous web content.

5. Require full disclosure. 

I’m a huge believer in this. If your kids are going to use a cell phone or be on Facebook or Twitter or use an iPod or iPad, the healthiest parenting move you can make is to require full-disclosure. You must be able to view any and all of their content to ensure they’re making healthy choices. Remember: this is not a democracy…this is a dictatorship. As long as they live under your roof, it’s your rules. When they are out on their own and all grown up, they can be free to do as they please…but that’s not now! One website I would strongly recommend (especially if your child has a smartphone) is mymobilewatchdog.com. This is a nationally recognized monitoring system and it is great!

The rule of thumb with technology use and your kids is responsibility. You, as the parent, have to be ultra responsible (for protecting them and guiding them), but also teaching them responsibility along the way. Technology only becomes bad and dangerous when it is permitted to be used in a bad or dangerous way. Healthy use can maximize its potential in your children’s lives.

Question- Weigh in on this. What are some other guidelines you’ve personally set up for your children when it comes to technology? 

 

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  • Chandy

    Hello Mike. You are actually the new pastor for my three teenagers. That is why I am here checking out your blog. And I have to say, so far I love it! I really appreciate this particular article (or whatever you call it in a blog–a blogicle perhaps). Anyway, I am glad to see that another parent believes it is their duty to check up on what their kids are saying or looking at with their technology. So many people believe that is such an invasion of privacy. Yes it is, but I would much rather invade that now while I am able to have some influence in the outcome of their decisions than watch them deal with the after effects of what happens when we don’t. The truth is kids, teens especially, are really not going to share with you what they are thinking or feeling. I have close relationships with my kids and they don’t tell me everything (that hurts but it’s a part of growing up, for them and me too.) I do not want to discover that my daughter has had an inappropriate relationship with someone when she tells me she is pregnant. But it isn’t just the big stuff either. I want to know when someone is giving my kids crazy humanistic ideas so that we can have a discussion about what this means. The truth is kids don’t know as much as they think they do.They need and want that guiding hand. My job is to protect, teach, guide them and most of all show them the way to Jesus and be a servant of the Lord. How can I fulfill my God given mandate if I ignore any aspect of their lives in the name of preserving their privacy?
    Thanks Mike for being another voice out there advocating that a parent should actually be just that, a parent.

    • itsmikeberry

      Hey Chandy, thanks so much for your comment! I am so glad you love the blog. It’s here for you, the parent. Hope you continue to find encouragement. If there is anything I can do for you or your family please do not hesitate to contact me!
      Mike