Are your children full from their media consumption, or are they craving more? When is too much, just plain ole’ too much? Do you know what your children are viewing and participating in online when you are not around (and, if you think you know the answer … are you sure)?
In part one of this piece we chatted about what it means to grow up in a digital generation and defined today’s typical teen media consumption (what is being consumed). Now, it’s time to bring these facts home and make a difference and keep you in the know. Our children are precious jewels given to us by the King and placed in our charge, as parents to raise and prepare for the coming Kingdom. Let us not minimize the “power” of the web, including its content, ability to connect people, and exposure to “unclean” things.
If you were flipping through channels on the television as a family and a show came on with highly sexualized material, would you turn it? What about a program that glorifies homosexuality? What about a show with teens acting disrespectfully, even if through sarcasm and comedy? Today on the television I am shocked to see children dressing like immoral adults and behaving with intense disrespect toward their parents and other authority figures, like teachers. I am the mother of five children, one son and four daughters. My two oldest daughters admit they struggle with societal pressures to act or look a certain way, mainly pressures they experience in school, and that so often thrive online. It is my challenge and responsibility to raise my children in a way that they find peace and strength in living for Yahweh, according to the Word. I continually tell them that the road to the Kingdom is not easy, but the reward is amazing.
Some would suggest cutting off the Internet to protect and ensure safety. Yes, this is an option. I choose to allow this medium of communication in my home, but the rules are not one-size-fits-all. My oldest is allowed the most freedom, but I watch her openly and I know her passwords. My two 12-year-olds are allowed to visit pre-approved websites, and this occurs in a public area, like the rec room. My two youngest enjoy the Internet and only visit sites we have pre-approved and saved as shortcuts on the desktop; this minimizes the possibility of surfing the web and seeing inappropriate content. It’s not a perfect system, but it works for us right now.
I have long learned to be flexible and keep my eyes open, always ready to make a change for the safety and welfare of the family. And if a rule is broken there are consequences, generally starting with a hands-off the Internet for a substantial period of time. I just feel that while there are negative aspects of the Internet, there are also many pluses. For example, my oldest likes Facebook, a much debated social platform, a meeting place for “friends” to get together and share information and pictures. I monitor her on Facebook for safety reasons and to “see” what she is up to, which serves as the topic for many conversations, which I consider a big plus.
Honestly, even sites she has “liked,” that I ultimately make her “unlike” because they are too mature, we talk about. I exercise my role as mom and mentor and walk her through the reasons why it’s inappropriate and displeasing to Yahweh. I cherish these teaching moments. Living over a thousand miles away from much of our family isn’t easy emotionally, and Facebook is a way for us to stay in touch, so this is one of those plus factors. On the flipside, my oldest tells me stories of folks she knows, children her age even, who swear online and post crude pictures. She knows she has the ability to unfriend them on the site, block content, or comment and serve as a witness to the Word.
The Internet is here to stay. It has truly become an extension of the “real” world. I want to teach my children to use the Internet for the good it offers and how to be “street smart” and stay safe at the same time. I am also very much aware that the Internet is a real danger. Here are some tips I employ in my home to guide my children in their healthy consumption of media, specifically browsing online:
- Limit your child’s media intake to a certain amount of time per day, and stick to it.
- Have Internet access in public/common areas only, unless you feel your child has the maturity and understanding to have Internet access in private spaces. And, even if you choose the latter, still monitor usage.
- Chat regularly with your children about their online interests and comings and goings.
- Don’t allow any form of media to take away from family time. For example, in our home, cell phones don’t come to mealtime.
- Perhaps the most important rule: clearly define your expectations and rules of conduct for your children. It’s best to do this initially and then ongoing as gentle reminders. If your children have friends over, make sure they know the house rules of media consumption.
- If you see your child viewing something that is questionable, use it as a teaching moment and talk about it. Sometimes advertisements appear on web pages that viewers have no control over—you will need to decide how you will react to this. Again, it’s best to have a plan ahead of time.
- Be consistent. I love this rule for parenting in general. If you have rules and expectations, stick with them. Be consistent. Don’t get lax when it comes to parenting in the virtual world. Yes, it’s more work, but it’s important.
While this world is ever changing, Yahweh changes not. Media has evolved so much in the past century that it’s hard to tell fiction from reality at times, and the creators of this media are becoming so cunningly creative and persuasive … but, you can choose to be strong in the Word. Do not compromise your Father’s principles for a righteous walk. We can use the Internet as a tool for phenomenal witness, spreading the Word to the nations. We can use the Internet as a tool to reach out to friends and family in need, sharing words of encouragement and connecting with opportunities to serve.
We can use the Internet as a channel to learn as so many assemblies have websites with good studies and videos. I leave you with this parting thought: As a parent, be aware, always on guard, always ready to protect your children … but allow them room enough to grow leaves and stretch their branches with peace in knowing you gave them roots to withstand any storms that may come their way.
I often find comfort in letting go a bit by praying for my children. I am openly overprotective of them, but I am mindful not to hold on so tightly that they feel suffocated and without a voice of their own; I have learned how blessed it that I and my children are making decisions together … for lifelong learning. This pleases Yahweh and does not take away from raising them in the way they should go.
As parents we are teachers in many ways, more than reinforcing math facts or language arts basics—we are in this for the goal of entering the very Kingdom of Yahweh! Know that the world is raging around us. A great evil is stirring as the end of days approaches. Keep watch, dress yourself and your children in the full armor of Yahweh, and embrace Messiah Yahshua each day. Teach your children that even in the virtual world Yahweh is watching, and He expects them to act in a way that is good and right. The same goes for us as parents. Be the example.
May Yahweh bless you and keep you!
by: Amy Pletz