The greatest challenge parents face today is the constant competing messages children receive daily through their electronic devices. Protecting your children from sinful and emotionally harmful messages they see and hear is an enormous task. It takes a commitment to be consistently vigilant and a willingness to say NO! It takes resolve not to yield to pressure from your children and other parents. Fight hard not to allow the many negative aspects of these devices to become normalized in your family life.
Here are some ideas to help fight this battle. Please note these suggestions may change as your children mature and prove their character to you.
- Cell Phones - A good question parents can ask is, "does giving my child a cell phone to use for access to texting, social media, the internet, video games, movies, etc., move my child closer or further away from the Lord and from our family?"
- Consider not purchasing (or taking away your child's phone) until they complete 8th grade. I know this is not the cultural norm, but since it would be rare for a child before this age to ever be anywhere there is not an adult with a phone, why bring all of these destructive temptations into their lives? As parents, we would never knowingly allow our children to have horrible friends who say vulgar things, friends who trash talk, or friends who expose them to godless entertainment. And yet, somehow, we have a false sense this will not happen when we allow them to have all of these types of entertainment.
- If you allow them to have a cell phone, consider purchasing a Gab or Pinwheel. These phones look like iPhones but have no internet, games, or social media. If you decide to buy a smartphone, do not give them the phone until you have taken protective measures so that you can monitor their activity.
- Do not ever allow your child to go behind closed doors with phones or electronic devices. Allow phone and computer use only in areas of the house where it is easily monitored and only if they have completed all homework and chores. Create an area in your kitchen or another shared space in your home for cell phone storage and charging.
- Limit phone use on the weekends. When they violate your cellphone rules, take the phone away! They will be just fine without it.
- In most circumstances, do not allow children to stream movies on their phones or electronic devices. Watch movies on the family TV together.
- Do not allow them to watch movies at someone else's home without your approval.
- Be sure that you, as the parent, are watching appropriate movies. If they see you compromising, you are in trouble. What parents allow in moderation, children will often do in excess.
- Be sure you have researched movies before watching them. Even animated Disney movies often contain cultural agendas you might not want to expose your children to. Several good resources to help you are websites like Plugged In or Common Sense Media. These sites have reviews for movies, television, books, and games.
- Video Games - It is so easy to allow video games to become a babysitter. Video games are very addicting, which is why many 35-year-olds still play them for hours.
- Do not allow children to play video games you have not reviewed or any they play online with strangers. Earlier this year, I spoke to a young child who plays video games with strangers.
- Limit their playing time. I would strongly encourage you not to purchase video games for children PK-8th. A video game habit will prevent them from becoming avid readers.
- Car Screens - If you are on a long road trip, watching videos in the car is a great blessing, but consider not playing them for short car rides around town. You will miss out on some of the most beautiful moments with your children. Talk to them, ask them open-ended questions about their day, listen to them chatter, or sing with them.
- Parent Cell Phones -Consider not giving your child your phone for them to play games. Suggest they read great books, color, or play non-digital games instead. Also, as in all areas of life, if you do not want your child to be addicted to phones, movies, and social media, you, as parents, must restrict your freedom as well. If kids see their parents on their phones/IPad for hours, it is hard for them not to want to do the same.
- Sleepovers - We strongly discourage participation in sleepovers. I know this is hard as they are so much fun for kids. But unfortunately, sleepovers often allow children access to phones, televisions, and other media with few safeguards. Let them stay over at your house until midnight but not all night.
- Sex Education– Your child must learn about their sexuality from you, not from their friends. Many parents have recommended to me; Passport to Purity, The Purity Code, and Birds & Bees Online Course.
- LGBTQ issues - There is a full court press by the Enemy and our secular culture to seduce your child to embrace the LGBTQ worldview and lifestyle. This agenda is pervasive on television and social media. Also, be very careful what teachers, therapists, and youth leaders you allow to speak into your child's life. Parents must teach their children what the Bible and Natural Law teach about this issue. Ask your pastor for resources and encourage your church to address this topic.
Raising godly children in this generation is a team effort. The battle for your children's souls is a spiritual one, and you are not meant to do it alone. I encourage you to get together with other parents and discuss ways you can join forces. I also plead with you to commune with God regularly and allow Him to transform you into the parent He wants you to be. We all desperately need God's grace and strength as we battle for the hearts and minds of our children.
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