Over the past 20 years, technology has changed at the speed of light. Once upon a time in a century past, I connected with friends via handwritten letters and the kitchen phone with an extra long cord. Our family sent reel-to-reel recordings and air mail to our missionary cousins in Africa, and when I wanted to learn about topics that interested me, I went to the library. Today my children have access to friends and family around the world as well as a world wide web of information—in the palm of their hand, at the touch of a button, 24/7. What an incredible evolution! What an incredible responsibility.
I believe that it’s difficult for parents to follow at the same astronomic pace of change. I own a laptop, communicate to friends through e-mail, navigate the web with little difficulty, and text my daughters–but somehow I’m still not as skilled as my girls. I once read an article that explained my lack, suggesting that the language of technology is a primary language for the next generation. They’ve grown up with it. My generation has had to learn along the way and some of us are better than others at learning languages. This concept explained why my then 6-year-old knew how to change my desktop and screen saver while I hadn’t a clue and why my 19-year-old had to help me learn how to subscribe to iTunes podcasts and import my digital pictures. I’m learning and progressing, but no matter how much I know about technology one of our girls knows more.
Because of their lack of knowledge, some parents disengage and allow their children to make all the decisions about how to use technology. These parents don’t feel qualified and may not be aware of the dangers. I know nothing about a handgun, but if there was one in my house I would educate myself and certainly set some ground rules regarding its use. The Internet is a tool—it can bring life or death to us and to our children. It is our responsibility as parents to seek out knowledge and tools to educate ourselves so we can effectively set boundaries and protect our children as they learn how to responsibly use technology and make wise choices.
1. Boundaries bring protection. Through the Old and New Testaments, our wise Heavenly Father set boundaries for His children of all ages because He loves us. As parents, it is our job to love our children by setting appropriate boundaries for them in all areas of their life, including technology, until they gain wisdom to set their own God-honoring boundaries. My husband and I talk to our children about the boundaries we’ve set for them—and for ourselves—and why we have chosen those guidelines. When it’s clear that those boundaries have brought protection or when we hear of situations where boundaries were not in place, we discuss it with our children so they can learn from the mistakes of others and learn how to set good boundaries in their own lives. It is our responsibility as parents to protect our children and allow them to safely grow in wisdom and knowledge until they are able to make their own decisions about technology as well as other issues in life.
2. Boundaries are expanded when there is evidence of integrity and trustworthiness. In the area of boundaries, our parenting ideal has been like a funnel—the girls had few privileges and responsibilities when they were young, but both privileges and responsibilities increased as our children demonstrated their trustworthiness. We applied this same principle to guiding them in the area of technology. Reports from Covenant Eyes allow us to see if our children are making wise choices on the Internet. Boundaries kept leads to increased privileges, but boundaries broken results in fewer privileges and more narrow boundaries. Increasing privileges for the irresponsible only breeds irresponsibility in our children.
3. Boundaries are not the same as accountability. Accountability was God’s idea—“Confess your sins one to another.” He didn’t want us to live in a vacuum of selfishness, but desired us to be in relationship with each other to bring healing and growth. Boundaries are great, but accountability enforces those boundaries and helps to build integrity in our lives. When boundaries aren’t enforced, we model to our children that there are no consequences when we walk outside the limits set by authority, a concept contrary to God’s laws.
Recently, our family was delighted to host a family friend from the midwest. As I showed the young man his accommodations in our school room-turned-guest room, I explained that the computer was connected to Covenant Eyes and about the accountability. Many 21-year-old men would have been offended that we had limited his independence. Instead this young man honored the boundaries we had set to protect our family, and he responded, “Everyone should have that on their computer.” This man of integrity welcomed the boundaries and the accountability because he had nothing to hide.
When our 16-year-old daughter purchased her own laptop, she installed Covenant Eyes. It was a natural choice since it was also on the computers at church and in our home. She welcomed our family boundaries and recognized accountability as a necessary protection, not as a limitation. When parents set boundaries for their children from a heart of overwhelming love and not control, their precious ones flourish.
Pastor’s wife and mother of four daughters, Joy Moore is a home educator, author, speaker, and the co-founder of Daughters 4 God, a ministry dedicated to providing resources who desire to raise godly daughters. You can find her blog at Daughters4God.wordpress.com.