4 minute read

How to Talk to Your Kids About Technology

Last Updated: July 27, 2021

Chris McKenna
Chris McKenna

Chris McKenna is a guy with never-ending energy when it comes to fighting for the safety and protection of children. He is the founder of Protect Young Eyes, a leading digital safety organization. Chris practices his internet safety tips on his four amazing children and is regularly featured on news, radio, podcasts, and most recently on Capitol Hill for his research. His 2019 US Senate Judiciary Committee testimony was the catalyst for draft legislation that could radically change online child protection laws. With expertise in social media usage, parental controls, and pornography use in young people, Chris is highly sought after as a speaker at schools and churches. Since 2016, Chris has worked with Covenant Eyes creating educational resources to help individuals and families overcome porn. Other loves include running, spreadsheets, and candy.

From the beginning, Covenant Eyes was founded on the idea that open and honest conversation is the most significant weapon we have against Internet temptation. Whether you have a Christian or secular worldview, open and honest expression of thoughts and ideas generally provides some relief and/or healing.

As I worked with students in ministry, I often used James 5:16 to show students the power that comes from openly sharing with trusted friends, “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.”

Saying the right things at the right times is a critical element of an effective Internet safety strategy. When I was growing up, the conversation about the birds and the bees was called “the talk,” because it happened in one awkward evening, ending with both parties exiting the room both dazed and more confused.

The digital age begs parents to speak more often about hard and awkward things. Now that the doorways to inappropriate content are around every corner on smart devices, parents must be relentless in what they say to counter the tidal wave of shallow, distorted and instant answers offered by Google or Yahoo.

For this reason, we’ve created Equipped: Raising Godly Digital Natives and along with it, appendices full of conversation guides to help parents start the discussion. Here are excerpts from the appendices with age-specific talking points related to technology, along with some context for parents.

Talking to Pre-School Kids about Technology

Key Phrase: Everything that we do online, we do together.
This is the theme of Internet training during the pre-school stage. We want to plant the seed of a “shared” Internet experience early so that it’s no surprise when mom goes through text messages at age 12.

Don’t force it—look for natural, 30-second windows. “Sprinkle” these conversations often instead of looking for that 2-hour block where you can expound on the horrors of technology. (We don’t want you to do that anyway!) Capitalize on three key “captive” moments during the day: table time, car time, and bedtime. It’s not too early to start having age-appropriate conversations about what they’re watching, and what they might bump into.

Some examples to get you started:

  • “We’ve talked about strangers, and that we never talk to strangers. The same thing is true on the Internet. If someone ever talks to you that seems like a stranger, you come tell mom or dad about it right away, ok?”
  • “What are you watching? Let’s watch it together!” (Start early with the idea that mom and dad are involved in their Internet usage.)
  • “If you ever see anything on the tablet that seems weird or scary, just come let me know, ok?”

Talking to Elementary School Kids about Technology

Key Phrase: The Internet is an awesome thing, if you use it awesomely.
That might not be a word you use often, but kids get it. This probably means diving into awkward conversations—conversations that your parents probably never touched–not this early. But, the Internet has changed the game. Passive parenting is no longer an option!

Yes, talk about porn. Yes, talk about predators. Yes, talk about bullies. This is possible with age-appropriate language. Set clear boundaries and expectations. You can do it!

Some examples to get you started:

  • “You know we have fun together taking selfies and family pictures with mom’s phone. But, I want you to know that sometimes people share bad pictures or videos that show people without much clothing on. Have you ever seen anything like that? If you ever saw a bad picture, just put it down, walk away, and tell me about it as soon as you can, ok? I’ll never be mad you told me.”
  • “There are over 1 billion websites. That’s a HUGE number! Because it’s so big, I want to help you use the Internet well. Pretty much everything you do online, let’s do it together, ok?”

Talking to Middle School Kids about Technology

Key Phrase: How I use the Internet can have a massive impact on my life.
Porn, bullies and predators have been around for years. None of that is new. But the Internet has made these things accessible in a way that didn’t exist when you were young.

Does your junior high son or daughter know that the “www” in front of everything they do online stands for “world-wide web”? Yes, the entire world! The Internet never forgets. Everything we post or type leaves a digital footprint that can be discovered. Remind them that our goal is leave footprints that we’re proud of. Footprints that we could show anyone ten years from now and say, “Yes, that’s my picture!” or “That’s my post!” Keep the door to open and honest conversation about technology wide open.

Some examples to get you started:

  • “You know that phrase, ‘Practice makes perfect!’ Let’s practice something. What would you say to a friend who wanted to show you pornography? Maybe you could turn away and say, “I don’t want to see that!” Or, maybe you could remind your friends that pornography is usually tied to slavery and sex trafficking of little kids. Who would ever want to be tied to something so horrible?”
  • “Did you know that everything we post, tweet, or comment is public in some way? There really is no such thing as privacy online. The Internet never forgets.”

Talking to High School Kids about Technology

Key Phrase: Technology is a doorway to an amazing future.
In a few short years, your son or daughter will likely venture off to college. Now is the time to give them space to prove they are ready to handle the over one billion websites available to them. If they prove trustworthy, then give them more freedom. If not, discuss what they can do to earn that freedom. Just because your son or daughter is old enough to drive, it doesn’t mean he/she is old enough to handle the junk the Internet throws at us. Accountability is a good idea whether you’re 16 or 60.

Some examples to get you started:

  • “How we use technology says a lot about our true character. If we pulled together every text, tweet, post, and picture from the past year, what would a college think about who you are?”
  • “I want you to use technology to have an amazing life. Please know that just one inappropriate picture can change the entire direction of your future. Respect that.”

For years, I’ve reminded my own parents that they had it pretty easy when they raised me. I was a great kid compared to my siblings! But, it truly is harder to be a parent in the digital age. The Internet does not rest. And neither can we.

Parents, you can do this! At Covenant Eyes, we want to help. Download your copy of Equipped: Raising Godly Digital Natives today.

  • Comments on: How to Talk to Your Kids About Technology
    1. restored

      The problem is not technology it is the heart

      I grew up in a home where I was taught to bounce my eyes. I was first exposed to porn when I was 8 or 9, but I bounced my eyes. I got addicted to porn when I was 14 and it had nothing to do with my early exposure to porn.

      All my life the media has told me that sex is only about pleasure. When I was old enough for the church to tell me about sex all I ever heard from them was that sex was about pleasure and to reserve it for marriage. This meshed so well with what the world said for me it was inevitable that I got addicted to porn. When I was 26 or so someone gave me the book “The Crooked Stick” by marcie aiken. In her book she said that God made sex to bring two people closer than anything else could. It opened my eyes and really opened the door for me to step away from porn. God’s word constantly describes sex as knowing one another. I believe if I grew up hearing about the bond sex makes instead of how great, fun, pleasurable, awesome it is I would never have gotten addicted to porn.

      To get out of my porn addiction I had to really learn and practice all forms of intimacy outside of sex. I am a single guy, a virgin, but intimacy is so much more than just sex. I didnt learn this until I started my no fap journey.

      Could it be possible to change the sex conversation with young people to a conversation about intimacy where sex is a small part of intimacy only found in marriage.

      • Chris McKenna

        Hello, Restored, thank you so much for your honesty. I think you’ve really touched on a critical point here. So often, especially in the church, the message about sex is, “it’s dirty, stay away from it, and save it for your marriage.” That doesn’t help anyone! Save something “dirty and nasty” for my marriage? Really? Instead, I like where you’re heading, which is to focus on the God-designed awesomeness that intimacy (which might include intercourse) is, and what it does to “cause the 2 to become 1” when enjoyed within the boundaries God has created for it. It’s a gift! Maybe you’re being called to create a curriculum or conversation guide for parents to help them navigate the conversation better?

        Peace, Chris
        Covenant Eyes

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *