For the first time in human history, parents are facing the challenge of raising children in uncharted territory as an entire generation of children are being raised with access to personal electronic devices. There isn’t the choice of calling up mom or dad and asking what they did when they were parents. The world of technology has brought many wonderful elements and resources for parenting, but has also brought with it new challenges and incredible dangers. What is a parent to do when their child has access to the entire world and the entire world has access to their child? What should a parent say when their child asks for a phone? How much screen time is too much? How can I parent in a world where technology moguls are spending millions of dollars engineering apps and technology to capture and addict my child? The Bible still has the answers a parent needs and teaches the principles that can help you guard your child’s heart.

Parents should be proactive in forming and shaping their children’s hearts and lives. The introduction of technology into the home can be a great asset or a crippling deterrent to this adventure depending on how, when, and why it is used. So, how can you parent in a tech world? Here are three actions to help you engage:

  1. Monitor Your Own Use of Technology (Matthew 7:1-5; Proverbs 4:23)

A dangerous trend in our homes can be the overuse of technology not by children, but by parents. Children can grow jealous of the glowing boxes in our face and learn to model our own bad behavior. As parents, we must first model the behavior we want to see in our children before we can expect them to model it. Apps and technology are by design addictive, and our children will learn this addictive behavior by watching us. Children will do in excess what we do in moderation. Give your kids a reason to unplug by learning to put down the technology and engage your children in conversation, games, or learning offline. This doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy technology or employ it to enhance your time spent with your family, but be careful not to always substitute reading a book or kicking a ball with the swipe of a finger or bend of a controller.  Parents that can learn to model responsible and moderate behavior with technology will help disciple their children to steward their time and technology the right way. So go ahead, put down the phone and engage your children in meaningful ways.

  1. Make Plans for Your Child’s Use of technology (1 Corinthians 6:12-14)

Studies of children through MRI have shown that children who use a smart device for longer than 2 hours at a time have negative chemical changes to their brains. So, when should I allow my child to have regular access to the world through a smart device? The current trend among discerning parents is “Wait ‘til 8” to allow a child to have regular access to a smart device. However, rather than selecting an age bracket, it is more important to think through “Have I had the appropriate conversations yet?” Biblical parenting is disciplining your children to think and believe God’s Word, and the principles of God’s Word are just as relevant online as they are offline. Setting up the proper way to think and deal with the temptations they will face online is the best first step to allowing your child to have access to a smart device. A wise parent would never allow their child to run throughout their city not knowing where they were, who they were with, or what they were doing, why allow it on the worldwide web? Set up parent controls and permissions on their devices and apps that help you monitor and build guard rails for their online use or employ the help of tech monitoring companies like Bark or Net Nanny. Do research about new apps before you allow them to download them and consider when is the appropriate time to allow your child to enter a social media platform (one platform at a time is the gold standard). Parents must realize the danger that exists online, even in kids’ games. The social nature of our online world has created the expectation that kids apps contain chat functions and social sharing, which opens your child up to predators, sexual content and abuse. If your child is asking for a phone, consider not just handing over one of your old iPhones, but rather explore the option of a “dumbphone” from companies that Gab Wireless or Pinwheel. We parent in a time when the expectation of your child to use and handle technology, even given to them by the school, is an ever growing threat to our children. We must be proactive in making a plan to disciple and helping to coach our children to live with technology in a God-honoring way.

  1. Teach Creativity Over Consumption (Ephesians 5:15-17; Colossians 4:5)

Technology has created a culture of consumers who spend their time being entertained rather than being creative. Discipling your child to develop their God given talents to create is a great way to utilize technology for growth. A great question you can ask your child about their online use is “If you were able to, what things would you create?” Teaching a child that their online use is not just static, but influential, will help your child go from consuming to creating as an influential force for Godliness. Maximizing a child’s time online to create righteous content can be a potential tool to help with their spiritual development. Teaching your child how to identify what is and isn’t proper behavior and content online will help them when they begin to create content. We live in a world where what is seen online and on social media platforms is brushed, decorated, edited and enhanced with filters to create deceptive content. Teaching them that online life is not real life will both help them contextualize what they see and minimize the comparison trap many fall into when viewing another’s content through social platforms. Encouraging your child to use their time online to be proactive, rather than passive, can also help encourage them to be formed as leaders rather than followers.

You have been given an incredible opportunity to parent your child in an age never seen before by past generations. Don’t allow this opportunity to get past you without a plan. If you don’t engage in discipling your kids about technology and online use, someone online will! This is your family that God has entrusted to you, be equipped and ready to raise your children in a tech world.

Tools for Continued Research:

The Tech-Wise Family: Everyday Steps for Putting Technology in Its Proper Place by Andy Crouch

Screen Kids: 5 Relational Skills Every Child Needs in a Tech-Driven World by Gary Chapman