Tech & Teens: A Parent’s Guide By Michael Guyer

Perhaps one of the most pressing parental issues of today is helping teenagers use technology with wisdom and discernment. During Christmas this issue is magnified even more as teenagers are asking for the newest phone or device. Part of the problem for parents is that technology seems to develop faster than you can adapt. As soon as you get your teenager’s smart phone figured out, they release a new one. You got on Facebook, but now your teenager is on Instagram and SnapChat. How can you keep up?

One of the first steps in helping guide teenagers with their technology is often changing your thinking about the issue. It is easy to be controlled by fear or go with the flow out of exhaustion. Instead, parents must make it their primary aim to help their teenagers learn how to use technology with wisdom, discernment and self-control. In order to do this, parents must also understand and use technology in the same way.

One essential element we cannot miss in teaching teenagers discernment with technology is the impact it has on their relationship with Christ. One danger of technology and social media is that it can push out communion with God and the desire to think deeply about Him and His Word. How many times are we distracted by our phone when we sit down to read our Bible? How many times do we lose concentration out of a desire to check a status update, score, text message, etc…?

Let me give you two examples of how technology impacts a teenager’s relationship with Christ and their communication with others:

  • Technology, especially social media, increases fear of man and desire to please others. Students are tempted to post so that others follow like, or view them in a certain light. Students are tempted to present themselves in ways that may or may not be true out of the desire to impress or please others.
  • Technology, especially social media, increases the tendency to promote ourselves rather than promoting the gospel and God’s glory. All of us are naturally bent toward ourselves. Social media tempts us to focus primarily upon ourselves and our world. Sometimes without realizing we are so wrapped up in our social media constructed world that we become disconnected from those sitting next to us in the same room.

Both of these tendencies exist within all of our hearts apart from technology. Technology only brings out what has been in our hearts all along. Tim Challies has wisely pointed out:

“While technology can be an idol in and of itself, far more commonly it serves as an enabler of other idols. In this sense, technology has a secondary function, enhancing the power of an existing idol by strengthening its grip on our heart. Technology becomes a tool of our existing idols.”

Ultimately, we must help our teenagers to see and use technology as their servant rather than their master.

Below you will find some help in how to use wisdom and discernment when thinking about teenagers and technology. 

1. Educate

Yourself

Your Children

  • Talk to your teenager about the benefits of technology and social media
  • Talk to your teenager about the dangers of technology and social media

2. Protect

  • Use Accountability Software: Covenant Eyes (www.covenanteyes.com). This is by far the most well rounded software. It provides both filtering and accountability services for all devices. In my opinion, I don’t think a teenager should use a computer/device without this type of accountability software.
  • Don’t Forget Your Smart Phone and Tablet: Most teenagers use these kind of devices to access content online and fall into temptation. Here is some specific wisdom related to these devices: Letter to Teens Unboxing Their First Smart Phone, 5 Tips to Accountability on Smart Phones and The Porn-Free Family Plan
  • Set Guidelines: Location of computer in home, time guidelines, technology curfew, technology Sabbath, limit information that can be shared, set boundaries on downloads, familiarize yourself with and use parental controls

3. Guide

  • Observe your children’s use of technology. Keep an open line of communication with your children about their use of technology. Ask about their online activity. What they are seeing, hearing, etc… Let them know your still involved/concerned with their use of technology.
  • Disconnect regularly from technology and social media. This is especially needed for helping students manage responsibilities, complete homework, develop meaningful face-to-face relationships within your family and with friends.

4. Trust

  • The goal has to be to prepare students to live in a world with technology in a way that glorifies God.
  • This trust grows as your children get older and have demonstrated responsibility and wisdom with their technology use.

5. Model

  • Good technological management and use of social media (e.g., cell phone use, Facebook, Twitter, etc…)
  • Be accountable yourself and let your children know that you are (e.g., make your spouse your accountability partner w/Covenant Eyes)

*These points are drawn and condensed from David Murray’s excellent resource: God’s Technology: Training Our Children to Use Technology to God’s Glory (see link above).

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