As I’ve mentioned before, I get these daily Google alerts on topics related to sexuality, teens, health and the brain. Super exciting right? This leads to some really interesting reading, but also some choices each day and every day.
- Do I click on this site?
- Do I not click on this site?
Simple really, but what I realize daily is that choices are set before me of how I will participate with electronics.
We are raising our children in an electronic age.
Every innocent and curious tap of the finger can instantly bring images and articles into our homes. Daily, I am aware how easy it can be to be the fly caught in a spider’s web – only this web is a World Wide Web (pardon the pun). As adults, we know that the simple “www” can be a place of great learning, but also great pain.
Is this part of a teen’s rite of passage, getting to make these choices for themselves? After all, we cannot be there to monitor their every keystroke and finger swipe.
As parents, should we be willing to be actively engaged with our teens as they interact and (let’s be honest) so often teach us about electronics? These little electronic devices, computers, iPhone, iPads, iTouches, etc., are things we often purchase, that reside in our homes and therefore we have some responsibility to help our kids learn how to handle them safely.
Think about it, did you just toss your 16 year old teen the keys to the car and say, “Great! You’ve been in one your whole life, so go for it! Enjoy.”
I think not.
Too often I have heard parents state that they respect their children’s privacy so they would never check their phones or computers. Really? Does respecting their privacy mean giving them unlimited access to the World Wide Web and hope they don’t misuse it?
Who is tutoring them if we are not? How are their limits being defined with allowance for natural curiosity?
Now, I am not suggesting that parents become CIA operatives putting teens under electronic surveillance, blocking every channel and website so we can monitor their every move.
Remember my last post when we explored the term curious girdle? It seems pretty clear that like an article of clothing essential for the day’s activities, daily we need to be wearing something that will honor curiosity while also guiding it. In gentle yet, firm ways our teens need to be reminded and experience both your presence and your questions.
Is there a central charging place for phones in your house?
One mom of three teenagers told me that all phones are nightly charged in one place. As a family they all place their phones there. Her teens know that their phones are right next to mom or dad’s phone – no hiding.
Interestingly, this mom also shared that this measure of accountability has sharpened them as parents to be aware and also available. The cell phone charging center has become somewhat of a “water cooler station” where small but in-depth conversations happen in unexpected ways.
Are your computers used behind closed doors or in the open?
A father recently told me how he and his wife discovered porn on their son’s computer. Through some well-timed and prayerfully considered questions with their teenage son, they realized that he was struggling.
Rather than shame him, the father identified his own struggle with his son and together they brainstormed on how to help one another. They moved their electronics to the home office and replaced the door with a full pane of clear glass. The computer screen is now positioned so it could be seen, rather than hidden. Together they began to recognize that to struggle was not bad, but to not provide some support could be detrimental… and a totally missed opportunity.
What kind of curious girdles do our teens have that can support the process of their learning how to make wise choices?
I believe we can invite teenagers into this arena of discernment by actively noticing where the roots of their desire are carrying them. But guess what, first we as parents must notice how we engage in this way.
So parents how do we train our teenagers to discern and to nurture their God given curiosity in an electronic world we live in? What if we risk being willing to be with our teens in the struggles, recognizing that curiosity is a beautiful way we discover.
The real enemy is not electronics but instead disengagement. What might this time of engagement look like in your house?
PS Join me tomorrow when we take another look at parenting teenagers in this digital age.