Parents—Guide Your Children

“In the past, we only had to be concerned about too much TV exposure. Now we have video games, computers and cell phones. It is overwhelming for young children and creates patterns of behaviors similar to addiction patterns . . . Their brains get used to too much auditory and visual stimulation—and in the absence of these stimulations, they do not know what to do with themselves.”—Mali Mann, M.D.

WE LIVE in an increasingly “wired” world thanks to advances in communications technology and the Internet. Many young people cannot leave home without their portable media player or cell phone. And as these and other devices become more powerful, more versatile, and less expensive, the present flood of communications technology may only intensify, creating even more challenges for parents in regard to supervising, training, and disciplining their children.

Those challenges can be met when parents do two important things. First: Recognize the truth of the following statement found in the Bible at Proverbs 22:15: “All children are foolish, but firm correction will make them change.” (Contemporary English Version) Second: Understand the power of technology to influence children in a positive or negative way, and strive to make it positive.

Start Early!

In many homes, TV is a child’s introduction to technology. In fact, TV often becomes the babysitter. Yet, some mental-health professionals believe that premature and excessive exposure to TV can foster disinterest in physical exercise, confusion between reality and fantasy, emotional problems and, later in the classroom, inattentiveness. Some children, says Dr. Mali Mann, may even “get diagnosed incorrectly with Attention Deficit Disorder [ADD] or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder [ADHD], or even be erroneously labeled with bipolar disorder.” Accordingly, some authorities recommend no television viewing for children under the age of two.

“The most important thing that happens in the first couple of years of a child’s life is they form a deep connection with their parents,” says American Academy of Pediatrics spokesperson Dr. Kenneth Ginsburg. That connection is forged when parents talk and play with their little ones and read to them. And as many parents know, children who are regularly read to develop a love for reading, which is another valuable asset.

To be sure, a knowledge of computers and related technologies may be important, even essential, for millions of children. But if you detect that your children are becoming abnormally focused on computers, computer games, the Internet, and the like, it may be wise to broaden their interests. How? Why not introduce them to an interesting craft or a musical instrument—anything wholesome that may be different, absorbing, and stimulating?

A well-chosen activity may do more than offer a refreshing diversion. It may also help your child to develop patience, tenacity, self-control, and creativity—qualities that are essential for success in life, where solutions to problems are not always just the click of a mouse away.

Children Need “Wisdom and Thinking Ability”

In the Bible, adults and children are encouraged to develop their “power of reason,” or thinking ability. (Romans 12:1; Proverbs 1:8, 9; 3:21) This, in turn, enables us to distinguish not only right from wrong but also what is wise from what is unwise. To illustrate, it is not illegal to spend hours playing computer games or watching TV, but is it wise? It is not illegal to buy the latest gadgets or software, but once again, is it wise? How, then, can you help your children to develop a wise heart in regard to technology?

Explain the dangers. When it comes to technology and the Internet, children may be quick learners, but lacking wisdom and experience, they tend to be naive. So show them the dangers to avoid and how to avoid them. Consider online social networks, for example. Granted, such networks may allow young ones to express their identity and meet other young people, but the sites are also a “shopping mall” for sexual predators and others with bad motives.* (1 Corinthians 15:33) Prudent parents, therefore, urge their children not to divulge personal details online.*

Of course, children have a right to privacy commensurate with their level of maturity. But as a parent, you have both the God-given authority and the responsibility to train and supervise your children. (Proverbs 22:6; Ephesians 6:4) Hopefully, they will recognize your concern, not as a needless intrusion, but as an expression of unselfish love.

“But,” you may say, “how can I help my children if I don’t understand the devices they use?” Well, why not learn at least the basics? Melba, in her 90’s, never touched a computer till she was over 80. “When I first tried to use the thing,” she says, “I wanted to chuck it out the window. After a couple of months, I got the hang of it, and now I can handle e-mail and other functions quite easily.”

Set appropriate limits on your child’s use of technology. If your child isolates himself for hours on end watching TV, surfing the Internet, or playing computer games, why not consider establishing technology-free times and zones in the home? This may help your son or daughter learn the value of the following Bible principle: “For everything there is an appointed time.” That means there is a time for family, a time for friends, a time for homework, a time to eat, a time to get some exercise, and so on. (Ecclesiastes 3:1) Reasonable rules, consistently enforced, give family life structure and help children develop good manners, consideration for others, and sociability.

In the final article of this series, we will look at some principles that may help all of us—adults and children—to use technology not just considerately but also economically.

[Footnotes]

Parents will find it helpful to read the article “Children Online—What Parents Should Know,” in the October 2008 issue of Awake! In the issues of March and December 2007 and January 2008, you will find helpful articles on pornography, video games, and the Internet.

Some teens also use cell phones to send lewd images of themselves to their friends. Termed “sexting,” the practice is not only debasing but also foolish, for regardless of the sender’s purpose, the photos are often shared with others.

[Picture on page 7]

Children need a broad range of activities that expand the mind and nurture patience and tenacity