Carol is a mother of a teen and a tween, and wife to Albert, who serves in CHC’s Photography Ministry.
Carol graduated from the School of Theology in 2012, and holds a Masters in Business Administration from the Nanyang Technological University. She works full-time in the public service, and volunteers in a ministry known as Generations of Virtue, speaking in churches and schools to equip parents in discussing sexuality, media and technology with their children. She is also a volunteer facilitator of parenting programs with Focus on the Family Singapore.
It is interesting to be the last generation that remembers what it was like before the Internet arrived; a time when having a pager and a handphone was a privilege; a time when the term “smart phone” was not in our vocabulary and when Wi-Fi did not seem like fresh air.
Our children are growing up without those memories. They are exposed to more information (and temptations) than our generation, largely because of their easy access to media and technology. It is a cause for concern when we consider that some of these information may be beyond their level of development and that their consumption of media impacts their worldview.
How much do we really know about our children’s media consumption habits? Should we take an interest in what they are watching, listening to and playing online? How can we parents train them up the way that they should go, while keeping watch over how media and technology are impacting their lives?
The answer may be as simple as ABC:
We can help our children build healthy media consumption habits when they are very young – by first reflecting on how we manage media and technology ourselves. Do we take out a mobile device and let our young children watch a video or play game while we feed them? Do we have quality conversations during mealtimes or are we constantly on our mobile devices instead of making the effort to talk about one another’s highlights of the day? What do we do when we return home from a long day at work—how much time do we spend with our mobile devices compared to our children?
There are effective ways is to substiture the time our children spend on their mobile devices with non-technology related activities. Make books readily available in the home. Engage in sports or go outdoors. Carve out time in the family calendar for them. Block off time for the family to discover the children’s gifts and talents that God has given them.
It is important to set clear expectation and boundaries in relation to media and technology consumption. This ensures that relationships in the family are not unnecessarily strained. For example, do you expect the children to ask for permission before they can download an app or make online purchases? Do the children know what media content is healthy and appropriate for them, and what is not?
Boundaries work best when they are discussed and agreed amongst the family members, with strong family relationship as a foundation. Children should understand why boundaries are necessary, and on what basis are the boundaries made. For example, if the family rule is that mobile devices are to be left at the charging dock in the study room and not brought into the bedroom at night, parents can explain that the purpose of the rule is to help everyone get a more restful sleep. A sample of a “pledge” that children, as well as parents, can make to one another can be found at www.connectsafely.org/family-contract-smartphone-use/.
A breach of boundaries need to be followed by agreed consequences, so that children know that the boundaries need to be honored. As Josh McDowell notes: “Rules without relationships lead to rebellion.” This leads to the next point…
Connect to Communicate:
With the fast pace of change in technology, it is ever more important to have strong parent-child relationships so that families can navigate through the waves together. For example, a child may come across inappropriate online content, or cyber bullying, and may not know how to best process the information. If they feel safe to discuss with their parents, they will learn through the experience rather than feel fearful or confused. Parents can also ask their children to teach them the latest social media platforms that they are on, in order to stay connected to their increasingly online world.
Sometimes it is difficult to compete with technology for the attention of our children. So being intentional about how we spend our time with our children is critical. When the bonds with our children are strong, we can better help them to navigate through their growing years amidst temptations and exposure to media and technology—which they may not be ready for.