“And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates“. Deuteronomy 6:6-9
Technology is amazing and we want to make sure that our children are part of the digital and technological world. It opens up wonderful opportunities and possibilities for our children. Christmas is often a time when parents (or family) make those big purchases of things such as phones, tablets, computers and smart watches to give as gifts.
Before giving children access to technology this Christmas it is important to have properly explained the expectations and responsibilities around using it and to have considered how technology will impact on your child’s or children’s Christian spiritual formation
Consider why you are buying the gift for your child
Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you or forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5
There are many great reasons to buy your children technological devices. Only you know if your child can actually benefit from them and if they are ready for it. Don’t buy on impulse. Consider carefully the benefits and challenges of bringing the technology into your home and weigh them up and decide.
These types of gifts are best not given simply as a reward for children. You need to first consider why your child should have them and how you are going to control their use. It is not a good idea to simply buy them only because your child did well at school this year. Your child needs to be ready for the technology, as it brings with it an enormous amount of responsibility. Similarly, buying items because their friends have it is also not a good enough reason alone. If your child is asking you for them as gifts, sit down with your child, ask them to tell you why they actually want it and as a parent consider for yourself whether you and you and your child are ready for the added responsibility that the technology will bring.
You don’t need to make up your mind the moment they ask you and don’t fear changing your mind. Discernment is a very important part of Christian parenting. Take your time and don’t be afraid to say to your child I will need some time to discuss and consider this and I can’t give you an answer now.
Recently my 12-year-old daughter asked me if she could join a certain social media platform. It was late in the day and I was tired. I told her I would really have to think about it, but that she could over the next few days put to me in writing why she wanted to join and the rules about it. She produced a list that had tougher regulations than I might have even given her. More importantly she had to consider and justify to me why she needed it.
Once you have decided
Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6
The process should not end with purchasing the item, wrapping it up and putting it under the Christmas tree. It is very important that you set up expectation from the very beginning. Put them writing to your child. Make clear the rules that will apply and allocate a time to talk with your child about your expectations, their responsibilities and the consequences if rules are not followed. If you do these things from the outset it is easier to manage how the devices are used in the long run. One great idea is to also create a contract and include it with the gift for your child. Below is a copy of the contract we had our daughter sign when we gave her a smart phone. Go through the contract with your child and have them sign it. There are many great samples on the Internet or you can create your own. Below are some of the things you will need to discuss with your child. Many of these will need to be tailored to suit the age of your child.
Honour you father and your mother Exodus 20:12
- 1. The device is a privilege that you are loaning to them and which you own. Rules apply and those rules will have consequences.
Clarify that the item remains in your ownership and is on loan to your child. These are expensive items. This will indicate from the outset that if the item is misused and the rules regarding its use are broken then the device can be taken away
Have your child agree that your they will always notify you of their passwords, including for the device, applications and social media accounts. You may also require that you will be monitoring social media accounts and they will not hide applications, posts or comments from you.
- Limits on usage times
Place limits on the time they can use the devices. Have a time when they must hand back the device to you at the end of the day. For example, the phone/tablet/laptop will be handed to parents at 7.30pm on school nights and 9pm on weekends. The items are not taken into the bedroom for the night with the child. Computers will be placed in an area of the house that is on display to everybody.
- Keeping the device undamaged
These devices are expensive. Children need to value that and understand that if they damage the device that it will have consequences for them. You may tell a child that if they damage the item they will be expected to do work around the house to make up for it or they may lose the item for a designated amount of time.
- Using technology responsibly and consistent with our Christian values.
So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God 1 Corinthians 10:31
Children need to agree that the device will not be used in a way that breaks any of the commandments or in a way that is not consistent with our Christian values. It must not be used to send offensive or threatening messages to others, to cheat or to lie, to be hurtful or to bully. Get them to agree that they will not take inappropriate photos of themselves or of others, including theirs or anyone else private parts. Explain that such photos can have long-term legal and personal consequences. Once those images are in the cyber world they are almost impossible to erase. Ask them not to send messages or emails or post things they would not be prepared to say or show someone in person. Ask them to consider the information they are looking up, the games they are playing. Are they consistent with work that is for the glory of God? A good test is would I be able to say or do this if Jesus was listening or watching? Would he approve?
Explain that the devices are not to interfere with prayer or with worship or with their work. Staying up late in the night chatting is no excuse for not being able to wake up for Liturgy or forgetting to pray or detracting for their work or spending time with family and friends.
Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways. Psalm 119:37
This deserves a topic all to itself! One of the most challenging recent developments to our society as a whole is the easy access that the Internet has provided to pornography. Increasingly studies are showing that children viewing pornography at a young age is having detrimental consequence on their sexual, emotional and personal development. You must make sure that you have properly discussed with your child the place of sex and Christian marriage. Do not talk about sex in a negative or shameful way, but talk about it as a special bodily seal of the sacred bond of marriage. A special and holy union between husband and wife. You must consider what you will do to protect your children from being exposed to pornography. One solution is to place Internet filters on the devices. Be aware that this is not a full proof solution and children are often more sophisticated in using technology than you and can get around it. Make rules that devices are being viewed in an open area of the house and that children are not viewing them alone in their bedroom. Have the child agree that they will never erase the history on browsers or erase texts or photographs and that they know you will check them routinely. Have them to agree that they will only search for information on the Internet that would be appropriate for the whole family to see. We as parents also need to consider what we are looking at ourselves, if you have your own problems with pornography or other addictions, get help now.
To speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people. Titius 3:2
Set rules around etiquette. Tell children that they do not bring the devices to the dinner table or use them at dinner in a public restaurant. Get them to agree that the devices need to be turned off or on silent in certain public places such as at church, the library, class or while they are talking to others. Get them to agree not to have loud and inappropriate conversations on the devices in public areas such as on trains and public transport. Explain they do not need to take videos and photos of everything. Sometimes they just need to take the time to enjoy the moment.
- Illegal downloading
You shall not steal. Exodus 20:15
Many people do not regard illegal downloading as stealing. At very least, you must recognise it is illegal and carries legal consequences. Just because you may not have heard of anyone being prosecuted, that does not mean it is not illegal. Consider the example you are setting to your child about obeying the law. What might seem to you a relatively insignificant breaking of the law in relation to this matter may lead to your child thinking it is fine to break the law in more significant matters later on. If it is illegal, don’t do it. That is an easy rule to apply. Don’t lie about ages to allow them to join a social media platform. Have your child agree that they will not download apps/music/software/movies etc. illegally and that they will not use jailbreak devices. Explain that it is stealing because you are supposed to pay for it. It is like taking something tangible from a shop and not paying for it. They need to understand that if we can’t afford to buy things or it is not a priority to purchase, then we do not break the law to get it.
- Bullying and stalking of your child
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28
Ask your child to think carefully about the chat rooms and forums they join and to tell you before they do. Ask them to come to you if someone is saying something threatening to them. Get them to agree that they will never meet anyone in person that they have met over the Internet without asking you first. Tell them that their protection is the most vital thing to you.
- Limit phone and internet plans
Set Limits. Have your child agree that they will not go over the limit for talk, text message or downloads. Have consequences for breaching those limits and enforce them. Examples may be that they either become responsible for payment or lose privileges to the device.
i. Explain that you will always ring them from an identifiable number and that they will agree never to ignore your phone call on purpose.
ii. Decide if the item will go to school with them and clarify with the school if it is allowed. Get your child to agree that they will obey all school rules in relation to the phone.
- Be aware of your own behaviour
Be aware that you are also doing what you are asking of your own children. How are you using your phone, the Internet, your tablet? Set good examples for your children.
- Be consistent with enforcement
Rules will only work if they are followed. You need to be the parent and follow through with the consequences you have put in place. Be vigilant and monitor your child’s use.
- Tell your child you love them!
But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8
Let your child know that whatever happens you will love them, even when they might make a mistake. Tell them that you are always there to talk to them even if they have done something wrong and together you will always work it out.
Phone Agreement between ______(Child) and
This agreement is provided by my parents out of my parents love for me, and my parents are trying to help me move into and enjoy a new step in my life.
I _______ agree to the following with my parents:
- My mobile phone and my mobile phone plan belong to my parents.
- If I do not obey the rules of this contract I understand the phone will be taken away from me.
- My phone can be taken away from me if my parents need it or if my parents think that it is the right thing to do for a certain period.
- I will not respond to or reply to any communication from unknown contacts.
- I will put my phone on the Piano each evening at bedtime.
- I will not take my phone anywhere with me without permission.
- I will make sure you know my password always and I understand you can check this phone whenever you want.
- I will not use my phone during meals, either at home or while eating out with others, unless given permission.
- I will follow the rules that my school has in place for phones at all times.
- Playing games on my phone is only allowed with permission.
- I will not be on my phone when in a conversational group or family setting so I can be present and have fun.
- I will not lie about what I am doing on my phone.
- I will not share photos of myself or anyone else without permission.
- I will not post anything online or on any social network without permission.
- I will not download any apps without permission.
- I will not do anything mean to anyone else with my phone.
- If I break my phone due to carelessness, I will be responsible for paying the repair and monthly fees by doing chores or other activities as agreed to by my parents.
- I will tell you immediately if anyone bullies me or sends scary, inappropriate or suspicious images, messages or other communication.
- I will not use my phone before 7.30am and after 9.00pm to either make or receive calls or messages without permission.
- I will not keep my phone in my bedroom before 7.30am or after 9.00pm without permission.
- If I am asked by my uncles, aunties or grandparents to put the phone away, or do something else with the phone, then I will do as they ask.
- I will charge my phone before I go to bed every night and at other times that my phone needs charging.
- I will always answer calls from my parents as soon as I can and must hang up the phone with anybody else that I am talking to and answer my parents call.
- I understand that I am responsible for my phone and should know where it is at all times.
- I will not allow others to use my phone without permission.
- I will not send messages, or any other communications that could be considered bullying.
- I will tell my parents if I receive images, messages or calls that are harassing, or from someone I do not know.
- I will not overuse my mobile phone for calls or messages – and I agree to have regular conversations with my parents about what is considered ‘overuse’.
- I will not use my phone to take or send embarrassing or compromising photos of myself or my friends.
- I will always call my parents if I am in trouble or there is an emergency.
- I will not carry on a message conversation with one friend while in the company of another.
- I will turn my phone onto silent in situations where a ringing phone is inappropriate.
- I will not message when angry.
- I will not gossip via my phone.
- I will leave my mobile phone at home when asked to do so.
- I will not be disruptive with my phone use.
- I will not provide any contact details of myself to strangers or to people I have just met without permission.
- I will not send messages or say things on the phone that I would not send or say to my parents or to Jesus.
- This agreement also applies to any other electronic equipment including iPads and computers that I am allowed to use by my parents and by my school.
- My parents can change this agreement at any time.
By signing this document, I _______ (child) agree to the terms of this agreement.
Dated: 25 December 2017