(Missionary to Thailand Brandon Lingle has written a parenting book in Thai, and he has graciously agreed to share it in English.)
No, this is not an incredible offer from some new mobile phone provider. It’s even more amazing, actually . . . This is a condensed version of Tim Challies’ “Digital Family Plan”. If we are going to teach and train our children to live well in a digital age we need a plan. But first we need some goals:
- Goal #1 Teach them how to use a device properly with internet access.
- Goal #2 Guard our children from things they don’t know exist. That may be porn or other graphic material. That could also be chat rooms and other forums.
- Goal #3 Prevent our children from seeing or accessing what they desire once they know it exists.
No plan can guarantee to keep our children safe and in a good place. We must keep in mind that they may see things first from a friend. So it’s important to also teach them what to do when they encounter those pictures or conversations.
Also no plan can work unless the parents participate as well. It’s like when a parent smokes but tells their kids to stay away from it. Or a mother who spends hours on Facebook really doesn’t have a right to control those same impulses in their kids.
Before we get to the plan we must realize there are three devices to consider: There are “fixed devices” which means they are only used in the home in a specific spot, for example TV and desktop computers.
There are “portable” devices like laptops, phones, and any other device that can be carried and connect to wifi. We have less control of these devices.
There are “other people’s devices”, from a friend’s phone to school computers. We parents have zero control of these.
With these goals in mind, let’s take a look at the “Digital Family Plan”.
Step 1: Inventory
Take an inventory of what devices in your home can access the internet. This can be mobile devices, video games, smart TVs, etc.
Step 2: Parental Controls & Wifi
The second thing parents should do is check out the parental controls on those devices. Most, if not all, devices allow you to block certain apps and even disable internet access. I’m not saying turn the wifi off; they are smart enough to figure out how to turn it back on. I’m talking about a parental control that blocks or limits the internet.
Turning off web browsing on mobile devices and only allowing internet access on “fixed devices” can be a great way to help protect your family and alleviate temptations. We should also consider blocking the ability to buy or install apps, changing passwords, and turning off social media apps. The reason? Those have built-in browsers, and because social media has enough opportunities for children to be lured into things we don’t want them to see, hear, or say.
One rule parents should enforce is that young children will not have internet on mobile devices. Show them that internet can be accessed on a public computer or your device only when you are watching. (You probably should keep your phone locked and your password to yourself).
Step 3: Nothing Hidden
All devices should be easily accessed at any time. Parents can and should monitor their children’s devices until they are old enough and gain your trust.
Author Tim Challies, from whom I learned these things, also said each family member should have their own passwords and not disclose it to other siblings. Doing so will prevent siblings from accessing other phones or doing something inappropriate. It adds a layer of security and removes the temptation. Parents, of course, need to know all passwords on all devices and hide those passwords securely.
Some families have a routine of collecting mobile devices or having a spot for them before going to bed. That would be wise. Not only can devices keep us from sleeping, but also when we are idle and alone temptation can be strongest.
Step 4: Family Meeting
Sit down and let your family members know your plan and why you are doing it, but don’t let that be the only time you sit down as a family and discuss the use of technology. Family meetings about using their devices are very effective. In those meetings make sure your family knows you don’t think they are incapable of self-control, but that we put these shields in place to help protect them from dangers and to train them to use their devices in a way that honors others and honors God.
These meetings may be a good time to discuss some of the online dangers you are trying to block out of your home. But remind them that it’s not all the “evil” out there. Our own hearts have problems and are prone to wander.
If we plan to check their devices we should let them know and tell them that we, as parents, don’t have to ask for permission. We should also warn our children that there is a good chance they will be confronted with porn or other explicit material outside the home maybe through a friend. We should instruct them what to do if that situation occurs.
If we as parents decide to live under the same standards of accountability and filters (which I highly encourage) we should tell our children we intend to guard our eyes and hearts as well.
Step 5: One-on-One
We talked about family meetings briefly, so now let me mention one-on-one meetings. During those times we can ask them questions like the following:
Do you know if your friends are looking up things they shouldn’t?
Are you being tempted to look up things online you shouldn’t?
What are some advantages you have had with being able to access the internet?
Have you looked at porn or anything else since we last met?
Yes, these steps will take time and effort to implement but are well worth it. Of course they are not perfect, but it is a start and important for us to do in this day and age. We are their guardians and we guard them whether they like it or not. They may not understand the limits we place on technology in their home, but someday they will and will be thankful.
Copyright © 2020 by Brandon Lingle @ https://lookaside.fbsbx.com/file/Intro%20-%20Chapter%201.pdf?token=AWweAHzYHnnqtG2JEAISzHe3UhxcHs-NuTUU4ezmjnOlaskyUYxtwmTJTQmnzd9PB1B4dxu1AkBlaA6niTImhDiBNoDcyjBKL4wqWplEPWnPC0zaKv89YZoCVxEdNYkXFzsn_13oGGWZPyJGqX_W7Z8W3LAZk32Rd8AxCCrO0vHuCg . Used with permission. No part of this article may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from Lifeword.org