A few months ago we looked at the decision that all of us parents need to make regarding when to allow a child to get a personal electronic device. As difficult as that process is to walk through, I believe the greater challenge we face as parents is how we manage our children’s device usage. There have been entire books written on this topic, so this is not an exhaustive dissertation on what and what not to do. Instead, I want to share a couple of main ideas that every parent should think through when they establish boundaries with their children and their device usage.
Devices are always a privilege, not a right.
I’ll never forget the day that I got my driver’s license. It felt like I was approaching a new world of freedom. Before I took off on that first drive on my own, my dad sat me down and had a good long talk with me between the difference between a privilege and a right. Driving, he explained, was a privilege and that I needed treat it as such. The same could be said about the usage of personal electronic devices.
I need to constantly remind my children that just because it seems like every other student has a device, doesn’t mean that they automatically get one. It is not an inalienable right guaranteed by the Constitution. They can earn the privilege to have one and they can also lose that privilege. I like to point out to my kids that we, as their parents, have the right to give and take away privileges based on maturity, responsibility, and obedience.
Limitations, limitations, limitations
I mentioned in my previous article that when a student gets a personal electronic device, you have to make sure that you lock a million doors. As parents, we have a fundamental responsibility to set guidelines and limitations for our children, because most of them do not have the emotional or spiritual maturity to say “enough” when it comes to electronics and entertainment. I believe the three biggest areas that parents need to think through are: time, privacy, and content. Here are a few suggestions for each one.
- Time: No phones during meals, school, homework, or after 10 pm (I believe it is wise for parents to have their child’s phone during bedtime.)
-Privacy: Parents should have access to their child’s texts, web history, and if applicable, their social media username and password. Accountability is a good thing, and it helps to create some guardrails that our children need during this formative time in their lives.
- Content: The availability and opportunity to indulge in every kind of digital darkness is only a click away. Resources such as Covenant Eyes, Qustodio, and My Circle are great examples of content blockers and trackers that keep parents in the loop of what their kids are consuming.
Be wary of the social media swamp.
I know that what I’m about to share here is mostly opinion, but I believe that more harm than good comes from social media. There’s been limited scientific research on the effects of social media to the adolescent brain, but what we do know is not good (See this article: https://medium.com/@richardnfreed/the-tech-industrys-psychological-war-on-kids-c452870464ce).
In our home, we’ve told our children that social media is something that they’ll have to choose to be a part of when they are adults. One of the things I have to fight for every day is my children’s hearts. I want to stay close to them and continue to help them develop foundational convictions that will carry them far into life. It’s difficult enough to do that without hundreds of voices distracting them from what is real and good.
I don’t want my kids worrying about how many likes they get on a picture or post, but instead, learn how to be confident in who they are and how God has made them. If your child already has a social media account, I would encourage your to monitor and manage their usage and stay involved.
As I mentioned in my previous post, we are living in uncharted waters as parents. How we answer the call to the needs of our children during this age will be an important part of the legacy we leave with them. In all things, may we continue to seek counsel from our Heavenly Father, His divine Word, and our faith family.
Miss out on Part 1? You can find it here: https://www.covenantclassical.org/blog/should-you-let-your-child-get-a-smartphone
Other resources: Disconnected: How to Reconnect our Digitally Distracted Kids by Thomas Kersting and Wired Child: Reclaiming Childhood in a Digital Age by Richard Freed