Do you realize the current generation of children entering school will be the first generation to grow up with personal computers and access to the Internet from birth?
Since technology has had such a radical influence on our society, this development has colossal implications—especially considering that youth under 18 are some of the fastest adapters and most frequent users of new technology. Instant messaging, texting, e-mail and blogs are fast replacing traditional and more traceable means of communication.
Of course, technology has many positive aspects. God’s Church would not be able to fulfill its commission without it. But, when in the hands of unsupervised young people, it can be a dangerous concoction.
Technology makes it easier for teens to plagiarize school assignments and cheat on tests. The Internet has made things like gambling, pornography, prescription medicine and illegal drugs easily accessible.
The anonymity of the Internet emboldens teens to do things they wouldn’t normally do in the real world. It also emboldens predators and pedophiles, who feel safe under its cloak. And although some parents religiously search sex offender records before moving into a neighborhood, they can be oblivious to the fact that their children are one click away from being in the same room with one.
Facebook, a social networking website popular among teens, is a good example. It allows its users to post pictures and messages on their accounts. Many teens carelessly give away private information exposing themselves to attack from predators and pedophiles who may frequent the site. Other dangers to young people exist—from addictive, violent video games to “virtual sex” games on porn sites.
Prince of the Power of the Air
As much as our teens may know about technology (usually more than parents do), teenagers are often too young to fully understand its dangers. This is where parents must be involved. Satan the devil is the god of this world (2 Corinthians 4:4), and modern technology offers him access to our young people that hasn’t existed before.
“Our children are born into a world that is bent on capturing their hearts and minds, and most certainly not for their good. … [T]he world seeks to win our children over to its way of thinking and behaving, and the world does not love our children. We do!” (Betsy Hart, It Takes A Parent).
As Herbert W. Armstrong once wrote, “Most parents neglect teaching their children’s minds …. But Satan does not neglect your child’s mind!” (Good News, October/November 1981).
Parents need to be aware of the dangers posed to teens by the glittering array of modern communications technologies available to them. They must combat the efforts of the “prince of the power of the air”—Satan himself (Ephesians 2:2).
As different as our children’s world is technologically to that of the previous generation, the problems facing parents today are essentially the same. The Internet certainly adds a unique twist: It is easier for teenagers to get into trouble and to cover their own tracks than before. But the responsibility on parents to love, teach, discipline and be involved in their children’s lives has not changed.
By stepping up efforts in their child rearing, parents can go on the offensive, taking the battle to the devil. With God’s help, they can cripple Satan’s efforts to dominate the minds of our young people.
A Matter of Proper Child Rearing
Though a basic understanding of the technology is necessary, this cannot be the main tool to combat its influence, because teens and manufacturers will always find ways to stay one step ahead of the older generation technologically. The answer has to be in the proper principles of child rearing, which God has given to His Church. Not only are these principles timeless—they are the answer to the precise problems we face today.
Mr. Armstrong wrote, “One of the greatest sins, crimes, tragedies of this world’s society, is that great sin of omission—the neglect of parents to teach their children” (The Missing Dimension in Sex). We see that sin prevalent in society today.
Isaiah 3 discusses the effects of this neglect: Children have risen up to oppress their parents. (See also Proverbs 29:15.)
God used His end-time Elijah to restore all things to His Church (Matthew 17:10-11), with a special emphasis on the family (Malachi 4:4-6). We must understand what God revealed through Herbert W. Armstrong to successfully rear our children in the end time. Though he died over 25 years ago—before the advent of the Internet as we know it today—God’s instructions through him apply perfectly in this 21st century.
The Big Picture in Child Rearing
Ephesians 6:4 states that parents must bring up their children in the “nurture and admonition of the Lord.”
The Plain Truth About Child Rearing, produced under the administration of Mr. Armstrong, has the answer to today’s parenting issues. Why? Because it reveals the big picture. It gives general principles about education, love, nurture, our responsibility and the child’s responsibility, in addition to time-tested and proven principles of discipline. It instructs parents how to deal with both young children and teens.
God tells us to go on the offensive. We must take action now while we can. “Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying” (Proverbs 19:18). Don’t be discouraged by a negative reaction from your child. Keep your eye on the long-term goal: You are striving to instill valuable character within him.
Keep the big picture in mind. Prepare your children for adulthood so they will choose God’s way for themselves.
“Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6).
Notice God’s own example in Jeremiah 10:23-24. He corrects His children in love and mercy—not in anger. Punishment should never be merely negative. It should always—without fail—be accompanied by positive teaching. Love and punishment come from the same source (Hebrews 12:5-6).
God is a Father, and as such He metes out just, merciful and loving punishmentwhen necessary! Of course, God also comforts and encourages in time of need (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).
Be Involved With Your Teens
The most important way parents can counter Satan’s influence is to remain close to their teens.
Spend time with your teens and even their friends. Host picnics or activities where they can invite their friends.
Encourage and initiate good communication. Ask good questions—not just “yes” and “no” questions, but those that will really get them to talk. Use meal times to engender warm, family fellowship.
Then listen. Find out what is going on in their lives. Find out their hopes, desires, dreams and worries. Empathize with them—laugh with them, cry with them. Parents should share their children’s online profiles and interactions. You should insist upon this for their protection. And if you get involved in this way, be sure you keep pace with your children—an idle threat would likely do more harm.
Put simply, take an interest in their lives and be involved in their lives! This will not only give you a better idea of the dangers they may face, and make them more open to your instruction on avoiding dangers in their lives, but it will also make them far likelier to go to you when danger finds them. Your positive involvement in their lives will encourage loyalty and unity within the family unit.
Also, encourage teens to get involved in hobbies, sports or other activities that can be done at home. Make spending time at home fun, and limit the time on the computer or in front of the television.
Be the major source of education and instruction for your teens. Teach them about the Bible—lead them in regular Bible studies geared toward them. Teach them about sex, about financial responsibility. Teach them about the lives of great men and women.
Apply Parenting to Technology
Parents must become more aggressive in fighting for their teens! We live in dangerous times. God expects us to protect and care for our family. Be sure to stay connected with your teens and keep up with their technological advancements. This could be a challenge—just make sure you stay in control.
Don’t abandon your children. Countless children are learning abominable things today because they are merely sent off to play, the parents not knowing where they are, who they’re with or what they’re doing for large portions of the day or night.
The basic principles of child rearing are: love, nurture, involvement, interest, instruction, frank discussion, discipline. Here are some specific ways to apply those principles to counter the negative effects of technology in your teens’ lives.
1. Put the computer in a highly visible area. Mr. Gerald Flurry and God’s Philadelphia ministry have strongly encouraged this since 2006. While some parents have faithfully listened and heeded, others have not. On November 1, the American Academy of Pediatrics stated the same thing: “The aap also recommends that parents do not allow their children to have televisions or Internet access in their bedrooms, for some research has found a link between kids who have tvs in their bedrooms and obesity, as well as kids who have disrupted patterns of sleep. However, as a mother of three children under the age of 10 points out to me, ‘When content is available on all kinds of mobile devices, you don’t really need a tv or Internet access for kids to be viewing entertainment media in their bedrooms—or anywhere at all!” (Huffington Post). If you have problems with God’s instruction through His ministry, at least consider the counsel of the aap!
2. Carefully consider the potential consequences before equipping teens with cell phone and instant messenger accounts. In allowing teens a certain level of trust, understand what kind of freedom they are being afforded by having their own forms of mobile communication. You might consider an account that only allows dialing certain numbers.
3. Replace indoor activities with outdoor ones. Get your children involved in social activities, physical outdoor jobs and sports programs. Aim to develop a balanced lifestyle for them.
4. Set the example of being truthful, and foster an atmosphere of openness and honesty in the home.
5. Install and use parental control software. Great applications and programs come bundled with your system’s or device’s operating system. Other third-party programs can provide additional protection. Be sure you apply these protections on all devices—including their mobile, laptop, desktop and other gaming consoles. These programs and applications should help protect the environment your children experience while using this technology. Take time and do a little research to learn how to apply these controls, and learn which ones are the most effective.
6. Get involved with your children. Use the Internet and other technologies together. This should help demonstrate their appropriate uses.
7. Monitor what your children do online (for more, see the fbiParent’s Guide to Internet Safety — www.fbi.gov/publications/pguide/pguidee.htm). Don’t be afraid to invade their privacy. This is your job!
As a parent, you are battling Satan the devil and the moral plunge that he is bringing on our societies—all of which is being helped by the advent of new technologies. Applying the godly principles of child rearing is the only way to truly stay ahead of the times and help your children avoid the technology trap!