Kids and Technology: When? What? How Much?

This posts was inspired by a text I received from a 12 year old girl. Even though I know her and her parents very well, I thought it very strange that a 12  year old girl sent me a text. I chose not to respond. Not because I did not think it was nice of her, but because I imagined her as my daughter and asked myself if I would want my daughter texting an adult man without me knowing, even if I knew him. I answered no.

So, my question is: At what age should kids be allowed cell phones, email & Facebook accounts, Twitter, etc? I do not think there is a black and white answer on this one. I think there are many variables to consider: maturity, circumstances, school productivity, parental control, etc. But on the other hand, I think we have let culture have too much influence with our kids than it should. Now, I am Facebook friends with most of the teens that come to my youth group. When I see their posts, profile pics, and discussions, most of it is just fine. But, is there a line? A limit? I think there is.

The Bible says, “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise.” (Ephesians 5:15), and “Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6).

Now, my oldest is just 11 years old. She is very responsible, very mature, and very intelligent for her age. She can cook a meal for our family (8 people now), do laundry, clean the house, take care of her little brothers and sisters, and much more. Most 11 year olds can not do all of that. But, she does not have an email or Facebook account or a cell phone. It is not that we do not trust her, rather it is for many other reasons.

1. She does not need it. She is only 11 years old. Who does she need to text and why? She does send emails, but through mine and my wife’s account. We should be able to read what she writes to friends, and we should want to.

2. Cell phones are a distraction from real life, school, and family. I know, it is even for me.

3. It opens to door to influences that even are bad for adults. Temptations to text people they should not, sharing personal things to others that should not be shared in public, and seeing things that they are not ready to handle.

4. Teen phone conversations should not have content in them that can not be said in the family room for all to hear. If it has to be hidden to be said, then it should not be said at all.

5. Even with all the trust in the world in our kids, they will deceive parents. Technology opens the door (in my opinion) too large for them to walk through and say and do things behind parents backs. Every person has a sinful heart (Romans 3:23, Jeremiah 17:9, 1 John 1:8-10). I was a trustworthy teenager. Ask my parents, my friends, and my youth minister (who is my Facebook friend). They will all tell you that I was a “good” teenager. But, if they were honest, they would also tell you how I struggled in doing what is right. No matter how trustworthy I was, I found ways to look honest and at the same time be very deceptive. When I talk to parents today, too many think their kids are perfect, or at least are always totally truthful and honest to their parents. Are we really that naive? Have we forgotten our teenage years that quickly? More happens behind our backs than we think. Technology helps this happen.

6. Lastly, I do not trust how others will try to influence my kids. Sorry to say, but this is true. In the world we live in today, we as parents must protect our kids from sexual predators, peer pressure from friends to disobey parents, and from comments via technology that are crude, offensive, and sexually provocative. Much of this happens through cell phones and Facebook.

Now, I know that my reservations with technology for kids does not totally protect my kids. There are many others avenues that can badly influence our children, but I think technology has changed so fast that we as parents have not adjusted well. I admit, it is not easy, and I am not sure at what age I will let my kids have their own accounts and/or cell phones, but my point in all this is that we should think seriously about it, be involved in out kid’s email & Facebook accounts, and checking their cell phones for inappropriate messages. This is not privacy violation. It is being an involved and loving parent.

This past summer our family had the privilege of having a wonderful 15 year old girl stay with us for 3 weeks. She was very mature for her age. She had a cell phone, email, but no Facebook page. I observed her for 3 weeks. When she emailed or texted, it was to her parents, her siblings, and a few friends. I was shocked on how often she was not on her cell or the computer. If my children used technology like her, then at 15 I would be OK with it. But, her parents were very involved in her life.

Where’s the line? I am not sure. But, on this one, I would rather be a bit too cautious than not. To open the door too wide only to find out that it was not the wise decision is much harder to close than to open it bit by bit. Again, as parents, we must walk wisely in training our kids. Training being the key word. Throwing them out of the nest hoping they will fly might work for birds, but in the human world, I would call it neglect, not parenting.

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