There is no denying how much time kids and teens these days spend scrolling on their Facebook feeds or tweeting their hearts out.
We live in a digital world where access to helpful information is a few taps and clicks away, but so is the possibility of entering a world full of risks and temptations.
As parents of Christian kids, it pays to know how to guide your kids to navigate an increasingly "digital" society.
Here are 10 positive Christian parenting tips in today's digital world you should observe:
1. Prepare and have your kids sign a digital device contract. It's all-too-tempting to show your kids how generous and loving you are by giving them a digital device (smartphone, tablet, or personal computer) with no strings attached. This 'love language' may be heartwarming for the kids, but it could backfire unintentionally. Instead of just giving your kids free rein, opt to have them sign a 'digital device contract' outlining a few rules. Consider having them provide their login credentials so you can monitor their online activities and prevent potential disasters.
2. The longer you can hold them off social media accounts, the better. Many kids see having social media accounts as a requirement to 'have a life.' While this may seem like a typical teenage or kid behavior, it could open a can of worms associated with social media crimes. Make your kids realize that 'having a life' does not mean having an account on every social media site or app. List down different Christian activities they can engage in to help them see there is life outside the social media realm.
3. Give them a connectivity device that does not rely on the internet. Many Christian parents do not realize that there are devices they can use to communicate with their kids without connecting to the internet. There are devices called "dumb phones" that allow for calls and texts - the two most basic communication methods many families use. In short, buy them gadgets that allow for quick, two-way communication without connecting to wifi.
4. Do things with them away from digital devices. Many parents think the best way to let their kids know they love them is to buy the latest and most expensive gadgets. This highly worldly point of view prevents Christian parents from connecting with their kids meaningfully. Instead of banking on the instant gratification of owning flashy digital devices, opt for quality time with your kids away from screens. Schedule a weekend camping trip, watch a Christian movie or take them with you on an outreach program. There are plenty of ways to bond with them without spending a dollar on a tech device.
5. Establish a screen time. Establishing screen time is one way to ensure your kids know when to turn off their gadgets. A general rule would be: no more scrolling Facebook feeds or Twitter posts once they're inside the bedroom. You could also rear them to use their devices only if they have finished their homework or assigned household chore.
6. Establish wifi control. Parents should be on top of how their home wifi gets used. Christian parents should also control the wifi so kids can only use it for meaningful activities. There are devices you can buy online that would allow you to set up parental controls simultaneously with wifi-connected devices.
7. Educate them about the evils and risks of having an online presence. For many of today's kids, having a social media account on every possible site or app is the only way their peers would approve of them. Be sure you don't allow your kids to live with this destructive mentality. Do a quick online search and look for articles on the different crimes by perpetrators against unwitting teenage victims using online apps and websites. Then, have a heart-to-heart talk with them and outline all the risks associated with digital devices and online sites.
8. Introduce digital devices gradually. You don't have to buy your kids their first smartphone when they ask you for a gadget. Getting them a smartphone should be the pinnacle of digital device gifting and not the beginning of it. If possible, stairstep the entire thing and buy them devices corresponding to their age and needs. The first one could be a basic tablet with pre-loaded educational content. The next device could be a personal computer in the study area. Then, you could elevate to a flip phone with basic call and text functionalities. Make sure you hold off buying them a smartphone for as long as possible.
9. Monitor their online and physical behavior. Some kids would not give their parents a hint that they're already being bullied or sexually harassed online. It's your duty as the adult in the house to be observant of your kids' body language or social media posts. There are plenty of tells about how a kid behaves at home that signal something wrong is happening. A single cryptic post could be a kid's way of asking for help from a depressive situation. Be on the lookout for any deviation from your kid's usual behavior, and act fast.
10. Keep Christ as your kids' primary role model. While you, parents, would count as among your kids' biggest role models, you must ensure that they see Jesus Christ as their biggest source of inspiration and emulation. Teach them about Christ's role as your family's ultimate provider and protector. Tell them biblical stories of Christ's miracles and teachings so that they would draw inspiration from His life and wisdom.
Being parents of kids these days can be challenging. But with these 10 tips, you can hurdle the difficult task of ensuring that your kids lead a Christian life amid all the trials and tribulations that today's digital world poses.