The parents of today’s high school students are doing it tough when it comes to raising their children in a cyber saturated world. These parents are the last generation to complete their education without the internet. However, they are parenting the first generation who will have completed their education with the internet. This year’s HSC students were born 10 years after the internet went public.
It’s quite a challenge for today’s parents. The effects of screen usage have only recently been studied and parents have been left unsure as to what constitutes suitable screen time usage. When is it too early to hand the child an i-pad? or to buy them a smart phone? What dangers are there, if any, for brain development or social skills? What about issues of cyber-bullying and inappropriate content?
When it comes to the internet, parents need to be proactive rather than reactive. In the same way that children are taught to cross the road and then later to drive a car, they need to be taught how to use the internet. Proper training begins with a Biblical world view. Helping your children to grow in their knowledge of God and his plans for the world. Rest assured, once a young person enters the world of the internet, they will be bombarded with world views that are a far cry from the Bible. How will a young person be able to identify what is right and what is wrong if they haven’t been trained with God’s standards? This training is the responsibility of parents (Deuteronomy 6:4-9; Proverbs 22:6; Ephesians 6:4) and should not be offloaded to others.
Good parenting moves a child from dependence to independence. Younger children need greater direction and have less responsibility. Parents do well to help their children develop character that is marked by honesty, integrity, accountability, patience, humility, kindness, contentment and self control. They need to know their identity as a child of God and what that means for who they are in the online world. As they show signs of developing maturity in the areas of character and identity, then they are able to gain more freedom and begin making choices for themselves.
Laying good foundations with your children will equip them to be wiser in how they use the internet and how they respond to others online. It will also help them to understand the importance of relationships in the real world, as opposed to the disconnected connections in cyber-space.
Of course, good parenting begins with honesty about our own use of screens and the internet. A recent survey showed that the number one user of NBN download bandwidth in Australia is television and movie streaming services like Netflix. In fact they take more than 10 times the bandwidth of popular online games like Fortnite. Don’t be surprised if your children can’t walk away from a screen when they see you indulging in the very same thing. Perhaps you could start by recording your own time in front of screens each day and see if there’s an issue that needs to be addressed.
The content for this post has been largely influenced by Part 2 of “Cyber-Parenting” by James and Simone Boswell. This is an excellent resource for raising kids in an online world. While currently out of print, I have acquired 10 copies that will be available for borrowing.
There is also a Facebook page run by James and Simone called CyberParenting which is regularly updated with useful articles to help parents navigate the world of the internet with their kids. https://www.facebook.com/CyberParentingBook/
The documentary, Screenagers, addresses the areas of social media, cyber bullying and online gaming – areas that many parents are concerned about. Screenagers explores how technology impacts on the development of youth and offers solutions to help adults empower their children to best navigate the digital world.
A screening of the documentary which we are hosting at Cronulla Cinema on Wednesday 29th August has now sold out.
Also, we recently surveyed the youth from year 6-12 about their use of screens and the internet. Rather than simply look at statistics from Victorian studies or from the U.S., we thought it would be good to get a statistical snapshot of Jannali Anglican youth. We had 119 surveys completed as well as 22 extra surveys from leaders. The data has been put into a computer and we are busy crunching numbers. Some interesting patterns are emerging and the results will be presented next Wednesday night at the Screenagers documentary in Cronulla.