Safeguarding Our Kids Against Tech and Media Garbage

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tech and media garbage graphicTake a second to list all of the incredible and miraculous benefits that have come from the invention of the internet and modern technology. What changes have you witnessed just in your lifetime? I am constantly amazed at the information and communication that is available to us today because of these incredible technologies.

The Good

I recently watched brothers, half a world away from each other communicate, in real time from China to rural Idaho. I have been able to reconnect with friends from grade school that I never would have been able to track down before social networks. I can personally carry every book of scripture, learn parenting tips, receive and share encouragement from people I love, and listen to hours of wonderful music and inspiring podcasts from a device that fits in my pocket. I can learn almost anything I want with a few words and a click. One of the things I love, is that I always have a camera with me to document memories with my family that I never would have captured without my smart phone.

It is truly magnificent what we can do with the touch of a button these days. It boggles my mind to think that I didn’t even have high speed internet until I was finishing high school.

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The Bad

I have also seen families torn apart by addiction to pornography. I‘ve heard of videos and written portrayals of grotesque violence that, at its very least, desensitizes society to moral and societal atrocities.

The truth is that the garbage we often find in the media has always existed. I’m not blaming technology. Technology is only a vehicle, but all of this garbage is much more accessible than it has ever been before in known history. It is also much easier to conceal. I have heard of 10 year olds that walk around with pornography in their pocket without Mom or Dad even knowing. I know parents that load the dish washer in their kitchen, while their child plays a video game in the next room over that gives them points, yes, rewards them for killing cops, torturing people and creatures and raping prostitutes.

Who cares about all the arguments of why it’s no big deal

There are plenty of studies that affirm that participating in the filthy material listed above have tragic effects on kids and families. However, I know that the science of whether pornography and video game or media violence has a detrimental effect on kids and people in general can be refuted if someone really wants to. My argument is to safeguard our children’s technology use , and teach them to self regulate what kind of media they consume because the “the bad” stuff is simply garbage. There is nothing valuable to be gained by it. I stand by the metaphor that if you fill a bucket with garbage and sewage, you will never get chicken noodle soup out of that bucket. To all those that may say, “Oh, it’s no big deal. It’s just a game, or a picture, or a song.” I would say, “What goes in, will eventually come out and some of those things that are going in are pretty frightening.”

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5 Ways to safeguard your child from media garbage

1. Filter/Limit access reasonably:

Set and build boundaries into your family’s life. Because of the extreme accessibility of media trash, it makes sense to place natural limits on this content. We may not always have control over every access our child has to it, but we can decide what we will allow in our own homes. There are a few simple things that parents can do to set boundaries and limit accessibility in our own homes.

  • Get a good internet filter for your computer.
  • Put the computer in a high traffic area of the home.
  • Don’t put TV, computer or devices in kid’s rooms.
  • Wait to give your child a personal device and/or monitor its use. (Make a decision at what age you feel your child can handle the new responsibility of a personal device like a smart phone or tablet.)
  • Have a charging station where the personal devices reside after a certain time at night.
  • Make your kids social media memberships contingent on you being their “friend” and having access to their accounts. (Don’t sneak around to monitor the accounts. Just tell them up front that is part of the deal from the beginning.)

Some parents may read this and think, “That is way too sheltered.” That is fine with me. I do provide shelter to my children. My home is a place that they can come to be safe from the storm. It would be silly to send a kid out into a tornado or hurricane because we thought , keeping them indoors “would be too sheltered.” Yes, I’m fine with letting my kids go out and experience the rain, hear the thunder and feel the wind of a regular old storm. But I do not want to slap a rain coat on their backs and shout, “Alright, go on out and tame that tornado,” and I certainly do not need to invite the storm into my home.

Kids need limits on the seemingly limitless. Their freedom in these things can grow as they grow.

2. Teach and participate in self limited positive uses of technology

This is the hard part for a lot of parents. We need to be a model of responsible internet/media use. If we spend all of our time with our heads down looking at social media on our phones, they will want to do the same. If our evenings, after work are consumed by television, movies, internet surfing and endless cell phone notifications (Cue your ring tone), this will become their norm. I am not against any of those technologies, but when they devour our time and leave nothing left for those we are with, they can become a problem. In addition, the more time we are spending in these virtual worlds, the more we are exposed to the barrage of advertisements. We become more familiar and desensitized to the sexualization, objectification and exploitation that are often present there. These are things we would have never considered reasonable or appropriate otherwise.

A great way to model and reinforce healthy habits of use is to adhere to similar media use guidelines that you set for your child. Have a “no tech time” each day, maybe after a certain time in the evening. Dedicate that time to each other. Put your phone or device in your “charging station” and leave it there. Don’t watch things on television that don’t meet your values. Also model positive use of tech and media. Some of the most incredible wonders of our new technology is the worlds it opens in terms of education and self improvement. Show your kids how to access educational videos or good, clean healthy entertainment on Youtube. Show them how to skype their grandma or teach them computer skills that will serve them later in life.

3. Model healthy regard for people and discourage exploitation

This step goes far beyond technology and media but will have a huge influence on what technology and media choices our children will make. It’s sad to me when I hear about Dad’s that have introduced their son to pornographic material as a sort of “rite of passage.” I would hope that this is not very common, but I have heard about it happening far more frequently than I would like.

Show your children by your actions that you value others, that violence and aggression are not the answer to problems and that pornography and sexual exploitation are not “normal.”Husbands and wives, should treat each other with respect and bring the education of virtues and values to the forefront of their lives. Don’t teach children only when they need correction. Teach them during the good times.

4. Build a relationship of trust that allows kids to seek help if needed

Building a relationship of trust is important so that kids can talk to parents if they are struggling or if a friend or school mate shows them something that they didn’t want to see. Spend time with them. Show interest in what they like even if or when you think it is ridiculous or immature. Let the unimportant stuff go. I’ve seen things like the length of a kids hair drive such intense relational wedges in a parent/child relationship that the child did not feel he could confide in his parents at all. Let the small stuff go. Express love and affection in ways that make sense to them. Relationship is the foundation of the greatest learning.

5. If you have a problem with it, get help.

There are many that are consumed by pornography, video gaming or other entertainment addictions. Addiction places everything else as second fiddle. It takes priority and affects all areas of life. It makes parenting responsibilities more difficult and saps the satisfaction out of it. If you find that you have an addiction or that you struggle to get away from technology and media garbage, seek out the help you need. Talk to an ecclesiastical leader, a counselor, attend an addiction class or just throw out the garbage. The strength it takes to seek out help or to throw away things that are not in line with our values is a powerful lesson to children and teens that face making decisions about what they will fill their bucket with for the rest of their lives. If Dad or Mom can throw out all the garbage, they are often more willing to take on the challenge themselves.

Ultimately, our environment and what we fill our bucket with day in and day out has a commanding affect on our moods, thoughts and actions in our lives. Our kids are so impressionable and they learn so much more from what they see and witness than by what is preached to them. Parents are their children’s primary teacher, but they have so many more teachers these days. They have Youtube and Facebook and SnapChat and so many others presenting messages each and every day. Let’s safeguard our homes and provide the influence we can to help our children learn lessons that will benefit their lives and build patterns of happiness and growth.

Question: What do you think about this topic? What is something you do to help safeguard your kids from tech and media garbage?

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