Dr. David Warren
According to a recent study by Barna, 78 percent of parents believe it is more challenging to raise children today than ever before. The number one reason cited was technology.1
The world is changing rapidly, and parents are struggling to keep up with the pace. New devices, apps, and digital
mediums are constantly being introduced into the marketplace.
It is your responsibility as parents to train up your children in a way that honors the Lord. This means protecting them from the more dangerous parts of the internet and preparing them for a world that is more and more filled with technology.
How do families confront this swiftly changing world? Here are four starting points that I hope will help you and your family begin to navigate the digital landscape.
1. Gain knowledge about technology, and don’t bury your head in the sand.
We can ask our parents for advice about many areas regarding parenting, but technology is likely not one of them. Sure, we had video games and maybe even computers, but we are leaps and bounds beyond what was available technology-wise when we were kids.
In many cases, our children know more about our devices and the internet than we do! These children are the first generations to be born and raised with the internet as part of their everyday lives.
If we are going to raise a generation prepared to make a difference, then we need to protect and prepare them for the world they actually live in.
The challenge to parents in Deuteronomy 6 to “teach them diligently to your children. . .” refers to the teaching of God’s Word to our kids. However, it is also about teaching them the application of God’s Word to their everyday lives in this present culture. You need to learn how to use technology biblically for your family’s sake. You need to know what God’s Word teaches about these subjects and teach it to your children. This includes knowing why standards are important and communicating those standards to your children.
Set a high bar in regards to technology in your home. Set limits and expectations on why, where, when, what, and how long.
Ignorance is no excuse for not parenting; you can learn, and others can help you. This article could be the kickstarter for you to make some changes around how your family approaches the issue of screen time.
2. Filter the internet in your home and on your family’s devices.
A must-have first wall of protection is an internet filter. While no internet filter is perfect, not having one is a terrible alternative.
There are many different types of internet filters, and they all have strengths and weaknesses. Some are easily set up on your router and are even free. Others use hardware that you purchase and add additional features like setting time limits or monitoring internet activity. Simply put, the more features you add, the more it will cost. Typically there is a monthly fee ranging from $3 to $10 per month.
The option that I use in my home is CleanBrowsing.2 They offer a free family filter that blocks adult/obscene content and applies Safe Search filters to Google, Bing, Yandex, and other search engines.
The paid version gives you complete control over what should be blocked. You can pick from fourteen predefined filters (adult, gaming, gambling, torrents, weapons, social networks, and more). You can also make your own rules and block and allow any domains or websites you wish. Create custom block pages on the paid plans and see which sites are being visited from your network.
3. Monitor your children’s devices. What you inspect communicates what you expect.
While having an internet filter in your home is great for protecting you and your kids when they are on the internet while in your home, what do you do as they get older and take their devices outside the home and connect to any available Wi-Fi hotspot? What happens once they get a cell phone and have a data plan, and they are able to bypass using your home internet? How do you protect your kids then?
The answer is to monitor your child’s devices. Depending on what type of device your child is using, many options can help you do this. If your child attends a school that issues a Chromebook or iPad, likely (hopefully) software has been installed on those devices that allow the school to manage and monitor activity. You can also do this as a parent.
For younger children using tablets and iPads, I recommend ScreenTime.3 ScreenTime works on Android tablets and phones as well as Apple iPhones and iPads. ScreenTime allows you to filter and monitor your child’s device and gives you the ability to control the device. You can set time limits and schedules. You can allow or block apps. You can set up rewards and penalties that add or subtract screen time to your child’s account. If the device has GPS capabilities, it also allows you to track its location. I highly recommend ScreenTime for homes with children and early teens.
Once you have teenagers and they have a cell phone, it is time to add some more features that ScreenTime does not have. Primarily, this is the ability to see texts and messages sent through other messaging apps as well as log phone call data.
The app my wife and I use is MMGuardian.4 MMGuardian has most of the features from ScreenTime but adds the ability to monitor text and messaging apps. It also will alert you to any suspicious messages or activity such as bullying, sexual references, or suicidal comments.
4. Begin a dialogue with your children, and ask questions.
Talk to your kids about technology and media. Ask what they like to watch and why. Ask what their friends are watching and what games they are playing. Talk to them at age-appropriate levels about the dangers of the internet and why you, as a parent, are trying to protect them.
I do not recommend using these tools without telling your kids. Let them know what you expect and how you are going to be monitoring their activity. Communication is essential to build trust with your kids. They need to know that you care about them and are trying to protect them, not just trying to catch them doing something wrong.
As with so many areas in parenting, there is more than one way to manage the issue of screen time and technology in your home. There are many tools and apps, and there is no hard and fast rule about how much screen time at what age is right. My standards for me and my family may not be the same for you and yours. Still, I will reiterate, doing nothing is not a viable option for parents who want to see their children successfully navigating the digital landscape of today’s world.
Dr. David Warren is a gifted communicator in areas of faith and culture, theology, worldview, education, and apologetics. He graduated from Calvary Baptist Academy in Midland, Michigan, and now serves as the school’s Secondary Principal. He is also the Discipleship Pastor at Calvary Baptist Church. Pastor David has been instrumental in keeping CBA ahead of the curve when implementing technology in the classroom. He and his wife, Maria, have four children.
1. “6 Tech Habits Changing the American Home,” Barna Group, accessed April 22, 2021, https://barna.com/research/6-tech-habits-changing-american-home.
2. CleanBrowsing Inc, “DNS-Based Content Filtering and Security,” CleanBrowsing, accessed April 22, 2021, https://cleanbrowsing.org.
3. “Screen Time—Parental Control App for Android and IOS,” Screen Time, accessed April 22, 2021, https://screentimelabs.com.
4. “StackPath,” accessed April 22, 2021, https://mmguardian.com.