Safely Steering Children through the Ocean of Technology

    By Nathan Meidell

    There’s an old saying, “Never turn your back to the ocean.” Why? Because its many dangers can rise up at any moment.

    The same can be said of technology, a wide and unpredictable ocean of potential danger that floods into our homes like a tidal wave through apps, videos, websites, downloads, and digital content of every variety.

    Are you and your children ready to navigate that ocean? How can you prepare for and minimize the risks?

    This isn’t just about firewalls, filtering software, limits, or monitoring. Those precautions can only do so much. Navigating these waters also requires that parents follow a few simple, powerful principles.

    1. Teach children to steer the ship.

    Too much technology—or technology used in the wrong way—can easily put a child in dangerous waters. To safeguard against such dangers, parents should establish good technology habits early, when children are young. Such habits will bless your children throughout their life. As we read in Proverbs: “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6).

    To form these habits, consider the following:

    • Talk with your kids regularly about the blessings and dangers of technology. When kids are young, even when they are teenagers, they don’t understand the full implications of sharing information online. Talk about what information, and how much, it is okay to share online. Review together what apps and images are currently on their phone. Keep checking in to make sure they are safe. Consider this article on choosing good media.1
    • Find ways to participate with your kids in their technology use. For example, get them to help you respond to an online discussion in a Christlike way. Or help them create posts using your accounts before they get their own social media accounts. You could even just listen to a conference talk together or play a game together online!
    • With older children and teenagers, you may want to discuss cyberbullying and other dangers they might encounter online. You can help your child understand that not everyone is safe online and that they can seriously hurt their friends or classmates by posting mean things. Be ready to step in and protect your child. Stay involved and know who they are interacting with.
    • Create a contract that you both sign that governs their screen time and online activity.

    2. Call “All hands on deck” and counsel together.

    On a ship, someone calls “All hands on deck!” when danger arises and the crew needs to work together to pull through. Managing technology is no different. When determining how to use technology safely, counsel together as a family.

    When holding the family council, keep in mind the following:

    Talk about how technology is working in your family. How is it helping? What problems are you seeing? Technology is supposed to connect us, but often it isolates and pides us instead.

    Remember that this is a council, not a lecture. Do a lot of listening as you help your kids identify problems and come up with solutions.

    To facilitate discussion, you might ask:

    • How does technology influence our family time?
    • What are the best and worst things happening right now because of technology in our individual lives? In our family? In our friendships?
    • What's our plan for how to use technology as a family?
    • When should our phones and screens be turned off?

    3. Navigate by the Light of Christ.

    Invite the Savior to be with you every time you and your family brave the ocean of technology. Remember, He can calm the sea.

    Mormon taught, “The Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil; wherefore, I show unto you the way to judge; for every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ” (Moroni 7:16).

    What a great way to judge our media choices. Ask yourself, “Is my use of technology helping me to do good?” Teach your children how to navigate the ocean of technology by the light of Christ. He wants our family to stay safe, and will guide through the Holy Ghost as we turn to Him.

    Keep a Captain's Logbook

    While trying these ideas out over the next few weeks, try making a logbook of impressions you receive, problems you run into as a family, decisions you make, and what you learn together.

    You could also invite everyone to log the time they spend with technology every day to help them determine if their behavior is in line with family and personal goals. Whatever you do, stay positive and seek the Lord’s guidance. With His help, you can sail these waters.

    Notes

    1. "Choosing Good Media," Friend, June 2018, 74.

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