Here are four ways to PREPARE your kids for living in the real world beyond your home.
1. Don't start too young: Giving your child privileges with an electronic device at a young age allows them to feel a sense of entitlement. It also pushes boundaries for you as a parent...what was not acceptable at ten is at twelve because they've already come so close to the boundary.
2. Turn on parental controls: you do know this is possible, right?! I've come across so many parents who have no idea how to do this. Google it! Type in "parental controls and the name of your device." Step by step instructions make this super easy!
3. Establish written policies/contracts: In this policy, you will lay out for your child all that is expected. What hours are they allowed to be on their device? How will you allow them to install new apps? HAVING THIS DEVICE IS A PRIVILEGE, NOT A RIGHT.
Within this contract, you will lay out all guidelines on:
screen time (how many hours and which hours per day): For example....4-6 every day, etc.
Docking: All electronic devices are docked at 8 p.m. in the living room (example).
Company: When friends are over will you give them wifi passwords? Will you allow them to have their electronics in your kids rooms at night? As a rule, we don't. All electronics are docked. Regardless of whose they are.
Texting: Our kids know we read their texts. Our contract clearly states that texts are not to be deleted until we've said it's ok to do so. Doing this has proven to be a valuable teaching experience more than once.
Wifi passwords: Again, the use of wifi is a privilege and not a right.
Where use of electronics is allowed in the home: the number one piece of advice given to people pastors recovering from an addiction to pornography is to place all computers in public areas. WHY WOULD YOU ALLOW YOUR CHILD/TEEN TO USE THEIR ELECTRONIC DEVICE IN THEIR BEDROOM? You are inviting trouble.
It may seem that you are being the mean parent. Your child's friends parents don't require anything like this. BOTTOM LINE: you won't stand before God and give an account for your child's friends. Just your own.
4. As age increases, so does privilege.
Extras: Our kids electronics don't leave the house. WHY?
1. Car time is often unplanned, valuable discussion time......I can't plan when my kids will talk to me anymore it seems so I want to create environments in which they often will without prompting. The car tends to be one place in which this happens regularly. If everyone has earphones in listening to their own music, this won't happen.
2. Electronics and meals do not mix........enough said.
3. Potential of losing such a valuable piece of equipment.
4. I want my kids to develop eye contact and know what it means to value other people. I want them to notice people who may need a smile or someone who appears to be struggling. As Christians, it is our job to take care of others.
SNOOP: Make sure your kids know that at any time you may check their browsing history, text messages, FaceTime calls, or apps. Parents, step up. It is crazy to think that you would hand someone so young (without the cognitive abilities to make adult decisions) a device that literally opens the world to them and not give them restrictions.
What if it's too late? Here's the good news: It's not. It doesn't matter if you've gone without guidelines and procedures, start today. Sit down with your child/teen and tell them that you've really been thinking about this and that you want to be a responsible parent. Tell them it's your job to PREPARE them for the world they will experience beyond your home. They may be unhappy, but I promise you that it will be worth their moodiness for a bit.
Parents, if you really want to walk this road with your kids, agree to having restrictions of your own. Don't use computers in private places, don't use electronics during meals and car rides, etc. Model the behavior you want to see in your kids.
How about you? What does your family media agreement look like? What do you do to PREPARE your kids for life beyond your home when it comes to forms of media?
Want a great way to walk this road as a family? My Journey to the Summit materials give you guidelines for writing a family media agreement that you can post in your home.
http://www.imaginefamilyministries.com/journey-to-the-summit.html. You can read more about it using that link. It's designed to be used in a ministry context....imagine if your kids knew their friends had the same policies at their homes too?!