All of us read in despair as children are victimized by cyber-predators. The case here in Virginia recently truly hits home for our community, yet the question remains: what are we going to do about it?
I ask this in an encouraging way, not an accusing way. I believe in the power of collective mother-resolve and it begins with raw conversation about what exactly we are facing. I contend it’s not always about the predator. It’s about our precious children and our inability to say no to them.
We all know that a teen and his cell phone are not soon parted. Limiting device use is like taking a pacifier from a three-year old. There’s going to be a war.
But so what?
So what if our kids accuse us of being absurd, mean, and narrow?
So what if they pitch a fit and don’t speak to us?
So what if they huff, puff and threaten to blow the house down? So what?
In the end, we answer to God not them. We are the adults and they are the children. Read it: children. It’s our job to protect them with reasonable rules around everything in life. And so we have to wade into technology use and make some stands. We have to be brave.
How does this play out in a practical way?
Wean yourself from your own phone. Your children model your lifestyle. If your phone is glued to your hand, even innocently snapping pictures and videos, it sends a message that a phone belongs in one’s hand all day long. I caught myself last night, snuggled in front of the TV with my husband under a blanket with my stupid cell phone cradled next to my chest like a doll.
If we can require family and friends to leave their shoes at the door, then surely we can designate a basket, a hanging shoe bag, or a table for phones.
View a phone like a car. When the internet first became handy, we were all caught up in a wave of fun innovation. At first it was cool and it’s still pretty darn amazing that we can search for information with the stroke of a finger.
But we have to change our thinking. Nobody knew ten years ago that this easy access would become a trap for children. From the comfort of your home they can be introduced to every vice known to man. Of course this should be regulated somehow. Yet here we are, casually turning over our password and internet-enabled phone to six year-olds who would never be trusted with the car.
Having a phone is a trust and it requires maturity and training. Graduate your child into cell phone use and set up a standard of training like drivers’ ed. Why can’t there be classes about it for parents and teens? Initiate this at your church or school.
Arm yourself with information. Read. Read. Read. About internet threats and security measures. Stay up-to-date about the ridiculous apps that lure teens into dangerous activity. And yes, sit your kids down and discuss the awful circumstances that have befallen victims of online predators, bullies, and porn-peddlers.
Yes, they will balk at your lectures. So what. You lecture about homework, chores, getting into college, and taking a shower. Parents are supposed to be teachers. It’s our job to lecture. Yet it’s possible to create guidelines without being a witch about it. This is about our children’s safety and that should be expressed in a loving way.
Arm yourself with guts. When Abraham was called by God to sacrifice his son Isaac in Genesis 22, he somehow overcame his fear of how Isaac would react. Abraham was well over 100 years old and he had every reason to fear that Isaac – purported to be a young man – could have beaten him to a bloody pulp.
But Abraham was not afraid and neither should we fear our children. We’re called to fear God who has entrusted to us a sacred duty to nurture and protect our offspring.
Sure, our children might throw toddler tantrums if we limit their phone use, but let’s believe the words Abraham told Isaac: God will provide.
God will provide wisdom for navigating this scary turf.
God will provide grace for our children to deal with new rules.
God will provide strength to resist peer pressure from other parents whose technology use does not align with ours.
None of this is easy, but parenting never is.