Supporting Parents And Grandparents who are fearful of social media and smartphones
“How can I respond to parents or grandparents who are fearful about the influences of smartphones or social media on their children?”
Smartphones and social media can be doorways to harmful experiences or images. Parents and grandparents are correct in being cautious of letting their children access social media or online content without supervision. Ideally, a child has been raised with a strong ability to discern “good” and “bad” content, experiences, and visuals. At some point, young adults will face the dangers of social media through their computers or smartphones apart from their parents or grandparents. Before they do, it is good to help them through 4 stages of online “growth”: “restriction,” “guided exposure,” “limited permission,” and “freedom.”
“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is One. And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These words I am commanding you today are to be upon your hearts. And you shall teach them diligently to your children and speak of them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as reminders on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorposts of your houses and on your gates.” Deuteronomy 6: 4-9
When computers were first invented, they were designed to help us with complex problems and to also give us access to information. When phones were created, they were designed to help us communicate with others. There is nothing inherently “evil” about computers or phones; but in today’s world, smartphones, computers, and social media sites can be “doorways” to damaging experiences for children. Parents and grandparents are correct in being cautious of letting their children access social media or online content without supervision. Parents and grandparents also know that they can’t protect their children from the dangers of smartphones and social media forever! They know that at some point their children will become young adults who will be able to access everything the Internet has to offer them. Parents and grandparents are faced with two choices: 1) To keep their children away from smartphones or social media for as long as possible, or 2) To expose their older children or teens to the possible dangers of smartphones and social media, while teaching them the best way to protect themselves from the online dangers they may encounter. Hopefully, they choose option #2. Smartphones and social media are not going away! Their children will eventually be old enough to have online access on their own. The goal and hope of every parent or grandparent should be to help their children develop a Christian perspective that will help them discern what “right” and “wrong” behavior or content is for them. The best way to assist parents and grandparents is to offer seminars, printed material, or online training that gives them ideas for teaching their children to discern what is “good” or “bad” social media encounters using a smartphone. Help the parents and grandparents answer critical questions like: “When to let their older child / teen have a smartphone?” “What restrictions should be placed on online access?” “How do we teach discernment?” and “How do we create ‘open communication’ between us and our child or teen that will foster on-going talk about online experiences?” Invite “successful” parents or grandparents to share their stories and techniques in writing, online, or during seminars. For more help, click on the links below.