Ten New Electronic Commandments

Source: Barna, George. Fearless Parenting: How to Raise Faithful Kids in a Secular Culture (pp. 168-171). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Okay, to practically address the issues described in this chapter and promote a more unified and cohesive family, I now suggest these ten new electronic commandments for the home. Granted, it would be much more dramatic if these were etched on stone tablets, but ink on a page will simply have to do.

#1 Parents Set the Standard. No change can be made in how electronics are utilized in the home if the parents do not set the standard. Mom and Dad, if we want our kids to be more engaged with the family, more focused on family than on “likes” and “comments,” then we have to set the pace by being more focused on the family ourselves. If we don’t reduce our own fixation with our phones, then our kids don’t stand a chance.

#2 Regulate, Don’t Prohibit. Simply acting as though this technology doesn’t exist is not the answer. Denying our age-appropriate children smartphones is also not the answer. At some point, they must learn how to use them properly. However, when we do provide this technology to our kids, we must monitor and regulate their usage of it. Regulations such as no phones once they get home from school—I’m not kidding—no phones at the dinner table, no phones allowed in a restaurant during a family meal, and no phones after a certain time are a must.

#3 No Smartphones until Age Sixteen. Thirteen-year-olds don’t vote, drive, or join the armed services for a reason. Tweens and young teens don’t have the cognitive wherewithal to make good decisions. They have way too many synapses that are not connected yet. If they cannot be trusted to drive a car until they are sixteen, then they should not be trusted to use a smartphone. Everything we want our kids to have a phone for is accomplished in the “dumb” part of the phone (texting and calling), and everything they get in trouble for (sexting, porn, social media overuse) is accomplished in the “smart” part of the phone. So when a twelve-year-old is caught sexting with a classmate, that’s not a smartphone problem; that’s a dumb-parent problem for giving them access to technology in the first place.

#4 Unequivocal Understanding as to the Ownership of Any Electronic Device. The phone does not belong to the child. Repeat this with me: the phone does not belong to the child. It belongs to the parent who purchased the phone for the child; therefore, that parent has the absolute right to view what’s on that phone at any point, at any time.

#5 No Passwords and 24/7 Parental Access. In keeping with the spirit of commandment #4, there should be no use of passwords on any device. I would include parents, unless their job requires confidential communication. This allows the parent to randomly verify what’s on the child’s phone at any point they see fit. And if your child wants to look at your phone . . . tell them to be your guest.

#6 Parents Control Apps. Your child can download apps whose sole intent is to hide other apps on the phone that you would disapprove of. I mention this because we fight a losing battle trying to keep up with all the apps our kids are constantly downloading onto their phones, and some of these apps are extremely harmful for underage kids. That is why it’s important to talk with your phone provider and make sure no app can be downloaded to your child’s phone without your knowledge and permission. A great resource for parents in this regard is www.iparent.tv. This website teaches parents all they need to know about the apps on their kids’ phones, including whether they are acceptable or dangerous.

 #7 All Electronic Usage Has a Set End Time Each Night. You’ve heard it said that “a watched pot never boils.” Well, a child left with their smartphone in bed unregulated never sleeps. Set a nightly curfew for when all electronics need to be shut off. This can be done without too much of an altercation by simply setting a time limit on their phone with your phone provider. For example, at 10 p.m., the phone simply stops working.

#8 All Devices with Internet Access Have Blocking Software. This one is an absolute no-brainer, yet I’m stunned by the number of parents who hand their adolescent child a smartphone with full access to all the internet has to offer. That’s the equivalent of getting them a pet rattlesnake, then being surprised when they get bit. I don’t have the space to expound on all the mind-numbing dangers that lurk on the internet, so just trust me when I say that all internet-capable devices should be safeguarded with blocking software.

#9 Time Limits for Video Gaming. There is no longer any debate that video gaming is addictive. Unlimited access to gaming can be harmful to your child academically, socially, emotionally, and, in many cases, morally and spiritually. Therefore, make sure your child’s participation is not unlimited. You determine the number of hours per week that you’re comfortable with, then it’s off the computer and into the backyard to play badminton—or something.

#10 Age-Appropriate Video Games Only. A kid told me the other day, “Most of these games are kind of like R-rated movies. Lots of violence, blood, profanity, and a few topless girls.” No matter how popular a particular game may be, if you don’t permit your eleven-year-old to attend R-rated movies—and, in case you’re wondering, you shouldn’t—then the same should apply to these games.

Source - Barna, George. Fearless Parenting: How to Raise Faithful Kids in a Secular Culture (pp. 168-171). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.