Do I have your attention? Good, I want to. I’m coming to you with a serious topic, but one which is important and is on my mind often. Let me begin with a disclaimer- this could get a little rough. I hope you’ll read this in its entirety, though. I really want your feedback. Please feel free to comment directly to this blog, or to this post through Facebook.
Let’s jump right in… Parenting is the most challenging role I’ve ever had. I’d say any of us who are parents could agree with this statement. I’m sure this same sentiment has been reverberated from parent to parent throughout history. I believe, however, that parenting in the 21st century comes with its own set of unique challenges and obstacles.
Today our children have access to more information at their fingertips (literally) than any other generation before them. Through the use of modern technology, our children have a virtual Pandora’s box of information accessible to them. The moment we place that iPhone, iPad, other smartphone, or computer into their hands, we allow them passageway into any chat room, social media site, group text, private text, or search engine. It is staggering the information- both good and bad- which we so willingly hand over to our very eager children. As a parent, this has been a concern of mine for a while now, and I’d like to ask what your family does to safeguard against all of the harmful things they can and do very easily stumble across.
Let me explain just a bit further. It is human nature to be curious about things. This is a good time to point out that this “human nature” of which I speak is also our “sin nature.” Scripture tells us that we are all sinners by nature (think Adam and Eve), and we are creatures who can easily be led astray by temptations of this world. I want to speak to you frankly here, but I’ll keep it delicate. I think this level of brutal honesty is necessary for the point to be fully realized. I can remember as a child the very first time my eyes saw something that they shouldn’t have. I can tell you my age, the place, and what I was doing. I knew that someone my family knew kept a certain type of magazine in their house (hidden, no less); but regardless, it was stumbled across one day and the temptation began. As a child, I flipped through those pages, knowing full well that my eyes had NO BUSINESS being there, but my human nature took over. I was curious. I didn’t realize it at the time in my childish mind, but in that moment an invisible threshold was crossed. A boundary of innocence which, through the years and through life experiences, gets whittled away a tiny sliver at a time until that innocence is so far in our background that we have to strain to remember it. Think back to your personal situations. I’ll bet most of you can remember these life-altering and life-affecting moments without even having to try very much.
I can tell you that it was in the fifth grade that I cheated on a test for the first time, and was so overcome with guilt that I was sick to my stomach for weeks afterwards. Another life-changing moment. A threshold moment.
I can tell you the first time I snuck and watched a Rated “R” movie. I can tell you my age, where I was, the name of the movie, and the scene which had the most impact. A life-changing moment. A threshold moment.
I can remember being a teenager, and my mother speaking to my sister and I about the importance of our sexual purity. I remember her explanation that not only was it God’s plan that we reserve these sacred, sexual acts to take place within the sanctity of marriage, but that there was an emotional and environmental consequence as well if we fell outside the boundaries of God’s guidelines. She said that once a girl (or boy) loses their virginity, then it’s most likely that they will continue to be intimate from that point on with anyone and everyone else they date up until finding their future spouse. Once your virginity has been “lost” (What a deceiving way to say that really. I’m pretty sure we know EXACTLY where it went), there’s nothing left to save for our future spouse, right? So, this being the thinking, why should I wait with anyone else? I remember understanding some of her words, but not fully grasping their truth, until I watched a close friend live out this experience. She gave herself over and over, moving from one failed relationship to the next. Leaving invisible, but very real remnants of herself behind in each relationship as she moved through them. Small pieces of her soul, her essence, being chiseled off and left behind with the boyfriend of that month. Eventually, there isn’t much of “you” left. You couldn’t see it at the time, but again, life-changing moments. Threshold moments.
Our children today don’t have to accidentally stumble across the sin in this world, they don’t have to wait until they are at a friend’s home or even until they are out of their parent’s eyesight, it’s handed to them for birthdays and Christmases. It’s wrapped up with a pretty red bow in packages of 8, 16, and 32 gigabytes. We hand it to our children, children who have been taught right from wrong, and we just TRUST them to make the right decisions. Reality check- they are CHILDREN. These threshold moments actually play into the fabric of who we become as adults. Once these thresholds are crossed, there is no going back. You can’t regain innocence once it’s gone.
How many of you have ever seen the experiment that was on tv a few years ago, where a group of children who had been taught about gun safety, were placed in a room with an unloaded gun, and were secretly recorded to show their reactions? Here’s a link in case you haven’t:
I see this as exactly what we are doing to our kids and teens when we arm them with these life-alterers, these creators of threshold moments, disguised as pieces of technology. I’ll bet if you took your child’s phone at this very moment, and simply did a Google search of any number of violent or sexually-driven words, and then clicked on “images” you’d be astounded to see what they can so easily pull up. Our children can see pornography (FREE) at their fingertips in the comfort of their own home, car, or school. There are pictures and videos that NO ONE would want their child having access to, and yet we not only give this access to our kids, but we also pay the bill for this each month. What is going on???! If Snapchat doesn’t make you a little bit nervous, I think maybe you’ve not thoroughly thought things through.
So, I’m not trying to get completely overboard with this, and saying no one should ever have a phone. I am saying, however, that parents need to be cognizant of what their children have access to, what they are viewing, who they are talking with, and what those conversations consist of daily. Children are children. They are curious. Just like I was. Just like you were. It would be foolish of us to assume our child is always going to make the “right” decision. We want them to, of course, and we pray to that end, but just like us, they are human.
I’d like to hear from you if you don’t mind to share your thoughts on the matter. What parental controls have you placed on your devices, on your children, and on your environment to ensure that your child is being protected? After all, isn’t that our job as the parent? We can’t keep them innocent forever, but aren’t we supposed to protect them for as long as we can?