Parental Control Software
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Do you know what your kids have on their phones? Are the TV shows they watch edifying or are they sucking them into the culture? When is the last time you talked about the messages and images they encounter each day?
Engage in frequent conversations about media.
It’s the one common denominator every parenting expert agrees on: dialogue between parent and child. Don’t try to block every image your kid encounters (it’s impossible). But don’t use the excuse, “We don’t protect our kids from the culture.” They need your protection! God definitely gives us boundaries in the Bible and we need to teach those at home. Some of the shows teens are watching aren’t fit for Christian adults, much less our kids. Create an environment where your teen feels free to ask you about the video they saw on YouTube or the song they heard at their friend’s house.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends parents co-view entertainment with their kids. Yes, this takes time. Don’t let your kids watch random programming by themselves. Sit down with them and say, “Let’s try this show together.”
Don’t be afraid to set realistic boundaries.
Sure, you don’t want to be that parent that tries to swoop down and save them from every worldly message or image they encounter, but at the same time, it’s okay to say, “Sorry, this doesn’t belong in our house.”
Shazam is a free music app that “listens” through your smartphone to whatever music is playing—in the car, in a store, or even in a crowded restaurant. Then it spits out the name of the song and the artist performing it. The app keeps a weekly tally of the top 100 songs that people are searching with it, so parents can stay attuned to music trends. Now you can always know what your kids are listening to (or shouldn’t be listening to)!
The Influence of Video Games
Revenues for the video game industry were at $58 billion in 2013, not including games on smart phones and tablets. That’s six times more than the movie industry made. A whopping 60 percent of Americans play video games, with gender percentages almost equal, according to the Entertainment Software Association. Video games are a force.
We’ve all heard that video games can sap attention spans. A 2010 study in the Journal of Pediatrics says that kids who play video games more than two hours a day are 67 percent more likely than their peers who play less to have greater-than-average attention problems.
So, how do we deal with this force in our lives? Pray about how your child is impacted by video games. Home days give you the opportunity to observe your child’s attention span when working. If you see that it’s being impacted, set limits.
You can use video games to help teens understand that they are in a real spiritual battle every day. In many video games, the first thing a player must do is create an avatar, or character, complete with armor for the ensuing battle, and even a snazzy haircut. In Ephesians 6, we see that dressing for spiritual battle is as important as dressing for a physical battle.
Ask your kids why they think putting on the armor of God everyday might be important. Not the cutsie armor we learn about in Sunday School, but actual spiritual armor provided for us by the God of the universe – armor that protects us from temptation and fiery darts of the enemy. What is the purpose of the belt of truth? In armor, the belt holds the weapons. Without truth and sincerity, there can be no victory. It’s no coincidence that the body armor, or righteousness, covers your heart. Decency, honesty, and virtue are synonyms for righteousness.
Encourage them to put on salvation as a helmet, enveloping their minds with thoughts of divine deliverance, rescue, and recovery. Give them the gift of God’s shield, crafted from pure faith, able to block attacks meant to wound and burn. Encourage them to stand firm as they wield God’s Word as a sword, dividing truth from lies with one fell swoop.
Warn that once they’ve put on God’s armor, they should expect to use it. No one gets dressed for battle and then sits on the sidelines. In Ephesians, we see an attack that the devil uses: the fiery arrow. He uses these fiery arrows—insults, self-deprecating thoughts, doubts—to wound us, to scar us.
But the shield of faith is the perfect article of armor to deflect and defend from such attacks. In Genesis 3:1-5, the devil twisted God’s words, confusing Eve. The helmet of salvation combats these mind games.
One way you can help your kids learn to put on their own armor is to make sure you have your armor on first. Time spent with God, and learning to use the tools he’s given us, can help us step into situations with our kids. Be bold and courageous, and you’ll teach your children to be the same.
Where do your kids go with “those” questions?
They hear a friend mention a sexual act or they’re watching a movie and one of the characters makes a crude sexual joke. Now your son or daughter is wondering about it.
The number one place young people go today for answers is Google. Do you have any idea what they’ll discover when they type “anal sex” into the search engine? How come they don’t ask Mom or Dad? Would you have asked your mom or dad?
In the book, For Parents Only, author Shaunti Feldhahn asked teens about their communication with parents. Three out of four kids said they would share things with their parents if they wouldn’t flip out.
The key to talking to our kids about sex is creating a climate that cultivates calm and ongoing conversations. This doesn’t require us to “sell out,” set morality aside, and just tell them what the world is telling them. Instead, we need to open the doors of communication at home so we can be advocates of the truth.
What’s Going In?
Becoming aware of the subtle messages our kids are exposed to can help parents open up dialogue and engage in communication, while drawing attention to the truths of God. Regularly connect with your teen about the messages being downloaded into his or her brain. Ask him to tell ‘stories’ about (summarize) what he’s watched recently, then follow up with questions like “What truth did you see in that?” or “What emotions did that illicit in you?” Watch a movie together and openly share your thoughts, ideas or questions. Sometimes our kids want to hear our internal dialogue as much as we want to hear theirs. Stay connected and ‘in-the-know’ by keeping the lines of communication open and flowing. Hearing what is coming out helps you identify what is going in!
Have you ever heard, “I’m not listening to the words—I just like the music.” Then, within 10 minutes, you hear them singing the words verbatim. It’s true of most mediums. Messages get through, whether or not we’re intentional about receiving them.
Our brains have a remarkable capacity to intake copious amounts of information, marinating until later. It’s not uncommon to have that information flood back in unexpectedly, like walking out of a department store and realizing you’re humming a song you didn’t even register you just heard. Your kids are no different. Unless you intentionally help them process those messages, chances are information will influence subtly as it germinates.
Messages generally fall into two categories—life or death. Figuratively speaking, most messages we hear contain a message of hope, care, or positive influence OR they contain messages of sadness, melancholy, or despair—all in various forms, of course.
It’s critical that we help our kids process messages as they come to the surface. Opening lines of communication is a great place to start. Help your student process and download messages of life, hope, and peace among the countless messages they receive of death, destruction, and dismay. Ask questions like:
“That news story is shocking. How would you have responded if you had been related to that person? Where is that story mirrored in the Bible?” Listening to friendship drama, “How would you have handled that situation differently than your friend? How could you be an encouragement?”