My son cracked me up when he wrote, “I love you more than the games on my iPad!” So touching.
But the reality is, my son is growing up in an age where he plays on electronics as much as he does with physical toys and games. I’m delighted that Lego still captures his imagination as much as Minecraft, and that he’d still rather play outside than on his X-box, but at the same time I have a love-hate relationship with iPad games.
There are times I wish he didn’t have one—but I also realize that touchtablet technology is the world he is growing up in. While he can use the family iMac with ease, it is very likely that by the time he is a teenager, the computers we use will be the technological dinosaurs of a past age. I enjoyed growing up using the very first personal computers and leaping on each advancement as they came out. Even waiting in line for a new Apple OS to be released instead of the free downloads of today.
But this ‘Old Dog’ has to recognize both the reality of this new digital age as well as its dangers. Attempting to block, ban or restrict technology would be a pointless gesture that might make me feel better, but would leave my son ill equipped for the world he will be living in. Did you know that YouTube, not Google, is the #1 search engine used by children? Luke would rather watch cartoons like “The Amazing World of Gumball” on YouTube than on the TV. Why? He has more control. No commercials. He can pause, repeat, skip or move on if it doesn’t capture his attention. He doesn’t even watch movies in order after having seen one once. Why, when you can just skip around to the parts you like the best? It is a reality in the “on demand” world of our kids.
Plus, in his world, knowledge is always accessible. No need to read a book or go to the library. In fact, no need for an Internet search, just ask Siri or Alexa and get immediate results spoken back to you.
So how do we engage with our kids during this Digital Age? How do we embrace technology while also addressing our concerns for our kids’ innocence and safety?
Equip and Train.
Don’t block your kids from technology. Embrace this new world and equip them. But also train them. Warn them. Be honest without giving detailed “don’t do this” instructions. We used to warn kids about not taking candy from strangers. Today we tell them, don’t talk to strangers online. The dangers aren’t new… they are just more accessible. Be honest and have conversations.
Protect Them.Don’t trust kids to have the maturity or will-power to resist things that are tempting. Digital road blocks are good. Have you set Google Search to restrict explicit results? An innocent search can bring up shocking results. Google doesn’t make this setting easy, but it can be done.
Join Them.Don’t just hoover and patrol. Join your kids. I run a Minecraft Realm so I can play with my son and other kids so that I can serve as a playground monitor within the game and to provide a place for online community that is safe and vetted.
This is the reality: Our kids are growing up in a digital age. Our job is to equip and train our kids how to use technology in a way that honors God, to protect them from mistakes that can result in unwanted influence, and to join them as we model, coach and demonstrate how to use wisely.
How are you engaging with your kids and technology?