How do I establish and discuss boundaries concerning technology with my child?

What guidance does the Bible provide?

Discussing and establishing boundaries for technology is not addressed specifically in the Bible but the good news is there is plenty of essential guidance to be found. One verse that has a lot to say to us is 1 Corinthians 6:12 (NIV) which says "‘Everything is permissible for me'--but not everything is beneficial. ‘Everything is permissible for me'--but I will not be mastered by anything." The mindset that everything was permissible was common in Paul's day, and we still see it in American culture, especially with our teenagers. This generation of youth believes that they are free to do whatever they like, to do whatever feels good at the moment, and often they act without thinking about the potential consequences. In this verse, God warns us that though we are free to choose something, that doesn't mean it builds us up. Further, He warns us that these choices can easily become addictions, which is especially true with technology.

Things to think about:

When we think about technology and the need for boundaries all you have to do is look around to SEE how mastered kids are by technology and how they can't detach from it. Our culture tells us that all technology is good, and whatever new gadget you can get, you should get it as quickly as possible. But as we look closely we discover plenty of evidence that shows the danger with technology by how many student's lives are torn down by social media, hurtful apps, and other forms of technology. Unfortunately, students rarely stop to think about how a new gadget or the ways in which they use it could negatively affect them or those around them. Because of this "everything is permissible" belief, we must be more intentional about talking with our teens and helping them make wise choices so that technology can be a good thing in their lives. It's important to note that this conversation will most likely look different for each person as each teen will be affected differently by technology. So, through 1 Corinthians 6:12 God leads us to work to establish boundaries WITH our kids so technology can be used in a way that it is always beneficial and will not become a habit that dominates their life. Below are general guidelines to help your teen process the influences around them in the area of technology.

What do I do now?

Ask your teen to answer these questions honestly in a conversation with you:

  1. Go back to I Corinthians 6:12 and ask "Is this beneficial? Does this build me and those around me up in any way? Does this media/technology draw me closer to God or pull me away?" If it has a negative impact, then don't do it. If it seems to be beneficial in some way, ask yourself the next question.
  2. How do I keep this good thing from becoming an addiction or a master over my life? What boundaries or time limits do I need to put in place so that this good thing stays healthy in my life?
  3. Use 1 Corinthians 10:31 as another filter. It says "So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." So together ask, is what I'm doing glorifying to God?

Here are a few other specific suggestions:

  • Monitor time and access: For example, possibly turn phones off at a certain time of night. Ask, is it beneficial for them to have access all night or could it master them?
  • Set a good example of detaching from technology. Have an open dialogue with your teen about your habits with technology and places that you are working to be balanced. It would be powerful to actually ask your teen if they see any habits you need to change.
  • Find ways to connect creatively with the technology they use (play video games together, have your child create a video to tell you about your day when you are traveling, etc.)
  • Have open discussions about specific apps and social media (see below for more resources)

All of this SHOULD lead to a written contract that will guide the use of technology in your child's life. A contract is important because it is a written description of what you agreed to that you can go back to in times when your teen is struggling to abide by what you set up together. See below for some examples of what a contract could look like!

Want to go deeper?

Examples of digital contracts:

These websites are FULL of incredible content to guide your technology decisions with your teens:

  • Digital Kids Initiative - Providing information and resources for parents to help kids navigate their digital world. http://www.digitalkidsinitiative.com/
  • Center for Parent and Youth Understanding Website - This website if filled with trends in youth culture that you should be aware of and thoughtful commentary on those trends. http://www.cpyu.org/
  • Plugged in online: A website dedicated to telling you the EXACT content (swear words, violence, sexual content, etc.) in popular movies, music, and tv shows:http://www.pluggedin.com/
  • Iparent.tv - Reviews and important warnings on popular apps, social media, devices, and websites. http://iparent.tv/