How do I talk to my child about wise communication on their phone?

What guidance does the Bible provide?

For students, learning to be wise when it comes to the ways they are communicating on their phone is incredibly important. Proverbs 2:11 reminds us that "discretion will watch over you, and understanding will guard you." We know from our lives how important it is to have discretion and understanding when making decisions because as the passage says, they will protect you. Having God's discretion and understanding is incredibly important as we look into youth culture today and see endless stories of how social media, texting, conversations, and other apps on teen's phones are often impacting them in a negative way. Through their phones, students are being exposed to things like bullying and sexual content that can significantly hurt them and sadly this is often hidden from their parents. However, phones can also be a way to build friendships, to have a lot of fun, and to improve social skills and no doubt your child will be asking for one. What our students desperately need when approaching the communication on their phone is wisdom from God that will guide what the say, post, and interact with. So, as we guide our students to interact on their phone, it must be our goal to teach them how to have discretion over what they do and say and understanding of what to engage in and what to stay away from.

Things to think about:

To help your teen to have Godly discretion and understanding, we must think about several important things. First, our children learn from what we model. No matter how much we believe that we can hide from them what we are doing on our phone, the truth is they know more than we think. The truth is you have an awesome opportunity to TEACH your teen by telling them how you communicate on your phone so they can learn from you wise habits. As you post on social media, send texts, and talk to others, it is important to help your teen understand why you do what you do and say what you say. Talk to them about who you decide to be friends with and follow on social media. Talk to them about why you decide to post certain things and what things you don't post about. In that conversation, share with them how everything they communicate through their phone should be put through the filter of Ephesians 4:29 which says "Don't use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them" (NLT). As you share with them you successes and failures in your communication through your phone, they will begin to grow the description and understanding it takes to communicate wisely.

Second, continually teach your teen how a Biblical worldview needs to impact how we interact with the online world. Specifically, challenge them to slow down enough to think about how what they post and say will forever say something about who they are. Especially online where what they say never goes away, even after they think they have deleted it. Too often teens communicate before they think about the long-term consequences of what they are sharing with others. So, encourage them to be slow to speak and quick to listen as it says in James 1:19. Encourage them to ask the question, is this what Jesus would want me to share, BEFORE they communicate something. Continually remind them of the power of their words by regularly reading James 3:2-6 which talks about the power of our words to destroy our world. Understanding God's perspective on life and slowing down enough to think before they speak will greatly help them in their communication.

Finally, monitor your teen's phone as they practice being wise communicators. As you continue to have conversations with your teen, you will find times when they do very well and times when they fail in being a wise communicator. So, continually check in on what they are doing on their phone and talking about the times when you see them showing discretion and wisdom and times when they fail. As you can celebrate with them their successes and help them learn from their failures, they will grow in wisdom and will thrive in your accountability. There will be many times when they may ask you to stay out of their business, to stay away from their phone, but you must remember how much they need your guidance and establish that if they want to have a phone they need to allow for the continual accountability and conversation.

What do I do now?

As you talk with your teen about wise communication, here are some helpful standards recommended by parenting expert Jim Burns (http://buff.ly/1IRZs6d) to set with your kids when it comes to how they use their phone:

  • Follow website rules and safety tips, and set privacy settings.
  • Have a "closed" circle of friends – only allow your kids to designate as friends people whom they know and of whom you approve.
  • Don't allow kids to add new friends or follow new people without your permission.
  • Don't allow your kids to provide any personal information.
  • Don't allow kids to set up multiple profiles using multiple email accounts.
  • Make it clear that you intend to be a "Friend" and will regularly check your child's profile.
  • Have your kids agree to tell you if they receive anything inappropriate or threatening.
  • Set clear expectations about when they can use their phone.
  • Set clear expectations about video websites like Youtube and Vimeo.
  • Keep passwords and access.
  • Follow through with consistent discipline.
  • For more thoughts on how to establish and discuss boundaries with technology (Enter Link to article) 

Want to go deeper?