BY LEANN DILBECK –
Toddlers love to play with buttons. Our son’s favorite toy and teether was either the TV remote control or cordless phone.. Just seeing it caused him to salivate excitedly while reaching as if it was chocolate covered (that’s what my brain relates to.) The worst that could happen with these, if you weren’t paying close attention to your little darlin’, was the possibility of changing the channel just as you were about to find out if Dr. McDreamy was really dead OR making an international call to Russia.
Today, anywhere we go, we see the tiniest of human beings maneuvering their way on iPads/cell phones/tablets… it’s as if there has always been this unknown internet/app gene that allows them to be born already knowing how to navigate the global informational highway AND teach parents and grandparents along the way!
As parents, we now have this added awesome responsibility to not only teach our children how to navigate the world safely, we have to educate them to be tech savvy while navigating this new digital world as safely as possible.
Here are some interesting facts – the most recent survey, I could find, of teens who have a smart phone was from 2015 and estimated that 78% of all teens have a cellphone, 47% of which are using a smart phone; a staggering 94% are using social media (Facebook, Instagram, SnapChat) of which 71% are using multiple platforms daily; and while we like to think that they are safe when they are tucked in their room, if they are online via a computer or a cellular device, thousands of child predators have access. Hundreds of thousands of teen girls are kidnapped each year and many of those are lured via online, many times by a predator appearing to be the child’s age. So many children fall prey to this type of attention because they are so starved for attention in general.
There are plenty of brochures and sites that offer advice of monitoring your child’s online activity and I certainly recommend learning from all of them but I think in the grand scheme of our efforts to not only educate our child of the dangers and to ultimately protect them, the best defense is a solid relationship with your child. A relationship that encourages openness and honesty, a relationship that is built on trust that they know whom they can come to for guidance, a relationship that allows them to feel safe and not threatened to ask questions when faced with those completely unpredictable and unscripted situations. And those types of relationships don’t just happen overnight. It comes from years of devoting your attention to your child, confirming their worth and value, balancing the responsibilities with fun and silly times, and loving them as unconditionally as Jesus loves us, which includes saying “no” and being the “bad guy” as often as being their “friend.”
I, personally, would love to lock them up in a safe little bubble and protect them like a ferocious momma grizzly bear but I know (and trust) that God designed them for a specific purpose (Ephesians 2:10) and that He loves them more than I can (although I do struggle with grasping that.) This world seems to be getting darker each and every day and we must raise them to be His light in an evil, perverted, twisted and fallen world that seeks to rob them of their innocence (1 Peter 5:8). Raise them to be courageous and willing to forego the acceptance of their peers to recognize when certain situations must be stopped. (Deuteronomy 14:2) Raise them to be all that He has called them to be… and that the only people that need to be locked up are the predators that prey on their compassion and innocence.