Taking control of technology before it controls your kids  

You wouldn’t hand your children a loaded handgun and let them experiment with it on their own. But many well-meaning parents hand their children something that’s every bit as dangerous to their well-being. They give them a smartphone without any restrictions.

Oh, I know. You gave them some rules and advice. Told them what they shouldn’t do. Warned them about behaving appropriately. Made them promise to make good choices and to tell you if they encountered any problems. And then you sent them on their way promising yourself you’d audit their searches every once in a while. After all, your child is a good student, doesn’t often get into trouble, and hangs around with good kids as friends.

Think back to when you were 12, 13, or 14. Did your parents know everything you were up to? Did you ever lie to your parents? When you needed advice or answers, did you ask your parents … or did you turn to your friends? When you had a sleepover at your friend’s house, you promised Mom that you’d be in bed by midnight, but you were up watching scary movies until 4:00 a.m. All that was innocent fun, right?

Kids do those kinds of things. It’s a normal part of adolescence. But when you did them, you weren’t carrying a device that gave you access to the entire world … and, more important, gave the entire world access to you. Technology isn’t inherently evil, but it makes it easier for evil to connect with your kids.

Actor Kirk Cameron recently released a film called Connect. If you’re thinking about giving your kids unrestricted access to smartphones and other technology, I’d recommend that you watch it first. (You can download it at http://connectmovie.com/, where you’ll also find excellent resources related to kids and technology.) In the film, he meets with a variety of experts who talked about things like the impact screens are having on kids’ brains, the way adolescent brains process what they seen, and how predators use technology to trick and victimize kids.

Our counselors see the real-world impacts every day. The well-behaved eight-grader whose parents discover sexting in her Instagram account. The clean-cut freshman boy who spends more time watching porn than working on homework. The seventh-grader who doesn’t know that the cute boy who she’s fallen in love with online is actually a 35-year-old sex offender. If you think your kids are immune, you’ve forgotten what it’s like to be an adolescent, especially in this world. And if these words concern you, good. You shouldn’t be afraid of technology, but you do need to be aware of the potential dangers to your kids.

That’s what we’ll discuss at the next installment of our Summer Parenting Series on Tuesday, July 24th at 7 p.m. I’ll bring you up to date on what our counselors are seeing, what you need to watch for, and how to give your kids the benefits of technology while keeping them safe. The workshop is free, but you’ll need to reserve your seat.

If you believe that technology is already causing problems with your child, you may want to talk with one of our counselors to determine whether your worries are valid and what steps you can take.