Saturday, August 6, 2011

Managing Children and Technology

More than thirty years ago I read a book where the word pictures painted in it were grossly pornographic. Yet, I read the whole book, I couldn’t put it down. When I turned the last page, it directed me to the next book in the trilogy. I wanted that book so bad I avoided secular bookstores for the next five years. I burned the book before I threw it in the trash for fear of someone inadvertently getting the material, especially a child.

Today, many of those pornographic images still pop up into my mental movie theatre at the oddest times. AND this was a printed page and I was an adult. Now imagine what an inadvertent vivid picture delivered into one’s computer or iphone screen does to the mind of a young child. This is truly a parent’s nightmare. Those vivid images of gross perversion stay in the mind long after the viewing.

In this blog the view of God as the parent provides some practical actions that parents can take to protect their children from this horrendous event. God was bringing his young child, the Hebrew nation, out of Egyptian captivity and leading them to their homeland. It is in a simple story found in Exodus 16 that God’s methods can be applied to today’s technology parenting problems.

1. Children Grumble - The whole congregation of the sons of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. The sons of Israel said to them, "Would that we had died by the LORD'S hand in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the pots of meat , when we ate bread to the full; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger." Ex 16:2-3 (NASB)

Children have a unique way of taking a simple event and turning it into a life threatening case against the parents. The complaints are directed at the parent to make them “feel sorry” for the plight of the child when the child does not like the parental control or expectations. In reality they are testing their boundaries with their parents or they are attempting a manipulation technique to get what they want. The Children of Israel complained about something as foolish as food and expressed a desire to go back into slavery to have that food. Just as the Hebrews equated slavery with satisfying the desires of their heart so it is with a child. The Hebrew children did not yet know freedom and only remembered slavery just as a child does not yet know the responsibilities of adulthood but rather only the boundaries of childhood.

Children desire the comfort and pleasure of the tactile things around them. Technology has grown to become both a safety device for parents and a peer pressure desired toy for children. Problems arise when children are given technology that operates beyond their comprehension of its capabilities allowing them to be inadvertently exposed to gross images or text.

2. Answer the Grumblings With Instruction

Then the LORD said to Moses, "Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a day's portion every day, that I may test them, whether or not they will walk in My instruction[ Ex 16:4 (NASB)

Parents may desire to give their children an electronic device for safety or as a toy. However, the toy should be comparable to their age of accountability. In other words, children will not be accountable for their actions; they may find the porn inadvertently and then begin to actively seek it because they do not have the ability to discern. God knew His children did not want to return to slavery so He tested them to help them discern what they really wanted. They complained about food so He used food to test them by giving them what they asked for with explicit instructions. If a child can follow the instructions given, then he is capable of handling a greater amount of self-governing and decision making skills.

The Instructions-

at evening the quails came and covered the camp, . . .. When the layer of dew evaporated . . .there was a fine flake-like thing, fine as the frost on the ground. When the sons of Israel saw it, they said to one another, "What is it?" For they did not know what it was. And Moses said to them, "It is the bread which the LORD has given you to eat. "This is what the LORD has commanded, 'Gather of it every man as much as he should eat; you shall take an omer apiece according to the number of persons each of you has in his tent.' " The sons of Israel did so, and some gathered much and some little. When they measured it with an omer, he who had gathered much had no excess, and he who had gathered little had no lack; every man gathered as much as he should eat. Moses said to them, "Let no man leave any of it until morning." Ex 16:13-19 (NASB)

God was instructing His children to become responsible for their own actions. But as an added benefit the children learned to trust God for their provision and safety. A parent wants their child to trust them in the same way. A test teaches the child that instructions do not make for restrictions but rather for freedom not to worry.

A child with a smart phone will soon find himself in slavery to the very thing that once seemed so desirable. So God gave His children something much more desirable – complete freedom- but not in an image they would be accustomed to seeing. He sent them Manna. Which simply means, “What is it?”

Manna was freedom from worry about physical provision. It was new and free every morning. The only labor expended was to gather it in. This is a picture of our relationship to Christ. God’s instructions were to gather every morning only what they needed. Jesus gives the explanation of the test in the gospel of John.

"I am the bread of life. "Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. "This is the bread which comes down out of heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. "I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh." John 6:48-51 (NASB)

The application is that parents can give their child the electronic devices they ask for but with instructions and supervision. Start small and with few features, if the child proves to be trustworthy, then increase service or features. In this way the child learns to be responsible for his own actions and will not fall into the net laid out for him by the pornographic industry. Parents recognize the net is there and their responsibility is to teach the child to avoid becoming trapped. Continue to instruct the child on responsible use of technological devices. However, to help through this process it is highly recommended that preventive apps be put on the device to help the child discern.

3. Children trust their parents –

"I have heard the grumblings of the sons of Israel; . . 'At twilight you shall eat meat , and in the morning you shall be filled with bread; and you shall know that I am the LORD your God.' " Ex 16:9-12 (NASB)

The most important act in protecting one’s child is to act like parents. You are not their friend, they have many friends, and they only have one set of parents.

4. When children do not listen and disobey –

But they did not listen to Moses, and some left part of it until morning, and it bred worms and became foul; and Moses was angry with them. They gathered it morning by morning, every man as much as he should eat; but when the sun grew hot, it would melt. Ex 16:20-21 (NASB)

God saw His children needed to understand that there was no advantage ignoring the instructions. A selfish greed would be greeted with worms and even an inadvertent greed would be melted by the sun. So it is with children. If the disobedience is one of deviance where the child determines he will do what he wants regardless of the instructions then the result must be worms. This means a most disgusting and undesirable consequence. If the instructions were not followed because of ignorance then the consequences will be a loss of the excess. For example a child given internet access that does not follow instructions can have the internet access cut off but still maintain the device. A child with defiance in mind loses the device and pays a fine such as extra chores, earlier bedtime, loss of a privilege.

5. Children become responsible –

The house of Israel named it manna , and . . . its taste was like wafers with honey. Then Moses said, "This is what the LORD has commanded, 'Let . . . it be kept throughout your generations, that they may see the bread that I fed you in the wilderness, when I brought you out of the land of Egypt.' " . . . Aaron placed it before the Ark of the Covenant, to be kept. The sons of Israel ate the manna forty years, until they came to an inhabited land; they ate the manna until they came to the border of the land of Canaan. Ex 16:31-35 (NASB)

God’s example shows us how to discipline children and teach them accountability so that they will become responsible. God’s provision and instruction given in love becomes more than enough, just as a parent’s provision and instruction will become more than enough.

As the perfect parent God kept before His children the picture of Christ as provider, as the bread of heaven. It was God’s picture of Christ, the only true freedom in a world filled with bad things.

Monday, August 1, 2011

The problem of inadvertently viewing pornography on the heart of a child

The physical boundaries that were once established as protection for children from pornographic material have largely been removed by technology. In the 1930’s young boys absconded with the catalog behind the barn to look at the pictures of women's underwear. Today those same images are much more bold and seductive and available at the click of a button. The inadvertent exposure to pornographic images has been the subject of congressional hearings, commercial and trade publications, and training material for children and youth workers. Each one of these recognize in one form or another that the greatest protection for young children from inadvertent pornographic images still rests within the family structure.

“The evidence indicates that pornography
and related sexual media
 can influence sexual violence,
sexual attitudes, moral values,
and sexual activity
of children and youth.”
(Greenfield, Applied Development Psychology, 2004)

The Problem:

“Twenty five percent of youth had unwanted exposure to sexual pictures on the Internet in the past year, challenging the prevalent assumption that the problem is primarily about young people motivated to actively seek out pornography. Most youth had no negative reactions to their unwanted exposure, but one quarter said they were very or extremely upset, suggesting a priority need for more research on and interventions directed toward such negative effects. The use of filtering and blocking software was associated with a modest reduction in unwanted exposure, suggesting that it may help but is far from foolproof.” (Youth Society March 2003 vol. 34 no. 3 330-358)

“All youngsters are at some risk from exposure to televised pornography. At particular risk for harm, however, are the most vulnerable children in our society--children in single-parent homes, children with mental and emotional disturbances, mentally challenged children, children who have been physically and/or sexually abused, and children in dysfunctional families.” (Harv Rev Psychiatry. 1999 Nov-Dec ;7(4):236-40.)

In Greenfield’s summation of the problem she concluded that other than technical protective means the solution rested with the parents. Her primary solution rested on the communication between parent and child. God said the same thing in Hebrews 5:9-14, “You continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them.”

How Can Parents Protect Their Children?

The book of Leviticus gives explicit teaching material to the leaders and teachers of the Israelites, the Levite tribe, about family relations. When the rules are given, the Israelites are leaving captivity to claim the land God has given them to establish their society. God is the parent of a young child which will grow up to be the nation Israel. He is teaching them how to live a productive, peaceful and fulfilling life when they grow up. The rules are not made to be broken, they are made to protect and prosper. He is a loving Father teaching His children.

With that in mind a parent can look to the teaching methods of God in order to develop effective teaching and protective methods to their own children. The first thing He did is teach them the best way to conduct their relationships. He tells them the role of the family as He established it and then tells them how to protect that family. He gives strict warnings against aberrations in the family structure.

1. Rule One – Teach your children what is right and wrong and why it is right or wrong based on God’s teachings. If there is an aberrant family situation in the family structure that puts the parents into a position that does not allow for escape or change then how does God expect those parents to teach right and wrong without alienating a family member?

If an extended family unit includes one or more of the aberrations of the God-given family situation of one-man and one-woman in the bonds of marriage for a life-time then the parent must communicate with their children that this is wrong behavior. However, they do not condemn the family, for God never condemned but only expressed that which was right and which was wrong. He gave them the choice to choose, but made sure they knew which was right and wrong and the consequences of choosing wrong. (These can be found in Deuteronomy 28, recommend New Living Bible) Adapt them to current standards, for example, blessed will be your basket and kneading bowl could be translated, you will always have plenty of good food.

"I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants , Deut 30:19 (NASB)

Teach the child that these behaviors are wrong but that the beloved family member had a choice and they chose to live in that behavior. (You may be able to point out how they are suffering the consequences as found in Deut. 28 such as inability to find or keep a job, loneliness, poor reputation, etc.) A parent must assure the child they have a choice for their own life.  However, if they make wrong choices it does not mean the parent will stop loving them or desert them.  This attitude can best be taught by translating it toward those family members that are making bad decisions.  (In the case of homosexual partners, the child should be taught the same principles about them as he is taught about family members.  A partner is regarded as one who has made a wrong decision it does not mean the child cannot love or respect the partner.  However, as a parent, it would be prudent to keep a checks and balance system to prevent any wrong sexual action toward or in the presence of the child.  If there is a child in the partnership, single parent or cohabitating relationship then that child is at high risk and needs to be given the security of love from a biblically balanced extended family.

2. Rule Two – Teach the child the Biblical Structure of the family and the reason why this structure is so important to you the parent and to God our parent.  This concept should be reviewed many times over the course of the child's teachable years, especially between ages 3 and 6 when moral development is taking place.
What is  Biblical Marriage?

The name Adam is the word for mankind rather than a man’s name. When God picked up a lump of clay and shaped it into the form of man, He did something to that lump of clay He did to none of his other creations. He formed it in His image and He breathed life into it.

God had made man in His image, with all of his abilities, thoughts, emotions and spiritual awareness. But then God saw it was not good for this man to be alone. He did not pick up another lump of clay and breath into it, instead, He put Adam to sleep, opened Adam's side and pulled part of Adam from his body, The woman was already living because she had been given the breath of God at the same time. She was pulled from man, given her own body and God said, the two shall become one. Man no longer contained all of God, it took knowledge of man and woman in the bond of marriage so that humans could see the true image of God.

All relationship aberrations other than one man and one woman distort the image of God and when one cannot see God, they cannot accept or believe in Him. The reason God hates the aberrations is because it blinds the eyes of children to His image and His greatest desire is for all to be one with Him. Only marriage between one man and one woman can give this true picture of unity between Christ and His bride. It is this unity of one man and one woman for a lifetime that reveals who God is to the world.

"The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me.” John 17:22-23 (NASB)

Even the child experts and political pundits recognize this problem of inadvertent viewing of pornography has to be resolved within the family structure. The attempt at tolerating all life styles and fleshly appetites has led to a loss of a standard of right and wrong and the Biblical family is viewed as outmoded or even a joke.  This leaves many parents floundering for solutions to a problem they cannot begin to comprehend and yet they witness it destroying their precious children.  Even regular church attenders do not understand what happened to their family.

This calls for a return to understanding of the original right and wrong and why it was established.  By going back to the foundational premise that God the Father established for His children in their young childhood, a parent can stand firm on a method of teaching and protecting without doubting themselves.  The parents who know this standard and teach it through communication will be able to redirect and protect a child that inadvertently views pornographic material in whatever media it comes to them even if it is a dysfunctional family.  The call back to a standard of right and wrong will also help the child to establish a proper worldview that will take them through more severe life crisis, especially during the college years.