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.

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