As a youth pastor, I have been blessed to be a part of an amazing youth group. They have done some great things like passing out gospel tracts at the 2012 Super Bowl in Indianapolis, winning children to Christ at backyard Bible clubs in southern Louisiana, and using their talents for the Lord to either sing or preach in church services and minister in nursing homes. I have been approached by many people who have commented about the quality of our youth group. During our recent Senior Saints’ Appreciation Banquet, I referenced these comments and mentioned that the reason the group is so excellent is not directly attributed to the church or youth pastor, but to the homes that they are raised in. The behavior and character of a church’s youth group is a direct reflection upon the homes that they come from. An excellent youth group means excellent homes. I am often approached by parents who are concerned about what their teens are involved with, especially with the advances in communication and technology. Specifically, they are concerned about cell phones that have the ability to have internet access anytime and anywhere. Many parents do not want to be overbearing or restrictive, but they also do not want to toss their kids into the wild digital world and just hope they will stay out of trouble. As a father of five kids, with three of them owning their own digital devices, I would like to share with you my preference for maintaining communication and accountability in this digital world.
Expectations of behavior and etiquette should be communicated concerning their device. They should understand that they have no right to their device, nor to any expectation of privacy. That does not mean constantly breathing down their necks; it simply means that they will be expected to turn over their device anytime it is requested. You should pick up their phones regularly and look through them. Speak to them about the good and bad on the internet and teach them that it is their responsibility to stay away from the bad. They need to learn to discern between good and evil and then to choose the good. Many parents would stop with this step and be satisfied with themselves. While communication is a good first step, this is not good enough.
My memories flood back to my formidable years and some of the bad friends and circumstances that influenced me. “If only my parents were aware, they would have never let me do that!” is what I think in my mind. Then it dawned on me -awareness! That is the missing ingredient. It is not enough to tell your kids how they should behave. You need to know how they do behave. All children are masters at fooling their parents, I sure was!
Accountability is more than you checking your children’s devices. It is an active system that involves everyone in the family, including the parents. There are many solutions on the market, but we settled on software called Accountable2You. This is why we use it. The software is cross platform. It works on Windows, Chromebooks, Chrome Browser, Amazon’s devices, Android, and iOS (There is a limitation to iOS though.). It watches everything a person does and reports it to those whom you designate. You can set it up to email only the “flagged” events or all events, when they happen or once a day. Currently, my wife and I both receive an email for flagged events on all devices. She knows what I do; I know what she does; and we both know what the kids are looking at. If something comes up in the report that needs to be addressed, we do not wait; we talk to the kids immediately. (Thankfully, nothing major has come up.)
Communication and accountability help tremendously. My whole family knows what is expected out of them concerning their devices, and the software acts as a reminder that we are accountable. It also helps us know what our children are doing on their devices. Will this shield my children from all of the evil out there in the world? No, I am sure that during their childhood they will get exposed to some things they should not. By God’s grace, I can teach them what is right and wrong. Instead of wrong overcoming them, they can overcome it, and they will be better off for it in the end. My goal has never been to isolate my children, but to inoculate them.
If you have any questions or comments, leave them below!
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