Some of the most asked questions our Generations of Virtue team receives during Q&A after a parenting session are “How do I stop my son from playing video games so much?”, “How do I get my daughter off her smartphone?” or “I found my teen looking at pornography, how can I stop this?”. Quite often parents are looking for a quick fix for the challenge they are facing with their teen. After years of talking to parents about technology and their kids, I would say that the answer lies much deeper than the latest computer software, monitoring app or tricks to control their behavior. Technology is here to stay in our lives. Unfortunately for parents, their kids are probably going to be much keener than they are to figure out how to work devices and get around any unwanted barriers. This is a natural by-product of them never having known the world to exist without rapidly advancing technology. So what is the answer to healthy technology use and keeping your kids safe online?
Relationship and communication.
Yes, the core of most misuse of technology by teens can be traced back to emotional needs, lack of communication and the absence of real relationships.
Why would a girl always be on her smart phone? What kind of approval is she receiving from the online world that she doesn’t feel she is getting in real life? Is she constantly on social media because it makes her feel beautiful when she posts a selfie and gets 100 likes?
Parents can counter this with healthy positive affirmation and finding ways to build her self confidence in everyday life. A simple “You are beautiful” spoken by mom or dad can open the door to change. When these words are spoken in earnest and backed by other things like spending time with her, standing up for her when someone puts her down, helping her with her academics or sports, and encouraging her to pursue God’s calling on her life, some major change can happen.
Why does your son play video games for hours on end? Does he feel accomplished and like a hero within his game in a way he doesn’t feel in real life? Does he feel he is able to conquer worlds and receive accolades for his actions? Is this where he hangs out with his friends and has deep relationships centered around a common goal?
Counter this with giving your son opportunities to succeed in areas he is interested in real life, not just virtual. Get involved with his games, ask him to show you the most enjoyable part for him. Show interest in what interests him. This will give you a clue as to what is being satisfied within gaming, which you can then use to find similar real-life activities that will give him the same feeling of satisfaction. Chances are that if your son is 15 and loves games, it will always be something he loves. You will need to help him include other avenues of interest outside of gaming to be a well-rounded individual as he matures.
What leads to teens looking at pornography? Quite often curiosity or stumbling upon it accidentally. They heard something they didn’t understand so they Googled it, a page popped up during research of something else – the initial stages can be quite innocent in nature. However, what the enemy can keep hidden in darkness can become a stronghold that is difficult for your teen to get out of. How can you help your teen in this area? Communicate, talk about it, tell them the dangers, tell them what to watch out for, have conversations on a consistent basis and start young. Yes, for young children filtering software is a good idea and monitoring for older, but you MUST have these conversations because your child WILL accidentally see pornography at some point, and at that moment it will be your conversations that help them decide what to do with it.
Don’t use rules and regulations as medication to treat a symptom of unhealthy technology use. Instead, find the source of the pain and work toward healing of a whole person.
– Sara Raley
Author: Sara Raley
As the COO and one of the founding team members of Generations of Virtue, Sara oversees all of the tasks and details for the team. When Sara is not adding meetings to the calendar, sending emails, or finding new apps to make her life easier, she enjoys honing her race-car like driving skills and speaking to youth about following God on a grand adventure.