Account Login

Sign In  |  Register

The Christadelphian | December 2013

In the magazine this month:

  • Editorial God works
  • Letters to the Editor
  • Sunday morning Grace | Trevor A. Pritchard
  • The Lord & the nations 06 – Being ready | Andrew E. Walker
  • Judgement on Moab | Geoff Henstock
  • Israel’s Geography 12 – The land today and tomorrow | Nathan Kitchen
  • For better, for worse … 12 – The virtuous woman & her husband | Mark Vincent
  • Enhancing our worship | John Botten
  • 100 years ago
  • An exhortation for our speaking brethren | Paul Cresswell
  • Faith, online technology & advice for parents | Sarah Joiner
  • Readers’ Q&A
  • Faith Alive! Looking unto Jesus … | Michael Movassaghi
  • Book Review Delight in God’s Law | John Morris
  • Signs of the times The relics of Rome
  • Israel and their Land A changing environment
  • Epilogue The final message | Elizabeth Evans
  • The brotherhood near and far

A sample article from this edition:

Faith, online technology & advice for parents

Whatever gifts God gives us, they are always open to abuse. God causes “the grass to grow for the livestock and plants for man to cultivate, that he may bring forth food from the earth and wine to gladden the heart of man …” (Psalm 104:14-16). God gives us food and wine, but we can misuse these things by indulging in gluttony and drunkenness. And, yet, God still gives the gifts.

There is nothing wrong with food and wine – they are good. Those who abuse them must carry the blame and responsibility. So it is with modern technology. The technologies are useful and can be used for good. But as the human heart is “deceitful above all things” (Jeremiah 17:9) modern technology has been used for evil. There is nothing innately rotten about the technology itself – the rot is found in our hearts and minds.

How should we guide our children?

The internet has changed all of our lives, particularly our children’s. For parents this opens up a whole new world of things to be aware of. For many of us, this can all be a bit too much. You might be struggling to keep up with the things your child is doing online. You might wonder whether what they are doing follows godly principles, and you might also be thinking, how can I be as good a parent online as I am offline?

As believers in our Lord Jesus Christ, what should our attitude be? Should we ban our children from using any form of technology for fear of its potentially corrupting influence? Well, this would flout our opening example of how God gives us gifts, such as wine, but expects us to use them sensibly. Rather, we need to set boundaries for our children and educate them as to how to go online safely.

CEOP

Recently, in my job as an English teacher in the secondary sector, I attended a “Child Exploitation and Online Prevention” (CEOP) training course. CEOP is part of UK policing and seeks to bring those who exploit children, via the internet, to justice. CEOP provides training and education resources for parents and teachers to use with children and young people to increase their understanding of online safety.

I would recommend that brothers and sisters take a look at CEOP’s website (www.thinkuknow.co.uk/parents) which is packed with advice about potential risks that children face online, and how to stay safe. Most of the advice in this article is culled from this site, whilst also considering biblical principles.

What do children do online?

There are a wide range of reasons why children and young people go online. For example:

  • Playing games:
    • Including social gaming where other people are also online, interacting and playing the same game (including sites which target children in the 5 to 7-year-old age group, e.g., Moshi, Club Penguin and Habbo).
  • Socialising:
    • Social network sites, like Facebook.
  • Talking to people:
    • e-mailing
    • instant messaging
    • webcam
    • chat rooms.
  • Sharing information, pictures and videos.
  • Searching websites for content and information.
  • Using a smart phone.

What are the risks?

It’s important for parents to understand the potential risks that children might encounter whilst undertaking the activities mentioned above. These include:

  • Cyberbullying
  • Grooming by paedophiles
  • Viewing inappropriate and ungodly websites
  • Losing control over their pictures and videos
  • Online reputation
  • Overuse / addiction
  • Viruses, hacking and security.

Just by outlining what children do online and the potential risks, readers will be able to see that this really is a huge topic. So I’m just going to explore three areas: online gaming, use of Facebook and searching for content.

Gaming

Children as young as three use online technology – even if it’s just the BBC’s CBeebies website, where they can watch age-appropriate programmes and access a range of beneficial educational games. As they grow older, children might access social gaming sites like Club Penguin, Moshi Monsters and Neopets. They may have a console, like a Wii or an Xbox – remember, most consoles connect to the internet.

Social gaming means that other people are also online, playing the same game, and your child will be able to talk to them. As a parent of a six-year-old and a three-year-old, I’m uncomfortable with this, as children are basically talking to strangers online. I’d welcome readers’ thoughts, experiences and biblical advice on this.

Whatever our stance as parents, there are some key things which we need to teach our children to stay safe. It’s important that we’re involved in our child’s experiences from the very start. The thinkuknow website has four invaluable top tips for children (see below).

These top tips follow biblical advice of being kind to others, but being wary of trusting human beings who can be deceitful.

Social Networking: Facebook

Facebook offers a range of positive benefits. Photos can be shared online with family and friends. It’s a good way of keeping in touch – especially for our young people, who might meet on youth weekends, but live long distances apart. Personally, I find Facebook great for all of these reasons – I keep in touch with people no longer in fellowship and I can invite non-Christadelphian friends to preaching events. Fabulous. But what are the risks for us and our young people?

One key risk is allowing people we do not know to access our personal information – like our photographs and where we live etc. In extreme situations, this can be used by paedophiles to groom children. Another risk might be using Facebook’s instant messaging to chat with school friends who talk freely about sexual immorality so that our children are involved in ungodly conversations on a daily basis.

Again, there are four simple things we should teach our children to enable them to use Facebook safely:

  1. Know who your friends are. Because ‘friends’ have access to their personal information and can chat to them, your children should only be friends with people that they trust. Talk to your child about who their ‘friends’ are, encourage them to think about where and when they ‘met’ people and whether it is appropriate to share information with them.
  2. Manage the information you share with them. On most sites, children can control the amount of information they share with different groups of friends. For example, you might share some holiday snaps just with your family, or create a private invitation to a party. Your child should only share personal information, like their telephone number or school, with people they know and trust in the real world.
  3. Never meet up with someone you only know online. People might not always be who they say they are. Make sure your child understands that they should never meet up with anyone they only know online without taking a trusted adult with them.
  4. Know what to do if someone upsets you. Sometimes ‘friends’ can do things that are upsetting. It’s important that you and your child are aware of what you can do to block or report this – to Facebook, for example (advice taken from thinkuknow.co.uk).

Facebook for 13-year-olds

As Christadelphians, it’s important that we understand that children have to be 13 years old before they can have Facebook accounts. Sometimes, with parents’ knowledge, many younger children lie about their ages. As disciples, we should avoid this.

If you decide that you will allow your 13-year-old child to have a Facebook account, follow these thinkuknow.co.uk guidelines with them:

  • Help them set up their account – make sure that they don’t put any unnecessary personal information.
  • Facebook has separate security settings in place for younger users.
  • Use your e-mail address as the main contact – this way you can see the people who are ‘friending’, messaging and commenting on your child’s profile.
  • Talk through the privacy settings – go through the settings step-by-step.
  • Set privacy settings to ‘friends only’ and ensure that the friends they have are ones they know and trust in the real world.
  • Limit the amount of adult ‘friends’ they have – these could be friends of yours or family members. These users may post content which you would not want your child to see!
  • Talk to them about some of the things that can go wrong – such as bullying, unwanted contact and inappropriate content.
  • Ask them to talk to you about anything that makes them feel unhappy.
  • Learn how to report any issues directly to the site.

As well as highlighting the risks, be positive. Talk to your children about the benefits of Facebook. Show them how they can use it fruitfully as they seek to follow the Lord Jesus Christ.

Searching for content

One of the most common reasons for going online is searching for information, maybe for a school project. As adults we too search for information extensively in our professional lives and also for preparing Sunday School lessons or Bible presentations. For example, an excellent site to use for family Bible reading would be www.globible.com where you can access the glolite package for free. This allows you to view such gems as an interactive model of the camp of Israel, including the tabernacle. Such resources really bring Bible reading to life.

But what of the risks? How do we teach our children that many sites contain extreme opinions which are either biased, or simply not true? How do we avoid stumbling across pornographic sites and forming addictions?

Covenant eyes

The internet has significantly changed the type of content that young people are accessing. At the point at which young people are developing sexually, they can be exposed to material of an extreme nature with unpleasant consequences, such as negative attitudes towards women and unrealistic expectations of sexual relationships. Difficult though it may be, we should talk to our children about pornography, emphasising that sex is part of a loving adult relationship, and should be kept within marriage. We also need to take preventative measures to protect our children from pornography and its influence. Therefore we should cut off the mental fuel that feeds immorality. Men, especially, receive gratification through what they see – this is how they were created. But God encourages self-control, and to enjoy gratification only with our husband or wife. Job is a good example for us to follow here. He says, “I made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully at a young woman” (Job 31:1). We need to be like Job and look away from pornographic websites, adverts, films, magazines, newspapers and immodestly dressed people. Verses 2-4 tell us why Job took such drastic steps of censoring what he allowed his eyes to see:

  • He knew that God brought disaster on those who did wrong.
  • He knew that God saw all his ways.

What an example! Job was a human being just like us. If he looked away so can we. As our children get older, we need to teach them these things.

If internet pornography is a problem you know about, take a look at www.covenanteyes.com, which provides internet accountability software to monitor how the Internet is used and then sends a report to a selected person, such as a friend, parent or mentor. This online transparency helps you think twice about how you use the Web and which sites you visit. Also, their Internet Filtering software lets parents set time limits and blocks websites based on age, and offers parental controls that can be customised for each child. Perhaps readers could recommend other useful resources?

Conclusion

In short, we must teach our children how to use technology in a way that pleases God. We must talk to them about what they’re up to online. We need to be a part of their online life; involve the whole family and show an interest. We need to find out what sites they visit and what they like about them. If they know we understand, they are more likely to come to us if they have any problems.

We should set Bible-based boundaries in the online world just as we would in the real world. Think about what they might see, what they share, who they talk to and how long they spend online. It is important to discuss boundaries at a young age to develop the tools and skills children need to enjoy their time online.

Finally, keep all equipment that connects to the internet in a family space. For children of this age, it is important to keep internet use in family areas so you can see the sites your child is using and be there for them if they encounter any problems. It’s all about teaching our children how to use technology positively, making them aware of risks and how to avoid them. And in doing so, I think we shall please our Father in heaven.

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Philippians 4:8).

Sarah Joiner

 

Previous issueNext issue

Privacy |  Terms & Conditions |  Site Map |  Site by Quick By Design
Registered Address
The Christadelphian, 404 Shaftmoor Lane, Hall Green, Birmingham, B28 8SZ
Registered charity in England and Wales (No. 240090)
A charitable company limited by guarantee
(Company No. 329186 - England and Wales)
Tel: +44 (0)121 777 6328
Fax: +44 (0)121 778 5024
loading loading...