The BBC recently had an article on the pandemic rise of “sexting” (the sharing of personal photographs that are sexual in nature on social media). The devil looks around for people to devour, and our children are prime targets! Upon reading the article, I jotted down some of what our response as parents could and should be:
1. Don’t give unrestricted access of the internet to a child or teenager.
Some question, “Should we not show our teenagers that we trust them?” This is not an issue of trusting our teens, but, “Do you trust the world and your teens peers to make healthy decisions for your teen?” Sites like YouTube, not only give access to sexual images, but people put them in unexpected places to draw people in, especially young boys. One solution is to have all “open” internet access on a central computer in a family room, living room, or dining room. In our family, sites like Youtube are for viewing in this type of setting, and not on our teens personal phone.
2. Be aware.
Technology is constantly changing, and while as parents, we cannot keep current with it all, know what your children have access to. Restrict where you feel necessary, and let your child/teen know that you are the parent, and can and will spot-check their phones, tablets, or personal computers.
3. Provide substitutes.
Growing up, my parents had some strict rules when it came to what I watched and what I listened to, but they also provided substitutes. They took me to Christian rock concerts, that I am sure they did not love at the time, but they did it because they did not always want to be just saying, “No.” We regularly sit as a family and watch music videos and discuss styles of music as a family. It can be a difficult balance between not wanting our kids/teens to feel like “outsiders” and with what Jesus tells us, that if we follow Him, the world will hate us. They key to providing substitutes is, be involved in your kids/teens lives, and don’t just leave them to figure it all out on their own. They will have other influences, but you want to be the primary!
4. Love your kids/teens.
When they struggle and fall, love them. They will dabble and come across things that you may not be pleased with, but walk with them. The gospel message is that of love and redemption, and yet, because of fear in our own lives, we can model the exact opposite of God’s nature when our children stray off the “straight and narrow.” If we only get angry when they do wrong, we are subtly teaching our children that God is an angry judge that only loves us when we do good. It is amazing how many of us adults struggle to some degree or another with an underlining dread of God when we do wrong. God is holy, but even in His holiness, Scriptures tells us time and again that He desires that mercy triumphs over judgment. When we do lose our tempers…apologize…and ask God to help you deal with your own issues. Let your children see that you need God and that you are growing in your relationship with Him. We all screw up as parents. Allow God’s grace and forgiveness in your own life, but also ask the Holy Spirit to help you change!
5. All kids/teens are different.
Everyone is different and everyone is on a journey. God gives us our children for 18 years for a reason. My wife often encourages herself when there is a consistent issue that one of our children is struggling with, “They are just working on their testimony.” There is an incredible pressure in society today to have children that perform at a high standard in every area of life (education, sports, recreation, socially), and yet, it is not a reality, nor how God designed us. We will always be stronger in some areas and weaker in others. Even the apostle Paul told us that it was his weaknesses that led him to rely on God’s strength. Above all else, our ultimate goal as parents should be to lead our kids to their own personal relationship with God.
We want to be our children’s biggest fans. They may not seem to always appreciate it or even want it, but God wants us to be secure in who we are and not let the challenges of parenting cause us to shrink back with worry that perhaps our children don’t like us. Ultimately, we must remind ourselves in the midst of everything that comes against our children, God is greater! Let us pray and fight for our children…and see a generation raised up that will stand for Him!
By James Krechnyak