Teaching Children to Use Computers, Internet, and TV Wisely

“The prudent sees danger and hides himself, but the simple go on and suffer for it.” (Proverbs 22:3)

Last week I told you about the summer my parents turned off our computer. Computer time was becoming too important, but once we got off the computer for a few hours, we remembered how fun it was to be active and creative again!

Don’t get me wrong; technology is not a bad thing. Computers, smart phones, and the Internet are all tools that we can use—either for sin, or for righteousness. Are we deliberately using technology in ways that glorify God? Are we teaching our children to do the same?

Child using computer

Here are some practical ideas for teaching your children to use technology wisely, and for avoiding problems with computers, TV, and the Internet:

  • Have a regular family worship and Bible reading time. Don’t allow computer or TV to become more important in your schedule.
  • Teach your children self-control from an early age, and as they grow (in all areas; not just computers). Strict rules might prevent some problems now, but without self-control, they can easily fall into the same problems once they grow up and move away.
  • If you need a break during the day, try having your children take naps, read books, play quietly in their room, or watch an edifying video instead of sitting in front of the TV or computer.
  • Emphasize that the computer is a tool, not a toy. Have specific goals when you sit down to the computer. When using it for recreation or entertainment, set a time limit. If you use the computer as a tool in your homeschooling, be sure you always define a specific purpose and limited time frame for using it.
  • Encourage creative play, and don’t resent the resulting mess or noise. Creative play may be messier or more inconvenient, but it’s better for your kids than being quietly glued to a screen for hours. Be willing to invest some of your time watching them, helping them clean up, or putting on band-aids. Looking back, I realize that both of my parents put up with a lot of messes while encouraging our creativity.
    Boys playing outside
  • Give your children the tools for creativity. The possibilities are endless, but you can start with things like dress up clothes, building toys, tools, dolls, art supplies, etc. (Vision Forum and Timberdoodle offer some great creative toys). We had hours of fun building forts out of a dozen hay bales my dad brought home and put in our backyard one summer.
  • Have an “internet hour” during the day, and turn off your computer or internet connection for the rest of the day. My in-laws programmed their internet connection to turn off automatically at 8:00 so they can have family time.
  • Use laptop computers, and store them away when not in use, or only have your desktop on for certain hours of the day. I don’t know about you, but when I have a desktop computer running 24-7, it’s very easy to sit down and squander my time! Katelyn and I decided not to have a desktop computer at home. We use a laptop, only turning it on when we need it for a specific purpose. This has definitely helped us!
  • Hold each other accountable. Ask your children what they did on the Internet today. Some families use accountability software like Accountable2You or Covenant Eyes (which also has a content filter).
  • Establish a family “movie night” where you select a worthwhile movie and watch it together, along with pizza or some other special meal. Then leave the TV off the rest of the week. TV and computer games too easily cause isolation and prevent family time together.
  • Evaluate movies and TV shows, and avoid those that are not edifying. Ask “what will we learn from this movie?” or “what effect will this show have on my family?” Read reviews by World Magazine, Movieguide.org, or Wikipedia before watching.
  • Discuss movies as a family after you watch them. Don’t miss this great opportunity to point out Biblical principles at play. Ask questions like “Was that the right thing for him to do?” “What does the Bible say about that?” and “What should he have done in that situation?”
  • Don’t let the TV dictate your schedule. If there is a show you want to see, watch it online or record it for watching at a time that fits around your higher priorities.
  • If you have older children , or if your children are using the internet, you might enjoy one of the workshops that was given at our homeschool conference here in Portland last month. David Knopp’s My Dog Ate My Profile Pic (and other excuses for using the Internet responsibly) is available on CD  from OCEANetwork’s website for $5.50 (a worthwhile investment!)

With technology advancing so quickly, parenting in the context of computers other technology will likely be more challenging for you and me than it was for our parents. But be encouraged! By God’s grace, and with some diligence and creativity on our part, our children can still grow up to be self-controlled, productive adults who use technology wisely in the service of Christ, our King.

Do you have other ideas for using technology wisely in your home? Please share your thoughts in the comments below!

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