Q. My teenagers spend a lot of time texting their friends, posting comments to Facebook and uploading photos to Flickr. I keep hearing about kids who send inappropriate texts to one another or post suggestive photos on Facebook. I’m so scared my kids are going to get caught up in some bad things, and I won’t even know about it, because it is easy to hide a phone or a social network application. As a Christian parent, what’s the balance of trusting my children while protecting them while they are on the Internet?

A. This question is very timely and relevant to the emerging generation. They have been labeled the Connection Generation or the Now Generation because of their accessibility to instantaneous information via smart phones, tablets and social networks on the Internet.

There is an assumption that this generation owns technology. Because of that perception, young people feel a great sense of entitlement toward anything technological. In addition, students feel a real pressure from friends to have the latest gadget.

This can cause parents to feel the need to provide their children with the newest “thing” in order to fit in. Here are a few suggestions to help navigate the sea of social technology.

  • Set stages. When my two daughters were infants, they ate baby food that came in little jars. The food was packaged and labeled in “stages” for the purpose of providing the baby with the appropriate food at the proper stage of development. A baby should not try to eat a steak at 4 months. (I learned this the hard way.) In the same way, parents should have a plan that allows the introduction of technology at the appropriate age and in stages. Prayerfully consider this for each child; every parent knows they develop at different stages.
     
  • Set standards. Don’t allow the tide of cultural pressure to sway you from what God wants to accomplish in your family. The Bible never endorses keeping up with the Joneses. As a matter of fact, Romans 12:2 says that we are not to be conformed to the world’s standards. We are responsible to set the standards for what we allow to come into our homes and families.
     
  • Set boundaries. Remember, technology is not a right—it is a privilege. When we help our kids to view it this way, then we as parents can determine how that privilege is earned or potentially lost. As parent, you extend that privilege, which means you should have access to all the emails, texts and social network updates. This is your right as the parent.
     
  • Set guidelines. Don’t just blindly hand over the latest iPod or cell phone to your child. Establish times and restrictions for proper use. Be clear and consistent on when and where these gadgets are to be appropriately used. You should be the first friend your child has on Facebook. You should follow your child’s tweets on Twitter.

As parents, we have the responsibility to “train up a child in the way he should go” (Prov. 22:6, NKJV). Because most of this generation is going to the Internet, we need to be involved with their journey and not simply let them go. If we are not involved, we won’t like where they will end up. Let’s help them successfully pilot through the sea of social technology.

By: Kelly Fellows, an ordained Foursquare minister and former national NextGen representative for The Foursquare Church