I remember the shiny, blue Huffy bike that my dad taught me how to ride. We didn’t have “balance bikes” back when I was a kid. Instead, we used training wheels in order to get our balance right. Over time, dad raised the training wheels a bit, so that I relied more on my balance, and even removed one altogether, before that memorable day when I said, “I’m ready!”
Now, in spite of the spills, bloody knees and bail outs into the neighbor’s lawn, just about every kid eventually learns how to ride a bike well. Conversely, I don’t know any kid who got his first bike on Christmas Eve, and assuming there’s no snow, dad pushed him down a hill on Christmas Day and said “good luck!”
But, isn’t that what we sometimes do with our kids and the Internet? They get the Kindle Fire or the X-Box or new iPhone for their birthday, and since they’re “a good kid,” we expect that if they stumble into something inappropriate, we would know or they will tell us. But, that’s just not true. Not during the “I really don’t need you as much” middle school days.
I’ve been using the “learning how to ride a bike” illustration often in my parent presentations at schools and churches to explain how we should approach teaching our kids how to use the internet responsibly. In the digital age, there’s no such thing as passive parenting. The Internet never rests, and it does a fabulous job answering tough questions with not-so-great answers if parents are vigilant.
Critical Questions for Every Family:
- Do you perform periodic checks of your kid’s digital devices?
- Do you know the usernames and passwords for your kid devices and APPs?
- Do you have a bedtime turn-in time for electronics?
- Do you have a filter and web page monitor on your wireless router?
- Do you use a filtered browser on all of your portable internet-ready devices?
- Have you asked parents of your kid’s friends what their own internet usage expectations are?
- Do you know what you would say if your kid told you he/she has been looking at porn online?
- Do you know what APPs (and their functions) are on your kid’s phone(s)?
- Do you have rules around internet usage in bedrooms?
- Have you had consistent, direct conversations about appropriate internet usage, sexuality, and the negative impacts of porn on love?
If you answered “no” to any of these questions, then you might have taken the training wheels off too soon, exposing your kid to internet dangers. Each of the questions above has links to information that might help. It’s not too late!