I grew up in the 80’s and 90’s. There was no such thing as internet, smart phones or social media. I had a Nintendo Super Entertainment System (NSES). The hometown newspaper and radio station were still primary sources of information in the little town in which I grew up. I bought my first cell phone after my wife and I were married (2001). It’s not that my childhood was boring or lacking; rather, the speed and ease of access to information was much slower than it is today.
As a parent with four children who is trying to navigate the complexities of everyday life while shepherding their hearts toward Jesus, the electronic devices have added a degree of difficulty to the parenting responsibility. The underlying concern is the same for me as a Christian parent today as it was for a Christian parents in the 1860’s and 1960’s … how do we help our children mature in their relationship with Jesus without compromising with the enticements of the world around them.
Electronic devices are amoral in and of themselves. It depends on how we use them that determines whether it is a good or bad thing. As a parent, I want to help my children establish safe, healthy, biblical boundaries in their lives. This includes the use of electronic devices. So, my wife and I use the following Electronic Devices Contract with all of our children. It is intended to be a guide to help me and my children as we navigate life in the 21st Century while working to keep our eyes on Christ.
ELECTRONIC DEVICE CONTRACT
1. It is our phone/iPad. We bought it. We pay for it. We are loaning it to you. Aren’t we the greatest?
2. We will always know the password for the home screen & all apps.
3. If it rings, answer it. It is a phone. Say hello, use your manners. Do not ever ignore a phone call if the screen reads “Mom” or “Dad.” Not ever.
4. Turn in all devices to the “charging station” promptly at 8:00pm every school night and every weekend night at 9:00pm. All devices will be off limits until 7:30am the next morning.
5. Devices may not be used in your bedroom without parental permission. Devices may not be used during homeschool hours without the permission of your teacher and may only be used for approved school needs during school hours.
6. If it falls into the toilet, smashes on the ground, or vanishes into thin air, you are responsible for the replacement costs or repairs. Mow a lawn, babysit, stash some birthday money. It will happen, you should be prepared.
7. Do not use this technology to lie, fool, or deceive another human being. Do not involve yourself in conversations that are hurtful to others. Be a good friend first or stay out of the crossfire.
8. Don’t text, email, or say anything through this device you would not say in person.
9. Do not text, email, or say anything to someone that you would not say out loud with their parents in the room. Censor yourself.
10. No porn. Search the web for information you would openly share with me. If you have a question about anything, ask a person — preferably us, your parents. Do not click on links/ads on any articles, websites or video you are using. You do not know where the link will take you, so stay away.
11. Turn it off, silence it, put it away in public. Especially in a restaurant, at the movies, or while speaking with another human being. You are not a rude person; do not allow the device to change that.
12. Do not send or receive pictures of your private parts or anyone else’s private parts. Don’t laugh. Someday you will be tempted to do this despite your high intelligence. It is risky and could ruin your teenage/college/adult life. It is always a bad idea. Cyberspace is vast and more powerful than you. And it is hard to make anything of this magnitude disappear — including a bad reputation.
13. Don’t take a zillion pictures and videos. There is no need to document everything. Live your experiences. They will be stored in your memory for eternity.
14. Leave your phone home sometimes and feel safe and secure in that decision. It is not alive or an extension of you. Learn to live without it. Be bigger and more powerful than FOMO (fear of missing out).
15. Download music that is new or classic or different than the millions of your peers that listen to the same exact stuff. Your generation has access to music like never before in history. Take advantage of that gift. Expand your horizons.
16. Play a game with words or puzzles or brain-teasers every now and then.
17. Keep your eyes up. See the world happening around you. Stare out a window. Listen to the birds. Take a walk. Talk to a stranger. Wonder without Googling.
18. You will mess up. We will take away your device. We will sit down and talk about it. We will start over again. You and I, we are always learning. We are on your team. We are in this together.