Time + Internet = …?
Too much time + internet + too much media + bad choices.
I’ll explain that non-scientific formula in a moment, but first, a reflection on the long lost days of summer.
It…is over. Hard to believe, and maybe it hasn’t yet hit you, but by all indications summer is over and it is the start of another school year.
What characterized YOUR summer? For our family, it was a wonderful season of camping, travel, visitors, ballgames, yard projects, lazy days, and many moments of fun. Much for which to be thankful, and many moments from which to learn.
There were also some sobering moments like the Waldo Canyon fire, which affected so much of Colorado Springs directly or indirectly (fortunately, we were not evacuated nor did we have an fire/smoke damage). One of the season’s hail storms flooded our basement. Then the awful Aurora shootings which left many wounded or dead, including a family friend who suffered several gunshots. During these crises we prayed and tried to listen to God’s voice in the midst of chaos and loss.
Along the way, there was also a matter we had to address, as parents, that is related to the little formula above. In the waning weeks of the summer we learned of unauthorized media activity, in our home, by some of our kids. It was a case of too much time, an extra computer, not quite enough oversight and some online wanderings.
As a parent, it is a sad thing to see your children stumble – and to realize you might have been a little lax. We do have protections in place, and it seems that the kids – this involved more than one of them – didn’t view anything particularly vulgar. Still, the behavior was disturbing both because of the actions themselves and also because of the heart behind them. While we have addressed these things initially, I suspect there is more to plumb in the coming weeks.
Getting my children to understand the “why” that drives their choices is our end-goal. As parents, we want to help them learn the inner voices that should be listened to, and those which they need to ignore or even run away from. As we’ve talked this through, there was a sense of justifiable indulgence for some of the choices. Also, a curiosity about media offerings that “everybody else” is talking about. And finally, a lack of discernment about the effects, both short- and long-term, of media habits.
So summer is over, but a couple of my children are entering the school year with a “media probation” in place. They’ll be paying for their poor summer-time choices with a severe lack of online access. I told them that we’re giving up some bad habits, and that it’ll take a while for those to be replaced with positive patterns. They’ll have to rebuild a certain level of trust before being able to freely use the web again. It’ll mean less “screen time” and more family game time, more reading and more walks around the block. That’s a good thing, I think.
A word of warning, too, for those who think their kids are safe: Not really. Even filtering, regular usage monitoring and keeping the computer in a public place in the home can’t keep a child totally safe. That said, there are some smart things for every parent to consider, posted here. You’ll find articles, links and more there. Focus on the Family is committed to helping you do all you possibly can to keep the home environment pure.
Finally, my friend Andy Braner has a new book coming out about the false sense of connection that many teens encounter when they are heavily involved in social media. It won’t be out for a couple of months, but you can read more and download the first chapter here. Andy wrote this book for young people to better understand that the only real connection they’ll find is with the God of the universe. It will be worth getting, reading and then sharing with your teen.