Just when you think you can relax, something happens and you realize that you can never let your guard down. At least, not when it comes to the Internet and technology and your children. Take this recent example from our family.
Like many parents, we gave our teenagers cell phones so that they would have a way of reaching us (and vice versa) in case of an emergency. This was especially important to us as they had reached the age where they were driving themselves to local school events and other extracurricular activities.
Before they were given cell phones, we made sure that they understood there were certain rules that we expected them to keep. In other words, they received the “talk.” We educated them as much as possible on how to use their cell phones safely and wisely. It was quite similar to the many talks we had on Internet safety. They nodded their heads and acted as if they understood fully what we were trying to teach them. For awhile, it looked as if we were home free. They were educated users of the Internet and other technology, including cell phones.
Then one night, our 16-year-old woke us up in a panic. Apparently, a “friend” he’d been communicating with on his cell phone was having some very serious problems and had texted our son to tell him all about it. This was alarming in and of itself, but when we found out that our son had never met this “friend,” we were even more scared. Obviously our son had forgotten one of the things we tried to teach him — never talk, text, or communicate with anyone on his cell phone or online that he hadn’t already met in person. Was this friend even a real friend? Was this person even a teenager like our son or someone posing as such to draw sympathy or something more from our son?
I believe that all of us learned some important lessons that evening. I learned that as a parent, I need to keep talking to my kids about the perils that come with the marvels of technology. I need to remind them over and over again, even when they roll their eyes and tell me, “We know, Mom.” Our son learned firsthand that we have rules for a reason. He learned that using technology such as the Internet and cell phones comes with responsibility. On a happier note, I was reminded that our son trusted us enough to come to us even though he knew there would probably be some consequences.
Many leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have spoken about the blessings as well as the dangers associated with technology. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles gave this timely counsel:
“With modern technology even your youngest brothers and sisters can be carried virtually around the world before they are old enough to ride a tricycle safely across the street. What were in my generation carefree moments of moviegoing, TV watching, and magazine reading have now, with the additional availability of VCRs, the Internet, and personal computers, become amusements fraught with genuine moral danger” (“Sanctify Yourselves,” Jeffrey R. Holland, October 2000).
Modern technology is indeed “fraught with moral danger.” This by no means takes away from the immeasurable potential technology presents for good in our lives. I am very grateful for the many advances in modern technology because it has blessed our lives in so many ways. However, I’m also well aware that with these benefits come many pitfalls and we must be vigilant lest the pitfalls overcome the benefits.
Bottom line: don’t stop talking to your kids about technology, whether it be the Internet, cell phones, or any other aspect of media now and in the future.
This article was originally posted in March 2008. Minor changes have been made.