Parenting teens is increasingly complicated these days, no matter where you live. While teenagers themselves haven’t changed all that much, our society certainly has. Even in the most rural areas, TV and the Internet make all kinds of evil readily available and accessible to our kids, making it nearly impossible to entirely shelter them, even if we wanted to. So, how do we handle our teens’ online access to information, images, and interactions?
Is Sheltering a Good Thing?
There’s a different level of knowledge that’s appropriate for different ages, and determining what’s appropriate for your teen will vary, based on the influences you allow into your teenager’s life. A few things are clear, though. First, a general knowledge of sinful behavior and how Scripture addresses it should be in place before kids are adults and leaving home; ignorance is not necessarily conducive to innocence (Matthew 10:16). While knowledge of evil is necessary in this sin-cursed world in which we live, intimate familiarity is not (Romans 16:19).
Parents can guide their teens in nurturing a righteous relationship with sinful behavior instead of regular and positive interaction with individuals or entertainment that celebrates what God hates (Proverbs 1, Proverbs 14:9, James 4:4). Perhaps the word “sheltering” denotes an unhealthy ignorance of sin, but “purposeful and appropriate guidance” regarding evil can definitely be a good thing.
Is Freedom a Good Thing?
It’s sometimes a challenge to determine exactly when someone is ready to responsibly handle freedoms. For instance, it would be irresponsible to give a toddler the freedom to use any tools in the kitchen to make his own lunch. Because the child lacks the wisdom to make an appropriate choice, the freedom would be far from beneficial. Because the kitchen includes sharp objects that can permanently injure the child, the potential damage by far outweighs any positives.
So it is with teens and the Internet. The far-reaching impact of intimate knowledge of sin through pornographic images can mean images burned into a young person’s consciousness, causing repeated temptations to lust, even many years later. Until a teen is willing to make a commitment to flee when sinful images appear, parents need to guard them from such temptations (1 Thessalonians 5:22, Job 31:1).
Is Privacy a Good Thing?
Without some independence, teens won’t learn the discipline of fleeing when evil appears (2 Timothy 2:22). Of course, that doesn’t mean that we contrive testing circumstances like Joseph encountered (Genesis 39). Teens need to understand limitations and realize that they are being watched, at least through computer settings and programs that allow you to check their history and even every key stroke (for example, see Keystroke Spy).
Interesting studies confirm that when people know they’re being watched, they behave differently than when they think no one will see their actions. This realization can also help them understand that God sees everything we do and even knows the desires of our hearts (Luke 8:17, Psalm 44:21).