Protecting the Portals - Part 1

    “Your house has porous walls,” says my uncle Dr. Jerry Wragg.  The digital age has opened up families to every kind of person, influence, eye candy and clashing noise that you can imagine … and even what you can’t imagine.  I was raised in a sheltering backwoods home in the 1970’s and 80’s. As a child, we had one black and white 13-inch TV my mom kept in the closet, except when I was sick. When my brother and I scraped up enough money to buy our own Nintendo 64, my mom still made us take it back. The only way my friends could access me was at school, stopping by, or calling our family land line and having those first awkward moments using their best manners asking, “Mrs. Floyd, may I please speak with Jill?”
       Today the outside world comes in through your “porous walls” via your phone, your teenager’s phone, your television, streaming devices, all-you-can-watch movie and tv show subscriptions, gaming devices, etc. Good and bad “surf” in together via cellular service, and splash images before your family’s eyes before you can turn away.  Not only that, they are “surfing” in for countless hours and hours a day…if you let them.
     Here is the battle of the 21st century parent:   If you let them. There are a few locks for these porous portals, and a few children who don’t rail against them.  However, parents who are already super busy in life find themselves trying to keep up with the newest ways the world, or their own kids, get around the safety locks, as well as trying to keep up their standards in the face of their children’s attitudes.
       You may find this odd, but I believe the number one thing I want to encourage you with concerning media portals is this: YOU ARE THE PARENT.  In an age where children’s rights have been elevated (yet unborn babies’ rights removed) because of the percentage of those who have disciplined children unbiblically, parents have been letting go of their role as authorities.  Gone is the firm “NO” we heard as children of the 20th century, and here is the “what would you like, dear?” 21st century culture.
      Let me remind you what your own mom likely said to you when you were young and influenced by what others were doing: It doesn’t matter what all the other parents say and are doing. It doesn’t matter what the news, the internet and the babysitter say and do. It doesn’t matter that children of lower and lower ages have their own smartphones and tablets. It doesn’t matter that your children are clamoring for you to open your walls to let more in. You and your husband must decide for your family how to raise your children in the most godly-influenced home and church life that you can in the midst of all the noise around you.
      Every day that I leave my house, I see children leading their parents around by invisible choker chains. Children with no inborn moral compass or “wisdom from above” (James 3:13-18) are being asked what they think and what they want to do; what do they desire and where do they want to go?  Parents have given up their God-given authority, and acquiesced to the very ones they are supposed to be training.
     So this begs the question…why?  Why have parents given up their authority and allowed themselves to be ruled by small sinners?  I believe the first answer is, “It’s easier.” It’s easier to say “yes,” than “no”! It’s easier to give a child what they want and get a “happy” child, than to say “no,” and get a screaming fit in the middle of Target. It’s easier to make food your kids will eat for dinner, than to lead them through their refusal towards obedience.  It’s easier to plop your kids in front of a screen that babysits them, than to engage with them. It’s easier to follow worldly parenting methods, than to follow God’s mandates.
      However, even the world has many catch phrases we can think of that say the opposite: “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” or, “Whatever is worth doing is worth doing well,” etc.  The Word of God is divinely inspired truth for our hearts. God’s words pull us up short in light of the paltry answers of the world around us, especially in guiding our children. The following words of God remind us of our duty to train our children if God has given us stewardship over any:

    We are given a command to train them, but not exasperate them in heavy-handedness:

      “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”  Ephesians 6:4

     As parents we should be faithful to pray for our children, and faithful to instruct them and model for them to fear God above all else:

     “Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray for you, and I will instruct you in the good and the right way. Only fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart. For consider what great things he has done for you.”  1 Samuel 12:23-24

     As parents we should be clearly teaching our children who God is and how to obey Him. This takes time!

     “Come, O children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord. What man is there who desires life and loves many days, that he may see good? Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit. Turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.”  Psalm 34:11-14

      Obedience is for all people, in all stages of life:

      “Be subject for the Lord's sake to every human institution…” 1 Peter 2:13a

     Parent’s daily obedience to God and His ways protects their children:

      “In the fear of the Lord one has strong confidence, and his children will have a refuge.”
Proverbs 14:26
     “The righteous who walks in his integrity— blessed are his children after him!”
Proverbs 20:7

     Both parents in submission to God, and children in submission to parents, should not reject accepting discipline and training:

     “My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, Nor detest His correction; For whom the Lord loves He corrects, Just as a father the son in whom he delights.”  Proverbs 3:11-12
     “Discipline your son, for there is hope; do not set your heart on putting him to death.”  Proverbs 19:18

      We are also warned what families look like when they abandon God as their authority:

      “And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.”   Romans 1:28-31

    YOU ARE THE PARENT. God has given you this job to do for His glory and honor. Your goal is to be the best parent you can be in example, word, deed, and in controlling your own digital use. Digital entertainment has a way of altering people (especially children’s) moods, attitudes, focus and relationships. You must be the gatekeeper of your home despite the porous walls of our day and age.

      So parent, coming back around to the porous walls of your home…what is the primary way that you can protect your children from the onslaught of worldly thinking and ways that pour into your home?  Here are a few practical suggestions:
1. Decide with your husband, along with scientific study, as to what is best for each child and parent in your home electronically.
2. Keep the portals closed as much as you can, but consider that completely running from the digital world is not what I’m suggesting.
3. Use filters and time controls to help your family and the world stay in check, but know that sinners will find ways to sin and don’t let it surprise you.
Plan in advance what consequences you will have for misusing electronics and stick to it.

4. Have conversations with your kids frequently about what they see, and if your kids are small, you should always be nearby monitoring what they are watching and the attitudes and actions presented.
5. Teach kids how to look away and quickly tell you if anything comes up on a screen they should not see.  You need to go see what it was to properly address it with them.
6. Set guidelines for youth and all young people in your home, or who visit your home, as to the length of time and activities allowed. YOU ARE THE PARENT, and it is your home. If a visiting person is looking at questionable material on their device in your home, you do not have to allow that either!
7. Do random checks on devices kids use and enjoy the “screen time” feature many phones have now to evaluate usage.
8. Check out what sites and apps are strongly recommended against and don’t be afraid to say NO!

     “The world wants to penetrate our fortress and kidnap our children and grandchildren, but godly parents keep the walls strong and the spiritual weapons ready.”  Warren Weirsbe

     Look for other articles in the future about media and your family!